Talking passed each other

I can make sense out of the tensions between different factions of MMSD advocates by placing their various positions at the different ends of the attached chart on school leadership. (Replace “principal” with “superintendent” and “school” with “district” when reading the chart.)
At stage 1 on the chart,

the Approach is:
[Superintendent] as decision maker. Decisions are reactive to state,
district, and federal mandates;
the Implementation is:
[Superintendent] makes all decisions, with little or no input from teachers, the community, or students. Leadership inspects for mistakes;
the Outcome is:
Decisions lack focus and consistency. There is little staff buy-in. Students and parents do no feel they are being heard. Decision-making process is clear and known.

I feel (and perhaps many other posters do to) that Stage 1 closely describes the MMSD.

My impression is that many pro-district advocates believe the MMSD is at Stage 5 at the other end of the chart where

the Approach is:
A strong continuous improvement structure is set into place that allows for input from all sectors of the school, district, and community, ensuring strong communication, flexibility, and refinement of approach and beliefs. The school vision is student focused, based on data and appropriate for school and community values, and meeting
student needs.
the Implementation is:
The vision is implemented and articulated across all grade levels and into feeder schools. Quality standards are reinforced throughout the school. All members of the school community understand and apply the quality standards. Leadership team has systematic interactions and involvement with district administrators, teachers, parents, community, and students about the school’s direction.
the Outcome is:
Site-based management and shared decision making truly exists. Teachers understand and display an intimate knowledge of how the school operates. Teachers support and communicate with each other in the implementation of the quality strategies. Teachers implement the vision in their classrooms and can determine how their new approach meets student needs and leads to the attainment of student learning standards.

Consequently, advocates at the ends of the chart can agree on broad issues, such as the MMSD should serve all students, they cannot agree on how well the MMSD serves students nor on how to serve them better.

6 thoughts on “Talking passed each other”

  1. I think Ed has hit on something here. There is definitely a vast difference in perception about how this district goes about governing itself.
    My perception of MMSD leadership in the recent past is that it sought as much parent/staff/community buy-in as it took to pass referenda. In the past that meant pandering to the unions, some parent groups, and Progressive Dane to secure just enough votes to pass money issues. Clearly, the last initiative showed there was a flaw in that approach.
    I think the task forces that evaluated space issues were a great beginning in securing more parent/community buy-in. But, still, these are primarily money issues, and I would like to see the task force approach used on other issues. I think the efforts to address equity through a broadening of the leadership is good. I’d like to see more task forces with board members, administration, staff, parents and community members addressing other education issues (curriculum, arts programming).
    In short, I think the district is taking tentative steps in the right direction. One thing I would like to see is some of the “critics” of the district appointed to task forces.

  2. I concur with Donald on this. Community involvement via direct input methods has been very valuable. Both boundary task forces came up with ideas that MMSD staff never dreamed up. Sure, there must be some “top-down” management to keep the district moving along, but some interjection from the community is a nice complement to ANY management style.

  3. Wanting to place these rubrics in the context of District and Superintendent is reasonable, but keeping these rubrics at the school level is imperative.
    There are schools in the district that work better than others. It would be useful to rate these more effective schools on this rubric, and compare them to the less successful schools with the goal of making improvements. Certainly a far better alternative than shifting problem principals from one school to another.
    Changing a recalcitrant BOE and Administration would be useful, but changes there would only slowly trickle down to the schools. Too much politics at this level to be truly effective.
    For our kids’ immediate benefit would be a focus on the individual schools.
    It’s easier to reset the course of a dinghy than a ship moored to the quay.

  4. I’m disappointed at the few responses to my interpreation that Stage 1 of the chart best describes the MMSD’s leadership.
    Only inflammatory posts seem to generate responses.
    Neal, Marisue, Barb K, TJ, what are your thoughts on the chart?

  5. I agree with Larry’s comments on this. From my experience, I would rate the district a little higher than a Stage 1, because I do think there have been good efforts made recently to get broader input from the community on issues, but there certainly is significant room for improvement. I also think there are individual schools in Madison that would qualify to be rated at Stage 5 and it would benefit everyone if the district facilitated getting all schools to that level.
    Moving principals around certainly isn’t the way to do it. That decision last spring was really disappointing and I think showed a lack of leadership on the administration’s part.

  6. Jill,
    Agreed, as I said in the post on partnership development, some members of the board seem to be moving toward Stage 5.
    Do you mind mentioning the names of schools that fall closer to Stage 5 and offering reasons why they’re where they are?

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