Saturday, March 8, 2014

Time to Trust the Process

There has been a lot of drama in our Fairbanks school district lately. The most recent bit that has scored media attention (and a social media buzz) is centered on the principal search of one elementary school (story click here, and principal union response click here). Basically, the parents feel that the process is too closed, and the superintendent didn't openly ask for staff and parent input. The district process for an admin search involves a small committee that includes a few teachers and staff from that school, a PTA volunteer or 2, a native association member, and a member of the central district office big wigs (e.g. assistant superintendent). There may be a few other individuals, but that's what I remember from my time as a member on an admin selection committee when my middle school had a long time principal retire.

When she left several years back, I knew that I wanted my voice heard, and thankfully, my co-workers agreed that I would represent their interests well through the process. We all knew the routine going in. This committee would be doing the research, setting up the direction of the process, and basically all of the leg work. However, the superintendent would make the final decision. That was the scary part. We had heard the stories of past superintendents hiring candidates other than the one the selection committee had suggested. We knew that was a possibility, so we took our roles on the committee seriously. This committee represented the interests of every staff member, every student, and every community member, so it was an honor to be given the chance to be that voice. I wasn't going to let anyone down.

Thankfully, we were able to narrow our pool of candidates to 2 very good options. And in the end, our number 1 was hired by the superintendent. We clearly listed the strengths that set our number 1 choice above the number 2, and made sure that no one would have been able to steer in the direction opposite of our suggestion. Our school gave faith to the process, selected individuals that we trusted, and it payed off. To top it off, we didn't have a PTA or a PTO at the time. Parent involvement at the middle school level falls drastically from elementary school. So, I don't remember having a consistent parent voice. But the teachers and staff at our school made it clear what was in the best interest of our students and their parents. Because we know. We're there every day.

I write all of this because the current drama comes from a strong group of parents that feel they are not being heard. They're faith in the system in not present, and they want more control. To me, the issue is a lack of trust in the decision making abilities of the superintendent. That fear that he might swing away from the committee's choice is overtaking them, and they are speaking out. The problem is the superintendent is the boss. He will choose the candidate he wants. But, honestly, we put him in that position. Our Fairbanks community voted in the school board members that selected him to be our "boss," the "decision maker." And if we aren't happy about that, then it's time to change up the school board. I know there are members that have been there for quite awhile and frequently go unopposed in the process. I also know that we have a new head of the school board that is mother of 3 in the district, so maybe that voice is growing. But truly, if parents are that un-happy it's time to make changes at that level.

So, while we are laying off teachers this week, we have this distraction which I'm sure the superintendent appreciates. The focus should be on all of the teachers that have received pink slip notices this week. It is instead, on the hiring process of one prinicpal. Which in the end, the parents already had their voices heard when the school board members were voted in and the superintendent was hired. So, it's time to trust the system that these parents have already shown support of in voting in these school board members, and to also trust those committee members that have been selected to be the voice of the school community. Regardless, the head of that school is changing. It'll be a new style of leadership, and new could be great. So let's keep it positive, people!