Saturday, September 17, 2016
What Does The DOE Fear The Most? Institutional Memory.
During the Joel Klein era the DOE tried to change the balance of power in the public schools by giving principals more power in running their schools. It was not uncommon to see principals demanding teachers do additional duties and blame teachers when many of the administration's ideas resulted in no student academic improvement. Teacher tenure was extended and veteran teachers were targeted by the DOE's fair student funding policy. The new buzz word by the DOE was was "accountability", unfortunately, accountability was only assigned to the teachers while DOE policy makers, school administrators, students, and parents were given a free pass from their own responsibility.
The roadblock stopping the DOE and their school administrators from riding roughshod over teachers were the veterans who had that institutional memory on how successful and collaborative schools work. To counter this the DOE did everything possible to demonize the veteran teacher and get them to leave the system. Even the new Chancellor, Carmen Farina, was onboard with the DOE policy, she warned new teachers to stay away from the teacher's room and veteran teachers. People like James Eterno, Arther Goldstein, and Jeff Kuafman were radioactive to the DOE since they not only knew the contract, but were advocates for their teachers and would step up to the plate to defend their contractual rights. These are the teachers who had institutional memory and were able to use it to protect and support their staff.
Teacher institutional memory is what the DOE fears the most since these veteran teachers not only know the contract but understood how collaborative schools work. This is opposite what the infamous "Leadership Academy" teaches which instructs perspective principals that they are the CEOs of their schools and they are in charge. Collaboration with school staff is an inconvenient annoyance and is discarded when it does not serve the interest of the Principal. In schools lucky enough to have a veteran teacher as a Chapter Leader and advocates for their staff, the Principal quickly realizes that its better to collaborate than confront and the school climate is better for all. Unfortunately, too many Chapter Leaders lack both the institutional memory or the fortitude to confront the Principal. The result is that in far too many schools you have a climate of mistrust and a hostile environment.
The bottom line is that schools fortunate enough that has veteran teachers with the institutional memory and is willing to advocate for their staff will make their school a better school. By contrast, when principals are allowed to do as they please and there's no pushback from staff, the school will suffer from high teacher turnover, a hostile school environment, instability, and poor academic achievement for the students. A recipe for what makes a bad school.