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Calling all teachers! Do you have qualified educators in your district’s leadership?

May 8, 2011

I just finished reading a comment on Mark’s recent post “The Silent Majority and Vocal Minority”.  It comes from Dan Middleman, M. Ed. and it reads:

I’m in Wake County (Raleigh). We just got Rhee’s underling Tony Tata. So far, though, he’s treading lightly and avoiding controversial moves (in the face of a very conservative board that hired him). I give him credit for guts so far. Let’s see if it lasts. He doesn’t have any educational background and our school system has a good reputation. Time will tell.

Thanks, Dan, you’ve just inspired me. Lately, we’ve been seeing an awful lot (double meaning intended) of minimally qualified educators holding key leadership positions in school districts nationwide.  Now I have a question for all of you and I hope that you will take the time to respond to this question in the comment section.  Is your district led by qualified educators? Or is it led by other people who aren’t from the field? Perhaps it’s led by those people who say they can learn quickly despite their lack of expertise. Perhaps they even seem sincere as former Denver Superintendent  Michael Bennet (now US Senator Bennet) once did. Maybe your leaders are the ones who say how valuable teachers are while they silently pursue agendas that tend to undermine quality education for students and teachers’ rights. But I’d like to hear it from you, the readers, in a very informal survey.

We already have a little bit of information on two districts, but feel free to add details. Denver: Superintendent Tom Boasberg (Broad Fellow) lists his experience as a junior high teacher in Hong Kong (!?!) at the bottom of his district-posted biography and listed qualifications and experience.  Wake County, Raleigh, NC : Tony Tata, no educational background (unless you count the time he spent working under, ahem, “master” teacher Michelle Rhee.)  Let’s collect some data! This time it might even be fun!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2011 9:29 pm

    We used to have Janey, Rhee’s predecessor in DC. He was a puppet (were state run) but experienced and respectable. Now we have Cami Anderson. She’s from that “circle.” Formally educated in education, but a TFA teacher for about two years before working on Booker’s election campaign and then becoming a supt in NYC.

    • markfriedman1 permalink
      May 9, 2011 6:35 pm

      @PROVOKEDteacher We ALSO used to have Janey here in Rochester. Same could be said here in terms of competency.

      I’ve worked under a wide variety of admins that spent little or no time in a class room as a teacher and learned everything they know from an “outside the classroom” admin perspective. This has brought considerable concern once competency questions were raised in many of these scenarios. This is definitely a widespread issue and we should put our heads together to bring up possibly solutions as well.

  2. joan permalink
    May 10, 2011 7:30 am

    TN has 4 school superintendents who are Broad Grads located in major cities: Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, & Chattanooga. Our gov just hired Kevin Huffman, Michelle Rhee’s ex and former TfA grad as Commissioner of Education.

  3. Dan Middleman, M. Ed. permalink
    May 10, 2011 2:02 pm

    First off: Thanks for the shout out. You guys rock.
    The real concern in Raleigh is that our highly conservative board is attempting to go to “neighborhood schools” — a code term for “you poor black kids stay over there, we don’t want you in our wealthy white schools.” The problem with that is the data: it’s been tried in places like Charlotte and it didn’t work. Student performance did not improve among poor children when they were concentrated in one location and that school district as a whole suffered. Tata was brought in by the conservative majority (who might get the boot in the next election) to put this plan in place. To my surprise, he either isn’t biting or he isn’t revealing his hand yet. We’ve had bussing for racial diversity for a couple of decades now. It’s not perfect. But on balance it was better that what we’d had before. Undoing that (and redoing the bus routes for 125,000 students) is like trying to re-arrange a bowl of spaghetti. The board majority doesn’t care. They are idealogues. Perhaps Tata thinks for himself. We have a big election coming up. A lot of people slept through the last election and Raleigh is paying the price. Hopefully we learned a lesson.

  4. mariasallee permalink*
    May 10, 2011 7:08 pm

    Thanks all. So, we’re seeing evidence of this type of inexperienced leadership in at least several parts of : CO, DC, NC, NY, TN. Where else are the tendrils of the likes of TFA and Broad Fellows creeping and entwining, choking out the native foliage?

  5. May 11, 2011 9:11 pm

    Boasberg. Mergers and acquisitions attorney. End of story.

    • markfriedman1 permalink
      May 13, 2011 5:58 am

      But Andrea…….Wasn’t Boasberg really just a prime example of a highly successful man from the legal/corporate world who CARED about community and civil rights enough to leave that world and come to education? Isn’t it a sign of courage and commitment that he was willing to take a pay cut and come build a future for us in public education?

      But seriously, I remember reading that explanation for Boasberg in the Denver Post. That description has been the MSM narrative for many corporate-turned-public-education-leaders or just an excuse for lack of experience in general. There’s a few terrible assumptions promoted in the fraudulent idea that individuals who leave the corporate world to come be pro-privatization leaders in education are doing so primarily out concern for the community.

      1) Broad/Gates corporate leaders don’t see a move like this as leaving the corporate world. That’s a big part of the PROBLEM.

      2) The whole, “I took a pay cut and I’m sacrificing because I care about the community” wears thin quickly when you see what the agenda and actions are of said leaders. Those who serve as Trojan horses for pro-business agendas enjoy being able to call themselves heroes who are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the community, even when the evidence and truth suggests otherwise.

  6. mariasallee permalink*
    May 13, 2011 7:10 am

    Linking to your comments, Mark & Andrea, just last night I heard an ad on supposed “progressive” radio station KBCO (Boulder) from a “concerned citizens” group on Colorado education. They used all that rhetoric that pleases the liberals about improving schools. It chilled my blood so I noted the name for further investigation and on its website saw more of the same–pretty talk wrapped around the notion of increased push for charters/privatization.

    Earlier the same day I was thinking of Boasberg’s predecessor, Bennet who courted favor of DPS teachers with his pretty talk about “caring” and about being a fast learner despite his lack of experience as an educator. (That didn’t last.) Why are so many communities, citizens and even teachers accepting these inexperienced yet “fast learners” as their leaders? I’m considering a job change. Maybe I’ll look into hospital administration or chief of surgery somewhere. I’m a fast learner too.

  7. Miss Crabtree permalink
    May 13, 2011 6:25 pm

    Mariasallee: Teachers do not actually “accept” these people or these fables. Many teachers are feeling so beaten down that they cannot imagine that anything could be different or that they could do something about it. Teachers have often felt powerless in the past. This has only increased exponentially in the past ten years. Other teachers take a more cynical approach–why bother? They are going to do what they want, so why bother to fight it?

  8. mariasallee permalink*
    May 13, 2011 8:12 pm

    @Miss Crabtree I’m certain many teachers don’t accept this form of ‘leadership’ and are as you describe but I have observed that there are other teachers who do, at least by default. We, as teachers, should also take on the charge of critical thinking, especially when it comes to our profession and the systems that govern it.
    As a former union representative, I can tell you that plenty of people are complacent about involving and informing themselves about the things that affect our very livelihood. (That is, at least until they become victims of the system.) This is the point I was making.

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