Friday, January 9, 2009

Fixing the Schools, in Five Easy Steps! Step Five--Fire All Administrators

What's the difference between you and your administrator? Not much. You both have degrees, and if you've been around a while, you have a master's, too, just like the person who supervises you. Some admins are far less qualified to make educational decisions than you, such as those who come from the "Leadership Academy". So how come they make so much more money than you? (You can find out just how much more here, at a creepy site I discovered by visiting Ms. Brave's blog.

So I say, let's fire them. Yes, all of them. Let's replace them with some of the business people who've recently lost their jobs thanks to the Bush economy. Their only function would be to run the building--a task they are far more adept at than principals. We'd pay them with the money now being spent on parent coordinators, who would become obsolete. Then let's leave the real work of educating children to the people who understand it--the teachers themselves.

Sounds crazy? I don't think it is. Let's talk cost first. There are roughly 1200 principals and another 4000 or so APs. Let's say their average salary is $110,000. If we assume the salary of the average teacher is $65,000, that would mean we could hire 8800 teachers (we might even consider letting some of the principals and APs apply, but only the nice ones). With those additional teachers, we could do two things: reduce class size, and reduce the number of teaching periods from 25 to 22, giving each teacher an additional three periods in which to do the work of the lost lamented admins.

I know, I know--you have enough to do without adding more jobs on top. But remember--a professional is running the business end of the school. You'll use your three additional free periods to meet with parents, plan lessons, order books, observe your peers, and so on. Because teachers will be running things, we can throw out time wasters such as keeping a teacher assessment notebook or other educational gimmicks.

There are some details to be worked out here, such as who does the hiring, firing, evaluating, etc., but I think these can be done by committee or some other arrangement.

If you're still not convinced, look at the numbers:

  • Parent coordinators at $40,000 each: $48 million
  • Principals and APs at an average of $110,000: $572 million
  • The look on your ex-supervisor's face when he or she realizes you're on the hiring commitee: Priceless


ed notes online said...

Boy are we on the same page. Solutions are so much about trusting teachers to run things. I have always believed that. The entire initial impetus behind Education Notes starting in 1996 was to push in this direction. What surprised me was that the UFT leadership seemed so uncomfortable with this concept- Randi actually started to say something to me like, "How can we trust teachers...." and then stopped in mid-sentence. I had just made the point to her that almost every administrator was either incompetent or power driven and †he ones who were there to help the teachers were few and far between, they might as well not be there. She said she agreed - but she always says that.

(In 1979 when the district pulled our long-time principal and all the APS out of the building in a political move, a few teachers actually took charge and made sure stuff got done. Same a few years later when both admins were out and the Disrict sent over a stick of wood.)

I proposed in the late 90's when I saw the charter school idea not as a privatization scheme but as a way for teachers to take over the schools one by one, that the UFT start an office of charter school support teachers who wanted to run schools. At the heart is that teachers choose their own admins. In europe there are some places that have elections for principal - I was in Galicia in Spain when the DOE sent a few of us there to set up a partnership with a middle school in robotics and the amazing principal we worked with had been elected to a 3 year term.

Keep up the agitation.


NYC Educator said...

I don't know about replacing them with the business people, actually. I think it would be better to have teachers do these things, maybe for a stipend or as comp time or both.

I have to say, though, that I've had and met some very good administrators. It's unfortunate that there are those teachers who chose it to "escape from the classroom," because those who couldn't hack the classroom don't make good supervisors either.

Chaz said...

I agree with NYC educator. Let the classroom teachers make the day-to-day decisions and the budgetary process.

Mr. Talk said...

I just don't feel that I'm anymore qualified than my principal at ordering toilet paper for the boy's bathroom or those sand-papery paper towels for the teacher's lounge. I'd hate to be interrupted in the middle of a lesson by an irate colleague who wanted to take me to task for not filling the Snapple machine. SO I'd leave those things to a building manager. But perhaps you're on to something--if it could be given as per session, we might not need a business person at all.

My main point is that teachers should be running things, especially the educational end of things. As Norm points out, most admins were incompetent to middling teachers, so it seems insane to allow them to become the educational leaders of our schools.

The classroom is where the real leaders are needed.

NYC Educator said...

You're right--the classroom is where real leaders are needed. Someone, though, has to determine who gets to lead those classrooms. Let the custodians buy the paper towels. You need good people to find and retain good teachers.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like administrators need better supervision - how about applying some sound business practices, like a 360 degree review, in which all direct reports (as well as peers and superiors) have a role in the data collection?

I think your idea has merit - teachers need a strong voice in how a school is run - but ultimately you would throw the baby out with the bathwater. No school leader can ever please everyone, but a rudderless ship will eventually drift somewhere unsavory for all. There is plenty of research that demonstrates my point. Read anything by Terrence Deal or Michael Fullan.

School leadership is a much more complex job than you let on. If you have an ax to grind with a particular school leader, it's upon you to market your skills and find a job elsewhere with a stronger leader. Students are counting on it.

Ed Darrell said...

It's fascinating to me that you've got many more links to this post than commenters on it.

I'm not so negative on administrators as you -- but not much less. I spent many years in business, and frankly, if any of my business bosses had been so bad at building management as most school administrators, I'd have just called the health department and shut the place down (in many places schools are exempt from usual health department and OSHA rules . . . and they say teachers have an aggressive lobby effort!).

It would be nice to have someone who would worry about the things teachers need to do their jobs, instead of trying to tell teachers what they should have done two weeks ago.

Elections work well. So do limited terms. Universities get department heads from the teaching ranks, and then many return. Why not do it that way in high schools?

Nice thought provoker.

Anonymous said...

I would agree...but lets take it further...lets let parents choose their kids teachers. Better yet...lets let the students run the building, they always make decisons in the best interst of themselves, they will tell us what they want and we will provide it. If they dont want a teacher at all we can save the money on that too. Just do the math. Imagine the look on a teqchers face when they faced a iring committee with their students on it...priceless

Mr. Talk said...

Anon 11:29:

I assume you must be an administrator. Not just because of the tenor of your comment, but also the fact that you can't spell, use apostrophes, or write in complete sentences.

You seem to have missed the fact that as things now stand, adult admins hire adult teachers. Under my proposal, adult teachers would hire adult teachers. Under your proposal, children would hire adult teachers. So you see the difference?

Whatever your anti-teacher animus, please leave it at the door. It's not our fault if they made you wear that pointy cap in school. Time to get over it.

Anonymous said...

If your system was put into place, would you agree to give away tenure? There would be no need for protection for "evil" administrators. Would you allow your committee of teachers to fire at will? Further, by your previous post, if you intend on insulting those who disagree with you....are you any better than those people you wish to fire?

Mr. Talk said...

Yes, I'm quite a bit better. I may give a shot to an anonymous poster, but I have never tried to ruin a good teacher's career, or filed false charges against anyone. Many admins have.

If someone comes to a teacher blog, and asks whether teachers would be OK with being hired by children, what treatment should that person expect? I find it utterly disrespectful to imply that a 7 year old could accurately assess the skills of someone with a master's degree. And in your post, you put quotation marks around the word "evil", apparently in an attempt to make it seem that I called admins evil, and I did not.

Regardless, I see no need to get rid of tenure under any circumstances. As things now stand, teachers can be fired at will for three years before they receive tenure. I can spot a bad teacher in three minutes. Tenure protects proven teachers from ill political winds.

Anonymous said...

No you just want to fire all of the leaders who run schools. I guess you would not oonsider that ruining a career. While I do agree that there are many poor admins out there, and many who followed a career path for the wrong reasons, proposing that they all be fired w/o cause is mean spirited. The best schools value teacher input and support teachers in being leaders in the classroom and beyond. The DOE allows teachers to transfer at will through the openmarket. ANY teacher can transfer to a school that fits their supervison needs and schools that support teachers.

Mr. Talk said...

I'd guess you're an admin yourself, as only an admin would consider a return to teaching "ruining a career". What you mean is you wouldn't want to make less money while actually teaching children.

I honestly have not heard of a school that values teacher input in a long, long time. Can you name one? I'd like to apply. Of course, I'd never get in, because the "Open" Market is a bad joke. The idea that any teacher can transfer anywhere they want belies total ignorance of the system.

Norm said...

About 12 years ago I suggested to the Delegate Assembly that we oppose tenure for administrators - somewhat with tongue in cheek and with some humor. I made the point that a major reason teachers needed tenure was to protect us from bad admins.

I may have gotten about 5 votes because the Unity machine, which always seems to be awfully worried about those poor admins, opposed it. Maybe because so many Unity hacks become supervisors themselves.

My point was, why give strength and make it harder to remove people who were often teachers' major enemies?

After the meeting, Sandy Feldman, in the only time she ever said a word to me, came over laughing and shook my hand, saying how she agreed with what I said but couldn't do it politically. She even offered me space in the NY Teacher to make the same points.

It was an interesting insight into Sandy's roots, which were as a real teacher involved in organizing a union in the late 50's and early 60's. While she and Shanker were certainly part of the problems we face today, that spirit for what it was worth, has been missing under the Weingarten regime. One reeason why a teacher union leader should have been a real teacher. Maybe a chapter leader who has to face real problems at the micro level before tackling the bigger issues.

Some say Mike Mulgrew, rumored to be Randi's successor, has some of that. If he does, wearing the Unity crown will wear it away pretty quickly.

michele said...

I agree with your simple plan to improve the schools. I have always wondered why the DOE doesn't do the obvious, deal with discipline, reduce class size, really end social promotion, if they truly want change.