Monday, November 23, 2009

A process well-traveled

Tonight the St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education will announce the results of their search for a new superintendent. This will be the 5th superintendent in my 4.5 years as president of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers. The members of Local 28 stand ready to work with this next superintendent and we are poised to offer our expertise to collectively meet the needs of our students and the families who trust us with their children. Much of what draws a member of the teacher’s union into education is probably shared with a good superintendent candidate: the belief that one person’s work can make a difference, the joy of working in community on a common goal, the belief of public education’s place in building a good society, the vexation with the barrier that race, socio-economic status, gender and more can play in the path to success and the determination to do something about it.

We believe that the most important work in public education occurs between an educator and a student. We look forward to a superintendent who will join us in this vital relationship.

In anticipation of that, I have appreciated the thoughtful work of the Board of Education in this search process starting with the outstanding and unprecedented action by Tom Goldstein of resigning to allow for Director Jean O’Connell to be actively involved in the final stage of the search. He is to be commended for his thoughtful and unselfish contribution to the search results.

I also appreciated the Board members taking time to attend and listen to all the staff/community sessions with each of the finalists. Their attention to and care of a broad opinion base speaks very highly of their intention to lead with us going forward. I am grateful for the time they have put into the search process and thank them for their careful deliberation.

And now, the envelope please...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Partners in education? Wait & See

One of the two most prominent findings this fall, from the superintendent search firm Hazard, Young & Associates, was the identification of the severely fractured relationships in our district. Yet, no semi-finalist candidate identified at Wednesday night’s special Board of Education meeting—when they had the opportunity in professional biographies written in their own words—listed collaboration any place among their professional histories of “significant accomplishments.”

Leadership is clearly about accomplishing something and taking responsibility for your work, but leaders know that real partnerships are not only critical to creating great work, partnerships are essential to sustaining that great work, too. Otherwise you're just a manager directing people to do things. Are we supposed to believe that these candidates did what they did alone? Or are we to believe they did it by telling workers, parents and community what do do, how to do it and when it needed to be done?

The absence of any evidence, again that they had the opportunity to list in their own words, that they value a collaborative environment that brought them the success they were proud to list has me eager to listen as carefully as possible to their public interviews this weekend.

This weekend will offer one more chance for each of them, in their own words, to offer even a modicum of evidence that any of them expect to find value in the 6,000 employees and community of over a quarter million people that one of them may be poised to inherit.

Or we call a do-over.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vote for Vallay Moua Varro and Jean O'Connell!

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is looking forward to the future of St. Paul Public Schools, which is why we chose to endorse two candidates who are looking forward with us. Vallay Moua Varro and Jean O’Connell have both shown a propensity to listen thoughtfully, demonstrate leadership, and see the best of what our schools offer. Both Vallay and Jean are school board candidates in this race who care as much as we do about the future of all our students, rather than being stuck in the past with insulting stereotypes of ethnicity and gender. We reject the bullying and shallow politics that have divided us and we are inspired by both Vallay’s and Jean’s good ideas and their plans to bring them to fruition cooperatively.

Pat Igo’s gross mischaracterization of this school board race, in the October 26th StarTribune story, with his superficial, inaccurate race-baiting says more about the rhetoric of the past he would bring to the school board when what we need most is relevant and insightful direction for our district so we can move forward together.

You cannot roll up your sleeves to improve our future if you’re busy wringing your hands over the past. Fortunately for St. Paul voters we have two candidates who took different paths to this school board race but came to the same conclusion: St. Paul Public Schools is still poised to offer a world of opportunities for all of our students with all of us working together.

We are honored that they both chose to share their clear talents and leadership with us and proud to endorse them both. We look forward to working alongside Vallay Moua Varro and Jean O’Connell to meet the needs of our students.

(This posting was submitted to the StarTribune as a letter to the editor on October 27th.)