I find it incredible that anyone in the Ivory Tower of Power at Volusia County Schools still has a job following the series of scandals that have rocked taxpayers, irreparably damaged the district’s reputation and called into question the academic achievements of students.
In Volusia County schools, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same – a dull, uninspired place where mediocrity has become the benchmark and one’s ability to deflect blame, sidestep responsibility and protect the system ensures vertical career growth.
Now, rather than include teachers (you know, those folks who are actually in the classroom presenting the curriculum?) in the selection and evaluation of our next superintendent – a nearly omnipotent position of supreme authority – district officials are doing their level best to exclude their important input.
In keeping with the district’s time-honored tradition of treating educators like unwanted rubbish, the School Board recently omitted classroom teachers from a seat on the 25-member Superintendent Search Citizens Advisory Committee – an eclectic group charged with reviewing applications and making recommendations to the board.
Instead, the input of classroom teachers has been limited to a “focus group” and a seat at the table for Volusia United Educators.
In my view, the district’s attorney, Ted Doran, openly maligned the concerns of teachers at the board’s August meeting – calling their request to participate in the process a “conflict of interest” – on the flimsy argument that, “It’s not appropriate for someone to pick their boss.”
In forward-thinking organizations that value the contributions of stakeholders, employees at all levels are invited to participate in the important process of vetting and recommending the chief executive.
The essence of leadership is developing a culture that values the informed opinions of everyone on the team – rather than perpetuating the tired notion that senior administrators have all the answers – and those serving where the rubber meets the road should merely keep their mouths shut and do their jobs.
An inclusive process has nothing to do with currying favor and everything to do with ensuring a 360-degree evaluation of potential candidates – a comprehensive decision-making process that considers an amalgam of internal and external perspectives.
According to a piece by the News-Journal’s outstanding education reporter, Cassidy Alexander, Mr. Doran suggested that our future superintendent might be swayed if “. . .a teacher on the committee ended up needing to be disciplined or suspended by the superintendent in the future?”
Don’t get me wrong – given their abysmal track record – it’s not inconceivable that our School Board might select a weak-minded, morally bankrupt shitheel capable of basing disciplinary decisions on whether or not the teaching staff supported his or her appointment.
But in the “real world,” any senior executive with a modicum of integrity knows that favoritism of that stripe is wholly unethical and the first step down the path to personal and professional destruction.
Perhaps more important – where was Mr. Doran’s keen sense of right and wrong when the sitting principal of Mainland High School – with the clear knowledge of senior administrators – was engaged in an organized fraud to deceive hundreds of victims of the Advanced Placement exam scheme, manufacturing passing grades for student athletes, allowing the use of unqualified counselors, then retiring rather than be held accountable for destroying the district’s professional and academic reputation?
Where was the School Board’s faux concern when former Superintendent Tom Russell was skedaddling to a cushy gig at Flagler County Schools – toting a sack full of board-approved severance cash – just steps ahead of the scandalous revelations that have shocked taxpayers and eroded the confidence of students, parents and staff?
Look, Mr. Doran works for the Volusia County School Board – so it is crystal clear that his words echo the inner thoughts of those we have elected to serve the public interest and protect our tax dollars – but our elected officials should realize just how close they are to losing the confidence of their constituents.
Normally, when gross administrative incompetence leads to a complete breakdown in oversight that results in outrageous wrongdoing – senior bureaucrats and politicians seek the input of everyone affected as a means of building trust, restoring a sense of stability and healing the sins of the past.
But not in Volusia County.
Here, our elected officials and senior administrators continue to treat teachers like second-class citizens – necessary, but menial, cogs in a much larger wheel, totally unworthy of adding their voice and experience to this important process – and once again made to feel as if their contributions don’t matter by those arrogant untouchables in DeLand.
Who is served by that?
In my view, the same haughty insiders at the top of the heap are intent on finding a superintendent whose cheap values match their own as they fight to keep their grip on the public tit.
The cycle repeats. . .
How terribly sad – and telling.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal