Monday, 21 July 2014

Leadership or followship?

Leadership or followship?

One of the provisions of our new contract creates new department roles within each building. These positions have responsibilities that are different from department leaders, but they are paid a stipend comprable to department leaders, in that the people focus on curriculum alignment, while department leaders deal with the budget stuff. I am writing about these curriculum leadership positions, of course, because I have issues. I've been grappling with the rightness or wrongness of my thinking for several weeks now, and am still at odds. Maybe I simply have a bad case of sour grapes, but I'm going to write about it anyway.

First, I don't think that our district needs more management-type positions, even if they are within the building. We are already too top-heavy. One of the big problems with the district is that quite often the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. One department will tell teachers to do one thing, while another department will tell us to do another. Perhaps the positions are intended to catch these inconsistencies, but it would seem to me that streamlining the administration would be a better strategy.

Another thing that irks me is that during contract negotiations, Superintendent often made negative reference to the enormous budget dedicated to teacher salaries. So I cannot help but ask, if our district is in a crisis, why are we adding to that cost with more management stipends? Perhaps I'm just stupid, but I cannot fathom exactly how these new roles are going to benefit those of us in the classroom. Perhaps these leaders are supposed to serve as vessels of content-area growth and development. Perhaps the intention is for them to lead in moments of collaboration. Perhaps they will enhance our knowledge of our content areas.

Perhaps I would have more buy in were it not for one other observation that smacks me in the face.

Do these leaders in fact support teachers in the classroom or serve as watchdogs for principals? One would think that the qualifications for these new leadership positions would include maybe an advanced degree, many years of classroom experience or exemplary classroom management style. Did Principal look at any of those things to help her decide who were the best teachers for the position? Not exactly. Out of the five new leaders in my building, only one of these teachers has an advanced degree. Only one teacher has more than ten years experience, and two have less than four years experience. I'm not certain with how the other teachers sort within their departments, but I know that the teacher from my department not only has discipline problems in her classroom, but with regards to the district and area assessments, her kids consistently score lowest among teachers in the department --they do, however, walk away with the highest grades.

While I am skeptical, I will say something positive about all five curriculum leaders: They are very nice people, and I hate to criticize them at all.

There is one other detail that I cannot help noticing. Only two of these teachers pay union dues.

When I think about it, this is my big beef: While the union negotiated this contract that created these positions, it sure seems like the fruits of this contract are being doled out to individuals who never seemed to support the negotiations process to begin with.

But like I started out saying, I don't really agree with this provision of the contract to begin with.

You tell me, am I chewing on beef or sour grapes?