Posts Tagged ‘Administrative Leadership’

NY Post Hypocrisy is Boundless. How Can a Paper That Championed Bloomberg’s Chancellor With NO Classroom Experience Blast Chancellor Porter for “Barely” Teaching Before Rising Through the Ranks

March 15, 2021 Comments off

I confess that I felt a sense of de ja vu AND empathy when I read the NYPost headline and accompanying article chastising the decision to hire Meisha Ross Porter because she lacked classroom teaching experience.

The sense of de ja vu came because, like Ms. Porter, I had a series of breaks early in my career as an educator that enabled me to rise rapidly through the ranks. I won a Ford Fellowship after “barely teaching” (two years in a West Philadelphia HS) and then moving rapidly through the administrative ranks to become a Superintendent at the age of 33. I have mild regrets that I didn’t spend more time in the classroom or at the building level (where I served for 6 years), and in retrospect got OJT in my first few years as Superintendent… but when opportunities presented themselves for me— as they have for Ms. Porter— I seized them and never looked back.

BUT… the “lack of experience” criticism DID come into play early in my career whenever I assumed the leadership in increasingly large districts and whenever someone who disagreed with a decision wanted to ascribe blame. Whenever that occurred, though, I took the comment of a veteran Maine School Board member who assured one of his colleagues who expressed concern about my hiring since I had no experience as a Superintendent that I would solve that problem “one year at a time”. Sure enough, by the time I was hired for my final two jobs my “lack of experience” was no longer an issue.

I found the NYPost criticism of Ms. Porter particularly galling given their unqualified praise for the work done by Mayor Bloomberg’s appointee to the Chancellor: Joel Klein– an attorney with no experience whatsoever in public education. The fact that a white male who never set foot in a classroom was never questioned about his experience while an African American woman is “welcomed” with headline chastising her for “barely” teaching. The criticism was particularly galling given the content of the article that listed the many accomplishments Ms. Porter achieved in her years as an administrator. I wish her well… and hope that she continues to fight the good fight as she has done throughout her career. If she does well and the next mayor passes her over some district somewhere in the US will get a seasoned administrator with a good track record for turning around troubled schools.

WSJ Op Ed Demeaning Jill Biden’s Ed.D Reflects the Anti-Intellectual Brand of Trump’s GOP

December 16, 2020 Comments off

Late last week the Wall Street Journal featured an op ed article by Joseph Epstein that chided President-elect Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, for using the honorific “Doctor”. NBC reporter Tonya Russell summarized the critique as follows:

“‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic,” wrote Joseph Epstein, a longtime contributor to The Journal. “Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title ‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.'”

Like Jill Biden I have an Ed.D and like her I wrote my dissertation on a practical research question: does a demanding application process yield a superior pool of applicants? And, like Jill Biden I was subjected to some who questioned its legitimacy and some who used the term in a sneering and derisive way.

As Ms. Russell noted in her NBC report, an ED.D requires the same number of years as a Ph.D and is often as rigorous. Increasingly the degree is a pre-requisite for an administrative assignment because School Boards and especially recruiting consultants view it as a means of objectively screening candidates. Early in my career I was able to get interviews based on the credential and three of those interviews led to jobs as I advanced from Assistant Principal to Superintendent of a 17,000 pupil school district in a 10 year interval. In the end, I was willing to accept the criticism from the likes of Mr. Epstein because I knew how much work went into earning my degree and came to understand that it was no different than the work that went into a “real” doctorate.

Natalie Goldberg is More Forgiving of de Blasio Than I… But Her Ultimate Conclusion is He’s the Best of a Sorry Lot

December 1, 2020 Comments off

NY Times op ed writer Natalie Goldberg is always insightful, offering a unique and multi-hued perspective to issues that too many other writers reduce to black-and-white. Her column in today’s paper, “On Pandemic Schooling, de Blasio is Actually Leading“, is a good case in point. She describes the criticisms leveled against Mayor de Blasio by nearly everyone in New York City and the national press. Indeed, her opening paragraph could not be more withering:

Sometimes it seems like the single point of consensus in America’s fractured politics is contempt for New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.

And she does a good job of explaining why that contempt exists, offering particular criticism for de Blasio’s lack of communication skills, which echoes the post I wrote yesterday about him:

De Blasio’s public communication has been characteristically awful, and his policy zigzags have induced whiplash among many parents. Those who haven’t opted into part-time in-person education probably won’t have the opportunity to return full-time; it’s a possibility only because many schools have just a small fraction of students attending. The city has done a poor job of explaining why the previous threshold for closing schools — a citywide coronavirus positivity rate of 3 percent — no longer applies.

But despite his gaffes in strategy early in the pandemic, she notes that he has struck on a path forward that is superior to that of any American mayor and, unlike many of his cohorts who lead major cities, de Blasio has worked in cooperation with the teachers union who, in turn, have looked to science for the most reasonable path forward:

“(NYC Union President Michael) Mulgrew and I were both convinced by the doctors that we were talking to, and the industrial hygienists that we were talking to,” (AFT President Randi) Weingarten said, that with the right safeguards and enough testing, “schools could reopen safely.”

In the final analysis, despite his bumbling and stumbling actions leading up to his latest decision, Ms. Goldberg concludes that de Blasio is the best that the country has to offer when it comes to overseeing the reopening of an urban school district:

His off-again-on-again reopening has been maddening, but look around the country. No matter how much people love to hate de Blasio, there aren’t many examples of mayors handling the school crisis better.