If you are a regular or semi-regular reader of this blog, you know that, as a group, the administrative class at my school suffers from Diminished Interpersonal Capacity Syndrome or DICS.
This is a terrible condition that causes people to relate to others as if they were not truly human and to treat them poorly for no good reason. The organization New Leaders for New Schools has been identified as a carrier of DICS. Beware.
In celebration of the end of another year, and in the spirit of data collection, I would like to share with you some sobering numbers from my school. I believe these numbers are a direct consequence of DICS, but more research is necessary. Here we go:
My school is fully staffed with around 85 full-time teachers. It’s a big school, but not giant.
Just for fun I decided to try to list every teacher who has taught here since I started in 08/09. So that’s three years. Using my memory, yearbooks and old room and phone directories, I came up with a pretty big list. Then I started talking to other people from other departments. Forgotten teachers started coming out of the woodwork of people’s memories. Many people don’t show up on the phone list or the yearbook because they didn’t last a whole year. In my department alone last year there were 5 teachers who either started late, quit early, or both. (Do you remember that guy in the science department?…tall…always wore Polo shirts? Wow, he really hated this place. What was his name…? Just put down ‘Polo shirt’ for now.)
So I’m talking to people and the list is growing. The final tally came to 183 teachers in 3 years for 85 teaching jobs. Add to this the 25-30 people who I happen to be aware of who are leaving right now. You could also add another 15-25 who will jump in a heartbeat if they find something over the summer. That gives us well over 200 teachers filling 85 jobs in 3 years.
Anywhere else on the planet, maybe in the galaxy, this would be considered a colossal failure of leadership. But at my school, the principal has achieved something close to sainthood in the local system. She is the longest serving principal in the system, by far. Some would say she is experienced. Some would say she has ossified. Everybody agrees she has been there for a long fucking time. Everybody agrees that there are a great many plaques in the hallway trophy case bearing her name.
Indeed, she has been called The Visionary.
She is nazi-organized, but a little less friendly in one-on-one meetings. She knows her business, because she has been doing the same job since probably Reagan’s second term. But instead of becoming more comfortable, self-confident and amiable, she seems to have become more paranoid, self-protective and self-righteous. I’ve only known her for three years, but the small handful of people who have been around here for 15-20 years say that it hasn’t always been like this. She seems to not care at all about the satisfaction of her teachers. That explains why most people flee from her as soon as they meet her. That explains why I have never heard any administrator in the building utter the phrase teacher retention.
I don’t want to get too personal, but she is not only authoritarian in her rule, but she is also unsettlingly anti-social. Her very nearness makes people feel sort of cold and empty inside. She has a bit of a cult following among the New Leaders crowd, but lacks the charisma of a big-time cult leader. If it came right down to it, I think the APs would spend all day spewing talking points about the achievement gap and data assessment action plan profiles if held in stress positions, but they wouldn’t take a bullet for her. They know the game. They know she can be good for their careers, but she is ultimately full of shit and primarily concerned with protecting her little fiefdom and her own reputation above all else. They know she will eat them alive as soon as she would me if they cross her.
The irony is that most of the hundreds of teachers who have been here in the last three years were really excited to get these jobs. I was. I sent my resume directly to her and she responded within 24 hours with an interview and demo lesson date. This school stands out as one that is not a total cluster-fuck in a city full of cluster-fuck schools. Then you realize that she is long on demands and dogma while short on rationale and long on DICS. She is an authoritarian drone who shapes underling enforcers in her image. They appear to share a brain, or at least part of one.
The entire building is subdued by her creepy, stiff smile that says I know being around me makes people feel tense and uncomfortable; and I have long since stopped trying to correct this.
So, how’s summer going for everybody?