Turds of Administration

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?

Mr. Teachbad

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27 Responses to Turds of Administration

  1. Summer (all 10 hours of it so far) are going pretty good, Mr. Teachbad,. Thanks for asking.

    Since I was one of the 1600 teachers laid off in my district, I look forward to finding out what kind of DIC I will be working for next year. (the possibility of having a job in September is pretty good since floods of teachers leave jump ship at any opportunity.)

    With so many administrators whose leader is the coldest human alive (aka Superintendent,) the chance of working for someone like your principal is frightening.

    In the mean time I plan to make the most of being unemployed and will enjoy the time off like never before. Feel free to stop by backyard fir beer or ice tea anytime!

  2. gilda says:

    Dear TB-
    Summer (and brand new retirement!) are going extremely well-it’s almost as though I lost 50 lbs of mental crap when I walked out of the building. Glad you asked, because my attitude has improved 200% in the past 2 weeks.
    Back to your prin-sounds like she came straight from dementor training at Azkaban-sucking out souls seems to be a full time job with the adminiweenies now. I’m sure, like yours, there are those who will protect themselves at enormous cost to all others involved. DICs seem to be awfully common now–many coming from ed reform platforms where the Kool-aid must be very potent-how else can you account for the absolute refusal of too many admins to see and discuss what the actual problems are vs. the “challenges” they keep vomiting at us???
    Your turnover rates are just staggering. It must be incredibly hard to foster any sense of team, dept or partnerships when the players change so often. Please know I’m hoping your situation changes for the better before mid-Aug rolls around. Please don’t stop writing!

    • Sean says:

      I don’t know about you Gilda, but so far, I am liking this retirement business….No AP workshops, no curriculum planning sessions, no one from the school calling about you coming in to help interview a person(s) for a position within your department. Not walking into the grocery store and a parent asking about your class, and the kid they’ll have in it this fall.
      TB, the turnover rates are just awful at your school…..Why has someone higher up not looked at this sooner?

  3. For Real says:

    I have to wonder if it is the nature of the job (administration) that makes people become assholes or if the people filling the positions only fill them with assholes. There are way too many horrible administrators out there for this to be an accident. My principal is so bad that dozens of teachers (including me) set up meetings with his boss at the county office to complain about him.

    • The Principal says:

      Principals only become assholes if they buy into all the ed school crap they are fed when they get their principal’s certificate, and forget what it was like to be a teacher (unless of course they were an asshole teacher, sorry, but I have seen a few of those). I know, because I am a principal (high school, no less), and I am definitely not an asshole. I have just changed schools this week (bad superintendent), and the only people I am really going to miss are the teachers that I got to work with every day, the maintenance guys who took damn good care of the school, and of course the office support staff, who really run the adminstrative (paperwork) part of the school. I almost didn’t take the new job because I liked the people I worked with, and will miss them all. Sorry you guys have such f-uped principals, but I am not one of them, I’m just one of you, with a nice office that my teachers are always welcome in, anytime.

      Hope things get better.

      • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

        From my perspective, the worst principals are the ones that were never teachers, and they bring their “private industry” expertise to the job. Those are the ones that see low scores by poor students as the equivalent of a bad inventory: a problem that is fixed by just firing the person who is supposed to be responsible. (or, in the case of teachers, making their lives miserable until they quit).

      • Miss Crabtree says:

        Can you trust him? Is he a ringer? LOL Just kidding, guy. Sounds guyish, doesn’t it?

  4. Title1soccermom says:

    Mr. Teachbad, you made me laugh out loud with this one.

    I met your vaulted principal on a few occasions. She really, truly suffers from DICS. But the dodderingly old fool who is the education reporter at our hometown newpaper adores her, so that’s all that really matters.

    Though it is weird that your school’s test scores are so craptastic that any other leader would have be canned a long time ago…

    Do you think she knows where the bodies are buried?

  5. Title1soccermom says:

    Sorry, that should be doddering. Baby on lap…

  6. Miss Crabtree says:

    Nature or nurture? Does the job shape them or do they shape the job? Which comes first: DICS or dickheads? We may never know. Even people who we have worked very closely with and who were great teachers and even a outstanding principals turn out to have latent case of DICS in the end–once they get to DISTRICT OFFICE, they become insufferable pricks.

  7. Chris says:

    I had a principal like that. I lasted 18 months under her rule. It didn’t help that she seemed to hate my guts… and then, a year after I left, she retired.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      Arrgh! We have the same thing. Fight with a principal for years and then as soon as you transfer to a new school, the district wakes up and demotes the guy to AP at another school–thankfully not the one you just moved to. Does anyone’s district ever get rid of the bad guys or just move them down and around?

  8. Wyrm1 says:

    But….but…. your school is super-duper high on Jay Matthews Challenge Index, so you MUST be raising students up to their maximum potential.

    As for teacher retention, that is very overrated, why would you want continuity or anything like that. If YOU as a professional could raise yourself to reach her tough (and oddly inconsistent) standards then you would not have any issues :-)

  9. Tracy says:

    No Summer vacation here as of yet. Waiting for Tuesday at 2:50 for the party to begin.

    Our DICS come from the Mayor’s “Leadership Academy”. I know someone going through the program and they are disgusted. They spend days and days teaching the future DICS how to beat the contract and get rid of teachers. I have said that the union should send someone in posing as a future DIC and then write an expose on how it really is run. I like the Harry Potter allusion, since we refer to our DIC as the ‘The one with no soul’ from time to time.

    We also use the Wizard of OZ as a point of reference. DIC=Wicked Witch, ASS DICS are the flying monkeys and we are Dorothy just trying to make it home. The DIC is often the Tin Man (no heart) or Scarecrow (no brain), but a majority of the staff are the Lion (No Courage). I, of course, am Glinda-much beloved by my Munchkins (kids) LOL

    Enjoy the summer…..

    • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

      It’s not hard to get rid of a teacher without messing with the union… 1) move their classroom across the school 2) Give them 4 sections of 9th Grade algebra 1, 2 sections of 9th grade pre-algebra, 3) make sure each class has at least 35 students in a classroom with 30 desks 4) planning period is lunch. Whoever it is, they’ll quit within the year.

      If principals need a “leadership academy” to figure this out, they are dumber than I thought.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      Very clever Tracy and so literary. I like the idea of the support folks out of district office as the flying monkeys. Wonderful image. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain because, Lord knows, he is not paying attention to what is important to kids and teachers.

  10. Tracy says:

    I realize I did the teacher thing by explaining parts of my post to the masses. Sorry, Hazard of the job, I guess. :)

  11. Ms. Kelly says:

    Tracy, I’ve started speaking parenthetically, too. My therapist pointed it out to me, actually, when I used a psychiatric term with her, and then immediately began explaining it. :-)

    2 Adminiweenies in my school also suffer from DICS. We sat down with the school yearbook this year to count the turnaround. Out of 69 originals, 24 are leaving or have left this year alone. This has not been a bad year for leaving. But, according to the district, high teacher turnaround means you’re chasing the bad teachers away. It never occurs to them that good teachers might also be among the ones most likely to think “Oh, I think I can do better than THIS.” and go on their merry way.

    Sadly, the one admin who is decent to be around is so laidback that he ends up accidentally undermining the teachers with his agreeable nature. Oh, you called your history teacher a stupid bitch? Well, just don’t do it again and hurry back to class. Oh, yes, ma’am, you’re unhappy with your child’s grade. Well, the teacher will somehow come up with a way for him to retake the course by worksheets. Gah!

  12. gilda says:

    Years ago–maybe 15–our district let kids make up an original credit course by attending summer school for 16 days (2 hrs/day) and then retaking the test du jour with lots and lots of coaching. Compared to what happens today, that policy demonstrated the ever elusive “academic rigor” we hear so much about. LMAO if it weren’t such a serious and unethical sham(bles)….

  13. libaryteacher says:

    We had a principal who was promoted from teacher in 18 months or so due to someone that he knew at “the board”. I’m not even sure he was a teacher. Anyway, he lasted until the first standardized test in October and then “the board” saw the error of their ways. He went back to being an Assistant Principal in his old school and the AP there become our principal. It didn’t really matter since we were slated to be closed anyway in two years time to make way for a “new school”.
    Thankfully, all my principals were teachers at some point though as soon as they became principals-they forgot everything they ever experienced as teachers.

  14. Miss Crabtree says:

    As one of my friends always says: If you take the king’s shilling, you do the king’s bidding. Even the best are browbeat into giving in to DICS. It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere! It is inevitable. It is fate. It is destiny.

  15. Tracy says:

    For the second year running, our whole Social Studies Department is wiped out completely. In the last 2 years we have gone through 7 SS teachers. How does no one see this as a problem? People leave because of being fired, harassed or ‘forced’ retirement……The kids will have a fit when they get back in September and no one is left. We lost 25 % of our staff last year and will lose approx. the same this year.

    • The Principal says:

      Tracy,

      You say the kids will have a fit. Any chance the kids aren’t part of the problem? (A real question.)

  16. Tracy says:

    We are a small school, so wiping out a whole dept is a big deal. The kids have a level of loyalty that is difficult to explain. They are smart enough to see the the harassment that goes on. Our kids are no angels, but I have yet to hear a teacher say that the kids act crazy during an observation. Even if they ‘dislike’ a teacher they know how to play along. The people who have left of their own accord were not chased away by the students.

    • Sean says:

      You know, when I was evaluated, even the kids who were turds “played the game.” Even thought it was me who got the marks, they felt like they were being watched too. Hell, they even asked ” How did we do? ” the next day.
      But, I was like you, a small school.

  17. The TRUTH is that being and administrator produces only ingrates and enemies. Clearly, Mr. Teachbad —if that is your real name— is both.

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