Principals feel hamstrung:  Time to replace top DOE leaders and give more power to schools



Time to replace top DOE leaders and give more power to schools

By Eileen Clarke, Gary Griffiths and Betty Mow

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 01, 2014

The Star-Advertiser recently alerted the public to discontent among public school principals, via coverage of a critical survey that found 88 percent of 160 principals saying central administration is not providing sufficient support to the schools, and 65 percent fearing retaliation for disagreeing with or questioning systemwide initiatives (“Principals feel they’re hamstrung, survey finds,” May 15).

A follow-up commentary by four former principals called the current system “dysfunctional” and pressed for school empowerment (”Public school leaders must be empowered to achieve success,” Island Voices, May 20); and an editorial called on state Department of Education leadership, school board members and the governor to heed the calls (“Address principals’ concerns,” Our View, May 21).

The recent survey of principals was not intended as a referendum to call for a change in leadership. But when you read the comments carefully, it is clear that the principals have lost faith in the system’s state-wide leadership.

Now, we are calling for a change in DOE leadership because the system has failed to listen to its professionals, failed to be transparent and failed to focus on the actual needs of the children.

More fundamentally, we are calling for change because it is in the best interests of the students.

Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi’s contract expires on June 30. We propose that her contract not be renewed and that the Board of Education begin the search for a successor who will turn the governance system right-side up.

A school system that does not embrace what principals and teachers say, and is run on fear of top-down retribution, is sick and in obvious need of major change.

The public should be asking, “Exactly what needs to be changed, and who is best situated to make those changes?”

We believe the answer is school empowerment, which starts with decentralization of the system management.

School empowerment can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is that central administrators relinquish power and control over resources and serve the schools, rather than the other way around.

Empowered schools get a much larger portion of each education dollar for students. And there is much greater transparency. The current system is opaque at best.

With school empowerment, 90 cents of every dollar must be spent at the school level, and parents wanting to know how it affects their child’s school have easy access to that information online.

The BOE and a streamlined central administration would continue to set systemwide policies and provide oversight to empow- ered schools, but each school community would have a reasonable degree of freedom to innovate.

Central administration’s primary responsibility would be to support the principals and teachers who are responsible for learning in the schools.

The nature of that support would be determined by the professionals at each school and be based on the specific needs of those students.

Turning the system right-side up—making central administration work for the schools rather than the other way around—would not require new laws. But it will take a superintendent who wants it to happen, who is determined to make it happen. Under current leadership there has been no movement toward school empowerment; rather, it’s moving in the opposite direction.

Press releases from the DOE have routinely portrayed happy principals, happy teachers, happy students and improving test scores. That cannot be squared with the results of the recent principals’ survey.

The DOE has used excellence at Waipahu High to “prove” the value of the Race to the Top initiative, despite the fact that Waipahu had not received any “Race” funds nor implemented any “Race” programs. The DOE also has touted a bump in test scores without making clear that students now take tests up to three times rather than once.

Disingenuous leadership has no place in an education system. Transparency and integrity are essential, as is a culture of high expectations and innovation.

No one likes to see others lose their jobs, but the current situation is untenable. The superintendent and her senior deputy have had their run; it is time for a change.

Island Voices

Principals feel they’re hamstrung, survey finds

They cite the DOE’s “top-down” handling of schools and low morale due to reforms

By Nanea Kalani

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 15, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 03:30 a.m. HST, May 15, 2014

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

An overwhelming majority of public school principals who responded to an independent survey about their working conditions say they lack the needed support and autonomy to act in the best interests of their schools, but hesitate to speak out for fear of retaliation.

An independent survey of Hawaii public school principals was administered April 18-28. It consisted of 13 questions and was conducted via personal email addresses.

Number of Hawaii public school principals

Number of principals who responded (113 elementary and 47 secondary)

Percentage of principals who responded

The school leaders say their ability to make decisions at the school level has been stymied by “top-down” management by the Department of Education, and that sweeping academic reforms the state pledged for its federal Race to the Top grant have dragged down morale at their schools.

The anonymous survey was conducted last month by longtime DOE principals Darrel Galera and John Sosa, who both retired in December.

A total of 160 principals responded, representing 63 percent of the principals leading the state’s 255 public schools. The survey found in part:

» 64.4 percent feel less empowered to implement decisions to help their schools.

» 87.7 percent say they don’t have a “system of support” as required by their collective bargaining agreement.

» 75.5 percent feel the implementation of Race to the Top reforms, especially the new performance-based evaluation system for teachers, has negatively impacted their schools.

» 94 percent feel the teacher evaluations have negatively affected morale.

The idea for the survey came about through volunteer consultant work Galera’s been doing with schools and leadership groups since retiring, most recently as acting principal at Castle High School.

“People were informing me of issues and concerns and there were suggestions to collect information because some of the things being said were pretty serious,” said Galera, 55. “We identified some key areas and sent out a survey and it didn’t take very long. Principals seemed very interested in responding and being heard.”

The survey was done informally and anonymously using principals’ personal email addresses, but Galera said, “I stand behind it 1 million percent.”

He and Sosa say the results highlight the need for empowering schools by empowering principals.

“I think principals are crying out,” said Sosa, 71, who retired from Kaiser High School at year-end after 44 years with the DOE. “Study after study after study says empowering schools is really where the change occurs.”

The state Legislature aimed to do just that a decade ago when in 2004 it passed the education-reform law known as Act 51, which in part gave principals more control over school-level spending.

“Today, 10 years later, things are almost in the total opposite direction. The school system is more centralized, principals are less empowered and that definitely has an impact on student learning,” Galera said. “Things won’t change until we change the system so that it’s not top-down with everyone having to fit into a one-size-fits-all approach. Every community is unique and very diverse.”

DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe, a former principal himself, said feedback from the DOE’s most recent survey of principals and vice principals, which is administered annually to all principals, “shows that principals believe that the department is improving and that our strategic direction is the right approach.”

Regarding the complaints that the DOE is too centralized, Nozoe said, “There needs to be clear definitions of success and targets, which is set by the department. However, how a school achieves this is up to the school leaders.”

Galera acknowledged the academic reforms may be well-intended, but “if the changes become more important than the people in the system, it’s going to be counterproductive. In leadership we talk about establishing a positive culture where people feel creative and inspired to work. That’s what I think we need.”

Both principals said they had hoped to put in more years before retiring. In Galera’s case, he left Moanalua High after 13 years to help lead a new principals academy to train new leaders.

“I gave up my school to help the system. It obviously didn’t work. I didn’t have to retire. I’m 55. I loved my job,” he said. “But the concerns in this survey had an impact on my decision to retire, I’ll be honest. Leading a school when things are going well, it’s extremely challenging. When you have to go up against other barriers, it’s demoralizing. And I’m obviously not alone.”

Public school principals who anonymously responded to an independent survey about their working conditions say they lack the needed supports and autonomy to act in the best interests of their schools but fear speaking out. Some of the survey results show:

» 64.4 percent of principals feel less empowered to implement decisions that they feel would be in the best interest of their school

» 75.5 percent of principals feel that the implementation of the Race to the Top and the Educator Effectiveness System (the Department of Education’s new performance-based evaluation system for teachers) has negatively impacted their schools

» 94 percent feel that the Educator Effectiveness Survey has negatively impacted faculty and staff morale

» 65.5 percent of principals state that they are not able to express their concerns for fear of reprisal or retaliation

» 87.7 percent of principals disagree that they have a “system of support” as required by principals’ collective bargaining agreement

Source: “The Voice of Hawaii School Principals” survey To view the survey results and comments click here ->

Survey critical of new teacher evaluations

Posted: May 14, 2014 5:53 PM HST
Updated: May 15, 2014 10:33 AM HST
By Jim Mendoza

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An independently done survey of Hawaii’s public school principals criticizes the Department of Education’s new teacher evaluations. Seventy-five percent of the 160 principals who filled out the survey said the Educator Effectiveness System has had a negative impact on their schools.

“We’re hearing things like it takes three hours at the minimum to do an evaluation for one teacher. If you have a hundred teachers at your high school, that’s a lot of hours,” retired Kaiser High School principal John Sosa said.

Sosa and retired Moanalua High School principal Darrel Galera created the survey

It shows 94 percent of responding principals believe that implementing the teacher evaluation system has hurt faculty and staff morale, while 78 percent said it’s taken time away from preparing students for the new national test.

Galera said it’s a step back, not a step ahead.

“I’m going to use the word embarrassing in terms of not keeping up with what the leading districts across the country are doing,” he said.

But DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe said the new teacher evaluations will be adjusted over time, and the survey doesn’t reflect that.

“The way things have been characterized, it really doesn’t validate the hard work that people have done to do the work so we can look at the data and make the improvements,” he said.

Over 65 percent of the principals who responded also said they fear the DOE will retaliate if they complain.

“There’s been threats. There’s been compliance. There’s been, ‘You have to meet these deadlines or else,’” Galera said.

“That starts creating this atmosphere—one where people say, ‘We better not say much or we better not question, because if we do then bad things can happen,’” Sosa said.

Nozoe said that’s not true.

“We’ve built our system different from other places where they’re trying to fire people and get rid of them,” he said. “We want to build our capacity.”

The survey was conducted over a ten-day period last month. The results are being sent to the Board of Education and state School Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

To view the survey results and comments click here ->
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