Analysis: Public’s Patience Clearly Wearing Short on Volleyball Scandal

volleyballWe have urged the public to be patient and to allow the school board the time to go through the appeals process, weigh all of the information – especially information that we as members of the public are not privy to – and render a decision.

What should be clear is that any effort by the school board to sidestep critical issues when they finally meet a week from today to discuss this, first in closed and then open session, will not be well-received.

They need to render a strong and unequivocal statement and they need to go beyond the instant-issue of the appeal to address the broader controversy and come forward with concrete ways to avoid this into the future.

We clearly see this frustration creeping out into the piece by Jamie and Kirsten Gilardi in yesterday’s Enterprise.

They write, “Until now, we had no idea that behind such an impressive group of teachers, parents and students there might lie such an ineffective administrative foundation.”

They continue, “The board’s recent statement urging one of its own members and the coach in question to seek ‘mediation’ is but one of many obvious and cowardly attempts to shirk its responsibility for solving a serious problem … one that the board itself has largely created.”

Whether the district and school board agrees with this assessment, they need to quickly recognize that beneath it is frustration and perhaps anger at the handling of a situation that most people in this community believed should have been over last summer.

The Vanguard believes that the mediation process is a way for the district to acknowledge that there are issues that go beyond this instance of alleged retaliation and appeal of the administrative finding and decision to not rehire coach Julie Crawford.

We have seen very powerful examples of mediation that can work and help resolve conflict, but, at the same time, we acknowledge that it takes two to engage in the process and one party in particular seems to believe they are above reproach here, and that will make it difficult for a mediation session to succeed.

However, at the same time, the district needs to not merely shrug and state that the public does not understand – what you are seeing is years of frustration and anger coming forward and, if you as the school board do not get on top of this issue in a week, it will swallow you whole.

The story emerges more fully at this point, as they have a daughter on the volleyball squad and they write, “To these student-athletes’ great credit — despite years of losing great and committed coaches to this badly broken ‘system’ — they’ve behaved admirably and shown impressive restraint and respect for the entire system; in a word, they’ve been the ones acting like adults.”

They continue, “We were concerned about our 16-year-old and her friends having to struggle with a blatantly broken hierarchy — especially the deeply unfair and unprofessional treatment of their mentors, coaches and teachers. But given the level of maturity among DHS students, we find ourselves increasingly thankful that these events at Davis High School are, in fact, teaching our kids important life lessons, well beyond those in the classroom.”

They then lay out a whole list of concerns:

  • It is the nature of conflicts-of-interest for those involved to pretend they don’t see them, and then to use them selectively to get to their greater goal.
  • If one individual in a group like our school board overlooks his/her personal conflicts-of-interest, it doesn’t mean that the other members will have the courage to bring that to their attention or to demand appropriate action.
  • Just because a person or a group is at the top of a hierarchy doesn’t mean he or she will take responsibility for his or her actions (or inactions).
  • Bureaucrats are often expert at reframing discussions, which conveniently absolve them of responsibility for the messes they’ve created (i.e., should the board even be discussing a ham-handed appeal process, or simply vote on renewing this coach’s contract and be done with this whole mess?).
  • Performing well in your job — both in reality and in your performance reviews — does not always mean you’ll get to keep your job.
  • Bullies are often comfortable with and clever about 1. pretending they are not in a position of power, and 2. playing the victim.
  • Having the facts on your side doesn’t mean your argument wins the day — sadly, you may still have to fight for your cause.
  • Do not expect staff or administrators to do the “right” thing, especially if, by doing so, they fear losing their own job.
  • Even in healthy communities with great school systems, one aggressive bad apple can do a great deal of damage.
  • And maybe most sadly of all, some parents are not above using their own children’s names and reputations to drive their agenda forward (while blaming others for doing so).

Again the school board’s natural inclination will be to dispute some of these statements.  They certainly represent one perspective among many potential conclusions.

The danger is that by arguing against some of these, they miss more valuable insight into the public’s perception of this.

First, these are not the kinds of life-lessons that you want your student-athletes or any student to have to learn during their schooling.

Second, each of these bullet points represent clear perceptions about what has unfolded and why things have progressed as they have.  That leaves the district with a very tough task to put things back in order.

A weak finding next week is going to further splinter the community along these fault lines.  It will undermine community trust in the school board and the school district.

The board will be in a no-win scenario now, and some will argue that is of their own doing.  At this point, I think the board needs the space to make their determinations, but the community is pretty clear at this point: the board cannot side-step the types of issues and concerns raised in the column and other public forums.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Fremontia

    “A weak finding next week is going to further splinter the community along these fault lines. It will undermine community trust in the school board and the school district.”

    It is already divided and undermined. Divided by the craven abusive actions of Nancy Peterson and undermined by the blasé reactions of the rest of the board. They may have one more chance to get a handle on it even though much damage has been done.

    The worst problem is the damage to their ability to keep supplemental funding flowing. One of the undefined responsibilities of the school board in Davis has been to get 2/3 of the community to support parcel taxes to keep support flowing in a state where public education is perpetually underfunded. I don’t see how a board with Nancy Peterson, whose volleyball psychosis has so damaged the reputation of the schools leadership, can gain community support for the next vote to supply extra funding. She has divided the house in a way that cannot stand. Yes they will argue not to let the failure of leadership hurt the kids but it is likely such arguments will fail.

    We have seen recent posts about people who are anonymously saying they will vote no in the future who otherwise have supported parcel taxes in the past. Perhaps when things die down they will be able to hold their noses and return to the fold but right now I am doubtful and personally feel that as long as Nancy Peterson remains unchecked on the school board not one additional penny should go to the schools. And I even have a child in the schools.

    The board acts as if this is only about the matter at hand. I wonder if they understand the broader implications to what it means for their governance and stewardship. Just as the clock is ticking on the Volleyball season while the board dithers there is a bell waiting to toll on the schools altogether. I hope they don’t need to ask for whom the bell tolls?

    1. David Greenwald

      “The board acts as if this is only about the matter at hand. I wonder if they understand the broader implications go what it means for their governance and stewardship. ”

      I think that is going to end up being a critical test because as much as I think they want to be able to segment off the instant-issue, they have to deal with much broader ramifications.

    2. SODA

      I agree with your last paragraph in that many of us from the beginning have been saying there is much beyond the incident/appeal etc that is at stake here, much of it due to the Board’s leadership. Coming up with a deicision about the appeal is only part of what they need to do. There needs to be some culpability from the Board along with clear direction on what needs to be done to create better process/roles/procedures around the athletic dept….
      and it makes me wonder if simiilar issues exist in the academic arena in our school district.

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      The fact that this couple witnessed the volleyball program for 3 years, and now penned this well-thought piece is independent verification, and powerful. I also assume that their daughter, who was on the team, is in agreement. That’s three first-hand accounts. (Did Mr. Alex Sperry interview them?)

      “Structure”: Could a simple bylaw or such be added to the legal procedures so that if the principal and AD approve of a coach, the board can only intercede if there has been a criminal act? This could end 99% of the drama and micro-managing in athletics. This would also restore the ADs authority. Athletics, coaches, and players could breath a sigh of relief.

      If emotions are running this hot, and school funding measures are in serious jeopardy, maybe the whole board should consider voluntarily resigning to save the city the cost of a recall.

      Mr. Greenwald, do you ever conduct polls?

  2. Phil Coleman

    Really like many of the concepts offered here, but it’s now my turn to say this is just a bit premature.

    As someone who has spent his entire adult life in the study and practice of public administration, we can short-hand this current crisis into two basic elements–personality and structure. The personality issue before us, and the Board, has been debated extensively. The Board will rule on this matter somehow, the judgment will be praised and criticized, and life goes on.

    Once the personality component is muted or reduced, we get to the real villain, the “blatantly broken hierarchy.” This borrowed phrase is hyperbolic yet tragically accurate. Here lies the path for the Board to proceed after the immediate personality-charged issue is addressed. This is where the Board can escape the no-win situation and shift to being seen as visionary.

    As a post-script to the Board ruling, its members could say, “We need a complete overhaul of our organizational structure. It’s not the fault of any person now working in the School District; everybody using it today inherited it (again taking the personality out of the matter). Had a proper organizational structure been in place, this never would have happened! The Board hereby proclaims that they will partner with the public and fix it.”

    Now, of course, this would be the charge for the next Board, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either.

    By the simple expedient of changing the direction of the public’s wrath from “She verses She,” to “It,” the core solution to the problem is achieved, and nobody’s ego is further bruised.

    Now, mediate THAT.

    1. iPad Guy

      Moving to fix the structure and processes is the real community need. I like your approach and the specific wording, as well. This would be a real “strong finding” by the board. It actually shouldn’t be that difficult to proclaim since pretty much everyone already has concurred in one way or another, regardless of how they assess blame to various people.

      I wonder how would such a “bigger picture” board initiative be received by those who have become so invested in the personality oriented debate the past two weeks. It sure couldn’t hurt to give it a try. On second thought, maybe it can’t lose since almost no one could argue against the need for such changes.

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      This comes off as too late, too big, too bureaucratic to me. Add the simple bylaw or amendment suggested above, as soon as possible, to end the boards repeated meddling into numerous coaching decisions.

      1. AndroidGuy

        The problem is that this would only fix athletics, when the actual problem is so pervasive — seeping through and tainting every strata of the organization — that the simple bylaw would only poke at the speck which leaving the beam.

    3. Fremontia

      “As a post-script to the Board ruling, its members could say, ‘We need a complete overhaul of our organizational structure. It’s not the fault of any person now working in the School District; everybody using it today inherited it (again taking the personality out of the matter). Had a proper organizational structure been in place, this never would have happened! The Board hereby proclaims that they will partner with the public and fix it.’ ”

      Sorry, doing so would be a cop out and a lie. Its obvious where the problems lie and not addressing them forthrightly will only continue to erode the publics faith in the governance of the schools.

  3. Just Do What's Right

    You are right it takes two for mediation. Coach Crawford agreed to mediation as soon as the board said this. She made it clear she would go along with the boards request, but the Peterson’s still are holding out. Why? We only have to look to Mrs Peterson’s Op=Ed piece to see why. They take no responsibility for their actions. Their ego’s will prevent them from ever agreeing to mediation. This puts another nail in Nancy’s coffin as a board member, probably the last one needed. We have to wait one more week for Coach Crawford to have her day before the board, where she will finally be able to give her side of the story. Her side of the story is one thing this 72 page report is greatly lacking. She wants her time with the board, and looks forward to this being over. At that point I can’t see how the board can do anything but give her the job back that she had ripped from her. The job that the principle and AD wanted her for, but the superintendent took away. The board had nothing to do with it this time, unlike the previous two times. Now the board can right a wrong. Once that is done it is up to the community to right another wrong, and remove Mrs Peterson from her position on the board. It only takes 1500 signatures on a recall petition to get this on the November ballot. Of course Mrs Peterson could save us all the hassle, and simply do the right thing and resign. As others have said, many of us will not donate another dollar to DJUSD or vote for any funding, until she is gone.

    David you suggest patience, and we have had it. They get one more week, before the real issue comes to head, and that is removal of Mrs Peterson. If the board really wants to come out with a strong statement it would be as follows.

    We are reinstating Coach Crawford to her coaching job. We find that she has been personally bullied for the past 4 years by Mrs Peterson, who has used her position as a board member to further her own agenda. Mrs Peterson continued presence on this board will only continue to negatively effect DJUSD, and we strongly urge you to resign.

    That would go a long way to restoring trust, and faith in our elected school board.

    1. David Greenwald

      “David you suggest patience, and we have had it. They get one more week, before the real issue comes to head, and that is removal of Mrs Peterson.”

      Absolutely. All I am asking for is giving them until their meeting to get things right, and if they don’t, they do what needs to be done at that point.

        1. David Greenwald

          My comment was referring to the process rather than the outcome. I believe that the school board needs to get the opportunity to hear the appeal, make their decision. At that point, the public will be free to do as they wish.

  4. iPad Guy

    This bit of nasty sarcasm must have really appealed to you. It’s now run twice in two days in its entirety in The Vanguard, complete with gushing endorsement both times. And, only once in The Enterprise. On first reading, I found it well written and an interesting approach. Soon, however, the pure meanness of the content became apparent.

    What do you think constitutes a “weak finding” by the board? No, what kind of “strong finding” do you want from the board? Coach Crawford’s appeal will result in a simple finding: The board has agreed to decide whether it they will overrule the administration’s decision not to hire the coach again. The finding will be “yes” or it will be “no.”

    The decision will exacerbate the splits in community, as the daily over-dramatization is doing as well.

    Given the Vanguard’s history on this issue, I’d guess the call for the board “to go beyond the instant-issue of the appeal to address the broader controversy” and not “to sidestep critical issues” is code for its repeated demands that the board censure Nancy Peterson for her actions 10 months ago. Surely, that board act would heal the community!

    1. Fremontia

      Nasty brilliant sarcasm. But this is a nasty situation brought to us by Nasty Peterson and as the coach twists in the wind waiting for the board to act the drum beat of the community now has reached a point where those with intimate knowledge of the situation are coming forward, first the previous coach and now the mother of another volleyball team member. The veil has been lifted and judgement has been passed in the court of public opinion. The school board can concur and hope to regain the ability to represent the community or let the consequences of their timidity continue to damage the schools and the kids as the public withholds its support for the schools. Apres moi le deluge.

      1. SouthofDavis

        Hopefully someone will pull the board to the side and tell them that it is not a good idea to have the people of Davis voting on the next parcel tax and to recall Nancy Peterson on the same ballot…

      2. iPad Guy

        The threats continue. I’m just curious what kind of person would vote against a needed parcel tax based on this incident. Anyone other than those who vote against them already?

        It doesn’t sound very Davisey to retaliate against our students for the actions of adults.

        1. Fremontia

          The kind like myself who has voted for them consistently in the past. I see financial support as condoning the actions that have taken place. There are those who won’t vote anytime and there will be enough of us that are so disgusted that we hold our vote. It could easily reach the 1/3 no vote that would kill a parcel tax. There will be lots of collateral damage until Peterson is off the board. Its sad but its true.

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            This situation doesn’t have to swing 34% of the vote. It can simply make some former supporters stay home, swing a few hundred votes, and fire up the anti-whatever vote to come to the polls.

          2. Davis Progressive

            while i agree with you guys on the core issue here, i would be disappointed if that meant that the kids would be taken out on by rejecting a future parcel tax.

          3. iPad Guy

            Hope that we all can help these angry people come to their senses before they vote comes up. Punishing our kids and grandchildren seems really unproductive. We can deal with the board members at their elections.

          4. Mark West

            “Punishing our kids and grandchildren seems really unproductive.”

            I agree. We are currently punishing our children with a broken education system, so why would you want to see it continue? Throwing more money at a bad program isn’t going to make it better, just more expensive.

          5. Don Shor

            I personally don’t think Davis schools are broken, nor do I think they are ‘bad’ programs. In fact, DJUSD has excellent programs for quite a range of learning types, and the outcomes overall seem excellent. Part of that is because of the taxes voters have passed that allow for enrichment programs and stable funding. Did your kids not have good school experiences in Davis?

          6. Mark West

            “Did your kids not have good school experiences in Davis?”

            I don’t think that should be the standard Don. We have a program that for most is ‘good enough’ but for the life of me I don’t know why we are not striving for excellence, not just for my kids, but for the ones who’s parents cannot make up the difference. That is something we don’t have, and will never have with the current system.

          7. Don Shor

            I was very involved in the schools when my kids were here, and believe the programs they were in were striving for excellence for all. Many of the kids at DSIS had parents who could not “make up the difference.” That is what that program, and King, are for, among other things. When one kid had difficulties in the elementary levels, there were lots of resources available.

            I disagree with the constant barrage of negativism that you and Frankly put forth about DJUSD. And I don’t think the outcomes locally support your assessments.

          8. wdf1

            Mark West: for the life of me I don’t know why we are not striving for excellence, not just for my kids, but for the ones who’s parents cannot make up the difference. That is something we don’t have, and will never have with the current system.

            There are probably a lot more people who work on this issue, both inside the school district and outside, than you imagine.

            For example, see this article. I acknowledge that there is still plenty of work to do. If this is an issue that you are passionate about, there is nothing stopping you from getting involved to help address it.

          9. Mark West

            You cannot have an excellent school system until you are able to select for excellent teachers. The teacher’s Union says that there is no good way to evaluate teacher quality and as any scientist knows, if you cannot measure something, it doesn’t exist.

            We cannot have a system that strives for excellence until we have a system that measures and selects for excellence in our teachers and administrators. As long as our system is controlled by the teacher’s Union, it will be forever broken.

          10. wdf1

            Mark West: as any scientist knows, if you cannot measure something, it doesn’t exist.

            I am a scientist by profession, and I generally disagree with that statement. For example, how do you measure love? There are plenty of other abstract characteristics that don’t lend themselves to being measured. But Frankly has promised a Vanguard article in which he says he will disprove me on this premise. If you know him, maybe you can help him out?

            In the meantime, I think some of the best teachers in this district teach at Montgomery. They won’t get much public recognition for their work, because their students aren’t going to yield standardized test scores like most students at Willett or many other schools.

          11. Mark West

            There are many forms of measurement, some of them intuitive, but I wouldn’t expect the NIH to fund a study on ‘Love’ until you find a way to quantify it.

            I see no value in standardized tests for assaying teaching quality. In fact, I don’t see much value in standardized tests at all except as general assessments of large populations.

            I know that there are many excellent teachers in Davis and my children have been blessed to have some of them as their classroom teacher. – As an aside, the best faculty / administrator team that I have ever dealt with in Davis was at Valley Oak when my older children were there. If I recall, we rewarded their excellence by closing the school. – Unfortunately, there are also many teachers who are simply mediocre, and a few who are downright awful. If we want a system that will strive for excellence in teaching all of our children, then we need to help the mediocre and awful teachers to either improve, or move on to a new profession.

            Our system does not do that since the accepted wisdom is that we cannot measure teacher quality. Because of that ‘wisdom,’ we reward teachers based on how many years they have been on the job, rather than how well they have performed their jobs.

            The system is broken and will remain broken until we change that one basic premise.

          12. David Greenwald

            Just spent part of my morning talking with King High students at their career day. They all seemed appreciative of the program and their opportunity. It seems like there is a lot of good stuff going on in our schools.

          13. wdf1

            Davis Enterprise, 2/27/2014: King High recognized by state as a model school

            Martin Luther King High School in Davis was recognized this week by the California Department of Education as a model continuation high school for 2014, earning high praise from an evaluation team that visited last October, as well as accolades from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

          14. TrueBlueDevil

            Can’t measure student or teacher performance? Hogwash. Maybe what we have isn’t perfect, but most kids who score a 65 are a big step or three behind a kid who scores an 90.

            As far as teachers, a simple starting point would be for them to pass the test the kids will take at the end of their year. i.e., the American History teacher takes the Am. History test; the Calculus teacher has to pass the calculus test – with a high score. This may sound too simple, and might not be a problem in Davis, but there have been big cities where teachers took the teacher’s test and many scored in the 50th percentile. The teachers and unions then complain about the test; and say the test is racist because certain ethnic groups score substantially below other ethnic groups. (Ugh.)

            We can also adjust for the starting point. We’ll know that a teacher who took a student from a “60” (failing” to an “80” did a great job, even though a contemporary has kids scoring at the 90 level.

            Teachers unions aren’t interested in children – they are interested in getting a better package for their members. California was once 1st in the nation in education, but whacky policies and an open border to Mexico have taken us to 47th in the nation?

          15. Matt Williams

            iPG, when you say “come to their senses” do you see that as root-cause problem solving or simply symptom masking?

          16. iPad Guy

            Neither, I just hope we can deal with the parcel tax question on its own merits. Lots of good ideas have been offered up here. It’s counterproductive to use parcel tax vote threats to send unnecessary messages about changes that need to get made.

          17. Fremontia

            The board has not voted yet. Peterson is still on the board. Not one more cent until they deal with her and restore the coach.

          18. David Greenwald

            Gina Daleiden told me that she is not on the board, that the resignation is effective immediately.

        2. SouthofDavis

          iPad Guy wrote:

          > It doesn’t sound very Davisey to retaliate against our
          > students for the actions of adults.

          The people I’ve talked to (some who are actually looking in to what they need to do to put a recall on the ballot) feel that the only way to “save” the kids from the current board is to send a message that they want change by voting to cut off funds (the are not getting spent on the kids anyway as the board runs up more and more legal fees and pays for more $20K+”reports”)…

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    A have a couple of simple questions I hope that Leigh Whitmire Choate can address.

    Last summer when I first read up on this story, I went to the DHS volleyball website and found a 3-page document with team rules including player-coach and coach-parent interactions. There is a “48-hour rule” for discussing issues with the coach, which looks like a cooling-off technique; and inappropriate times to engage the coach (right before or after games). Did the Peterson’s impact these rules a little, a lot, or not at all?

    I’ve seen maybe two references to ‘other volleyball players’ having a problem with Coach Crawford. Would you say some or a lot of this has to do with the very competitive nature of DHS volleyball? (Can you tell us how many players, roughly, went out for the team the past year or two?) Is it also fair to say some of it could be the modern “Helicopter Parents”?

    Do you think the Peterson’s were unhappy with Coach Crawford due to “playing time” issues? (They repeatedly assert this was never an issue, but that is the largest paragraph in the vb team rules.)

    Thank you.

    1. Leigh Choate

      To my knowledge and from what I saw, Petersons did not follow the communication rule because after the initial discussions in 2010 Nancy never took concerns to Julie she just went over her head with any and all issues. I will remind you that Julie was under her microscope so many of the issues Nancy had we’re really quite trivial and not even real issues. It was all personal and it seemed that she would set Julie up in situations so that she could complain about her regarding those situations to admin or district.

      As far as anyone having issues with Coach Crawford, only one I have heard of actually played for Julie and that is the issue at hand. As far as the few others most recently discussed on vanguard and in the enterprise were all close friends of the Peterson’s and again the athletes never played for Julie

      As far as numbers the last few years I think that the number of talented athletes has been increasing making it a more competitive team to make.

      DHS has always had a highly competitive and well respected volleyball program. This is something that Julie proudly has continued since she took over the program and something that I had continued when I took over in 1996. The previous 2 coaches had set a high standard that I wanted to make sure to continue. There are established expectations for parents and athletes that have been successfully in place for easily the last 20 years. The playing time section is the largest section as usually that is where there needs to be the most amount of clarification for parents. It is important to have clear expectations so that there are boundaries and so there is not confusion as the season progresses. If there are questions there is a process.

      IMO they were not unhappy about playing time it was about some sort of control issue that was desired or she simply didn’t want Julie coaching. She seemed to want anyone other than Julie coaching even if that meant having a less qualified coach. It really seemed to be about Nancy wanting her way and when that didn’t happen she just got angrier and angrier and more and more viscous in her attacks on Julie.

      Hope this helps

  6. Ryan Kelly

    David, In the article above, you describe the list as a list of concerns. When I read the letter I understood it to be a list of valuable lessons for their daughter. This is a list of unfortunate factors that many of us have learned over time, rather than in one convoluted situation that could be a textbook example of all that was on the list. We need to ask ourselves whether we will shrug our shoulders and accept these factors as inevitable or whether actions can be taken to react to them when they do occur. Mediation between parties as a requirement for all complaints, within a certain number of days, could be one step that could be done. A firmer and definite response from the School Administration could be required, which could really help.

    In the AYSO soccer world, I learned that firm, definite answers or instructions to parents kept things under control. “If you fail to stop yelling at your player during games and start sitting quietly on the sidelines, we will ban you from attending games.” “You will not argue with the coach. You are not the coach, so you do not have a right to dictate play, practices, etc. You are a spectator and you will watch and cheer for the team and your child. That is your sole duty. That and bringing snacks.”

  7. Davis Progressive

    i was bored just now and read today’s column from dunning he concludes: “Daleiden then added that the appeal will be heard in closed session … are we surprised?”

    are we surprised that the district is following state law on personnel matters?????

  8. Fremontia

    Its not retaliation against the kids to vote against a parcel tax. Its a vote of no confidence in the board to be reasonable trustees of the peoples money. Sadly it negatively effects the schools but there is going to be lots of damage to the schools before Peterson is gone. Davis high losing its principal last year is just the beginning. How else can the voters express their dissatisfaction with governance if the board fails to censure an out of control member? Recall perhaps would be a better solution. I’ll sign. I’ll even help collect. I just can’t run it.

    1. Davis Progressive

      it may not be intended retaliation, but it does harm them. people worry about sales tax producing layoffs of city employees, but parcel tax failure could lead to teachers getting laid off and students getting programs cut and larger class sizes. isn’t that taking it out on the wrong people?

  9. wdf1

    Mark West: The system is broken and will remain broken until we change that one basic premise.

    It sounds like you’re uncomfortable with ambiguity in public education. You want something that assures you that your community has the best teachers. I don’t think there are objective standards that are devisable. If there were, I think that teachers would be the first to want to know so that they could stay ahead of the game.

    Based on what I’ve read and experienced, trying to agree on whether a specific teacher is excellent or not is akin to you and I trying to agree on the best candidates in June’s election, or like trying to come to a community consensus about whether Julie Crawford is an excellent volleyball coach.

    I think there are minimum standards of decency and professionalism that can be agreed upon in a teacher, but beyond that I don’t think that teaching excellence can be universally agreed upon. We experimented with standardized test benchmarks and value-added modeling (VAM), but there a gaping holes in those schemes.

    The best that I hope to see is a vigorous and dynamic professional development program and peer/principal review that keeps teachers thinking, trying stuff out, and hopefully engaged. A teacher who doesn’t meet minimum standards of professionalism and decency (including participation in professional development and review), probably should be dismissed.

    In other countries with a strong education system, there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of anxiety over having/not having objective standards for evaluating teacher excellence. I think American anxiety in part stems from some political distrust of teachers unions, but also because of a strong business culture that focuses on objective productivity and efficiency (e.g., Taylor Management Theory) that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to K-12 education.

    1. Mark West

      “I don’t think there are objective standards that are devisable.”

      I think that is a complete pile of used cow food. In every other field of human endeavor we have been able to find a way to quantify performance, but for some reason it is impossible for teachers? No. The fact is that teachers, and their Union, do not want to be judged on performance. That is why they insist on being paid by how long they have been on the job.

      Every teacher at a school knows who are the good teachers and who are the bad. The best way of dealing with this is to give the task to the principal by allowing each to choose their own staff. The principal in turn can then be judged by the success of the school as a whole. Simple, straightforward, and far too logical.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I’ve heard, generally, similar comments from teachers, parents, and students. They know who the excellent teachers are; the decent / average; and the problematic / worn out / punching the clock variety. That last group is relatively small, depending upon whom I talk to, 8 – 15 percent.

        OK, let’s forget nuance, and minute differences between below-average, average, good, great, excellent, or superb teachers. OK?

        WHY can’t we fire BAD teachers??!! We know they exist. Principals, I was told ten years ago, pass them from school to school, some calling it the “dance of the lemons”.

        I’ve heard some reports that if we could fire the bottom ten percent of teachers, we could improve education quite a bit, improve efficiency, make the life of administrators easier, lower legal costs, open up slots for new teachers, and more. But the unions fight it. Firing a teacher in California is a laborious, lengthy, costly, tiresome endeavor.

  10. wdf1

    Mark West: I think that is a complete pile of used cow food. In every other field of human endeavor we have been able to find a way to quantify performance, but for some reason it is impossible for teachers?

    Well, thank God we can quantify the quality of poetry!

    To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme and figures of speech, then ask two questions: 1) How artfully has the objective of the poem been rendered and 2) How important is that objective? Question 1 rates the poem’s perfection; question 2 rates its importance. And once these questions have been answered, determining the poem’s greatness becomes a relatively simple matter.

    If the poem’s score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness.

    A sonnet by Byron might score high on the vertical but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great. As you proceed through the poetry in this book, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate poems in this matter grows, so too will your enjoyment and understanding of poetry.


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