Maybe We Need to Cut Our Administrators Some Slack

Almost enough for that 1:1 project

I often bemoan, if not openly criticize the seeming slowness with which administrators are leading (or not leading) the charge to transform our schools. From my perspective as a teacher, they are an easy target, having voluntarily placed themselves squarely in the bull’s-eye after all. But just the other day I had a conversation with my superintendent that gave me pause. My superintendent has been holding small, informational meetings outlining the status of our district within the current New York State budget crisis. He explains how New York has filled budget holes with federal funding that will expire in another year, and that when that funding is gone our district will have nearly a half a million dollar hole of their own to fill. He continues to outline the choices the district (he) will have to make if the governor follows through on his threat to withhold promised funds for the spring. These choices include whether or not we can afford to have any spring athletics at our school, and whether it would be better to cut two assistants back to half time positions, or to cut one completely. In a district of this size these are people we know, who’s kids are friends with our kids.

When the meeting concludes I hang back for a moment as I usually do to chat about the status of technology in the district. He asks me how things are going and about the progress of a couple of projects that are going on. As I am about to leave I say half jokingly: “Is this a bad time to bring up my 1:1 laptop program idea?” He grins and I follow up with: “What is your opinion about these programs?” He says in my aha moment of the day: “I haven’t.” Then he points back to the pie chart projected on the screen, that spells a possible doom despite its pastel colors.

It was only later upon reflection that I realized the gravity of that instant. How can we expect our administrators to be thinking about whether or not our students are learning 21st century skills when they are trying to figure out how to pay for heat? My Superintendent used to be a teacher, and from the little I know a good one. I know that he would rather be talking about these intellectual ideas with me but he just can’t when the futures of people we know hang so precariously on every decision he makes. Until the day that public schools are funded in a more equitable way situations like this one will continue to exist. Administrators, especially in small schools will be too preoccupied with counting beans to look much beyond the following year. So consider giving your administrators some slack. I know I’m going to.

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6 thoughts on “Maybe We Need to Cut Our Administrators Some Slack

  1. Sarah K says:

    You make quite a good point.  I mean no disrespect with the comment I’m about to leave.  I live in Australia and schools have lately been flooded with funding in our government’s “Building the Education Revolution” plan which involved a AU$16.2 billion investment in the upgrading of infrastructure in schools across the country.  Our administrators spent a lot of countless, sleepless hours trying to come up with ways of spending the money – since there was a time limit on when building the new revolutionized buildings was to commence.  So we’ve been given all this money to build all this stuff and fit it with all this extra stuff (to comply with the government’s other big project – the digital revolution) and in doing so, created extra jobs for construction workers, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, etc.  So not only are we forcing change on our teachers (those as yet unwilling) to migrate into the 21st century, providing opportunities for our 21st century learners, but we’re putting money back into the strained economy and into the homes where it’s required the most.  I wonder if your government thought of that when looking at pulling funding for your schools.  It’s a sad state of affairs when the foundation of a nation – any nation – is continuously being cut back.  But as teachers I’m sure you and your colleagues will find ways to successfully help your students overcome the difficulties life brings about.  Because that’s what we do.

    • Chris says:

      Sarah. Thanks for the comment. That sounds like an amazing situation going on in your country. The situation in my district is particularly harsh because of where my school is located. Because my school is so rural and the tax base is shallow we rely very heavily on state funding and New York is facing particularly deep budget problems. I think that other states and districts are faring a little better . But America need a more equitable way to find public schools.

  2. ktenkely says:

    I don’t envy the tough decisions that face our administrators. It is a tough rub. It is time that we get creative about the way that we do things. In my own world, I have seen tremendous waste. How do we take a step back and analyze the difference between necessity and fluff?  Are there any easy answers? Probably not.  How could our communities be more involved in aiding this fight?  How can our students take some ownership in these decisions?
    Thank you for helping me to remember that there are problems to be faced from every angle.  When we are told “no” or “not now” it isn’t always because they don’t understand the value. Sometimes it is truly out of reach.  It is our job to come up with new solutions to bring it within reach.

  3. Laurie says:

    I have been mulling over the problem of school administrators never being able to listen or think about the real “matters that matter” as the leaders of teaching and learning institutions.  I have been told that it’s all they can do to focus on changes in legislation, new requirements and budget matters.  What a shame.  Sounds like the way state departments of education to area education agencies to school districts are set up is no longer working.    Very few people in the top leadership positions have  time to stop and reflect.  They seem caught up in a whirlwind of revolving fads that have more to do with job preservation than establishing a learning environment.  

  4. […] Contact « Maybe We Need to Cut Our Administrators Some Slack […]

  5. We have so many administrators on Twitter doing great things like blogging for their schools, supporting teachers who use technology, and getting their staff to build a PLN. I am excited by the incredible feats of many of the administrators in my PLN. I say let us stand up give them a roaring ovation!

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