Monday, April 15, 2013

Part IV: My Commentary on the Superintendent Resignation

First of all, if you want to read what other people think, take a look at these survey results:

Part I: Did you have personal experiences with Pat Green? Based on those experiences, how did you feel about her? Can you give concrete examples?
Part II: Do you have any thoughts/ideas about why Pat Green is leaving?
Part III: Looking to the future, what qualities do you think are important for the next superintendent?

Obviously, I don't agree with every comment in the survey, but much of what was written resonates with me!

Could I see that this was coming? No. I didn't necessarily think Pat Green would stick around for five years, but I was surprised this happened so quickly. However, the school board was about to begin the Superintendent Evaluation. In fact, I think that we can likely trace her resignation to this, as noted in the Ann Arbor Chronicle on March 27, 2013:
Earlier that evening [March 20th], the trustees met in closed session with Green to go over her interim mid-year evaluation. Because it was an informal evaluation, the board did not release an official statement. 
So do I tie Pat Green's resignation to this event? Yes, I do. 

[And by the way, thanks once again to the Ann Arbor Chronicle's detailed reporting--thanks especially to Monet Tiedemann and Jennifer Coffman, present and past Chronicle education reporters. If you would like to support their work, you can do that here.]

Certainly board members had heard from plenty of residents about communication issues. I imagine they had heard from plenty of teachers and administrators about her lack of engagement with the schools.

Publicly, at that same March 20th meeting, board member Christine Stead had suggested they use the evaluation rubric from the Michigan Association of School Boards that looks at these practice areas:
The rubric Stead presented was developed by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and contains suggestions for rating superintendents as ineffective, minimally effective, effective, or highly effective in 11 categories: relationship with the board; community relations; staff relationships; business and finance; educational leadership; personal qualities; evaluation; progress toward the school improvement plan (SIP); student attendance; student/parent/teacher feedback; and student growth and achievement.
At least to me, Pat Green seemed very weak in community relations; staff relationships; educational leadership; evaluation; and student/parent/teacher feedback.

Recent Ann Arbor Chronicle articles gave other hints of trouble (beyond the criticisms about Pat Green's lack of communication with parents, teachers, and principals). At the March 13, 2013 meeting, the Student Intervention and Support Services report was met with a marked lack of enthusiasm. Again, per the Ann Arbor Chronicle:
While trustees were appreciative of the report, their feelings were best summed up by trustee Andy Thomas’s concerns: Trustees were “struck by the complete absence of any metrics” in the report and were disappointed by the absence of clearly defined goals and next steps.
[Oh--and by the way--the lack of data here leads directly into a conversation about how, whether, or when the district can/should reduce certain types of support for students with IEPs. Without data, how can you decide if you're doing the right thing?]

At that same meeting, in a discussion of the Roberto Clemente program (and the administration's recommendation to move the program to Pioneer), board trustees had this to say:
Several of the trustees were appreciative of the work that went into the report. Lightfoot, however, was troubled to have the “same suggestions we had last year.” Thomas said he had hoped the board would receive an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Clemente program. . . The trustees did have some concerns about the future leadership of Clemente. Forty percent of the projected savings, Thomas noted, came from the elimination of the principal position. He was skeptical of Flye’s assertion that the real value of Clemente had more to do with individual teachers and what goes on in the classroom than with the leadership of the school. 
And after the February 27th meeting, the Ann Arbor Chronicle reported the following:

1) On start times:

Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent of instruction, reported on the results of the district-wide survey on school start times. . . Trustees seemed unimpressed by the survey and the recommendation. Susan Baskett said she found the survey confusing and suggested the committee reach out to experts when crafting future surveys. 
2) About trimester vs. semester high school scheduling:
Stead said she was confused about the work of the committee. She said she thought they were looking into trimester versus semester scheduling because some parents had brought concerns about the kinds of gaps that occur in the core subjects. There was no data on the impact of the magnet programs. If magnet programs were so important and valuable, the board needed to see that data. If this was only about the budget, then the report that had been submitted was fine. But if they were trying to figure out which model was best, and if they had substantive data that showed the trimester model worked better for students, then they should move all of the comprehensive high schools to trimesters.
 The trustees took issue with the way the charts broke down the additional costs associated with Skyline. Thomas said he had assumed that the higher cost of Skyline could be attributed to the trimester system, but based on the information presented, nothing showed that it was more expensive to run trimesters than semesters with a seventh hour. The increased cost of Skyline came from its lower enrollment number and its student-to-teacher ratio.
Nelson said using the actual enrollment and the actual FTEs obscures the analysis rather than helps it. 

4) More on high school scheduling: 
Several of the trustees thanked the committee for the “prodigious amount” of work that went into compiling the information. . .While Lightfoot appreciated the work, she was concerned that “the folks on the front line” haven’t really provided the board with solid recommendations. . . Stead had some sharp words for the committee. She said  four members of the committee wrote to the board to ask to have their names removed from the report, saying the report does not represent their opinions. She argued the report did not represent the collective work of all members of the committee. 
5) Budget Shortfall

Allen was joined by Hoover in presenting the second quarter financial report... The board was upset to learn that the district was nearly $2.5 million over budget for FY 2013 and needed to adjust the original budget.
So, in summary, what I believe happened is this: the board had high hopes for Pat Green's financial and educational acumen, and they were willing to pay for it. However, she came into the community with many key positions vacant, and she had to get to know a new community. It took Pat Green a while to fill those key positions, and to get oriented to the district, and the first year was filled with many new beginnings. I think it's a good thing that there was no rush to judgment. 
After 18 months, the board had heard from many people about Pat Green's lack of communication skills. They also began to get full reports and data from the new administration--and what they saw was much less than they expected. Thus, a harsh mid-term evaluation led to an off-the-record discussion about resignation, and that explains the very short "retirement letter" from Pat Green, as well as the letter from Deb Mexicotte--about which my friend said, "It was a fawning letter, and it looked like it took a long time to write. It looks like the kind of letter you write when you are creating a 'no harm' exit. Deb Mexicotte must have known about the resignation for a while."

And all of this, I must emphasize, is just me reading between the lines. You might draw different conclusions. By the way, I'm not asking anybody to confirm or deny anything. I don't think it would be helpful to the district, or to the people involved. There is a reason that personnel decisions are generally not subject to the Open Meetings Act. Soon, look for a post on what we should be looking for in our next Superintendent. In case you haven't noticed, it's a key position.

By the way, don't be too hard on the school board. Setting aside the fact that they are practically volunteers, I think we should recognize that if Pat Green had, in fact, been the "whole package" the Board thought she was when they hired her, we wouldn't have minded her high salary (at least, not very much). 


  1. This post reminded me of a major reason I thought so poorly of communication in this administration -- the amazingly amateur surveys. Poorly constructed (radio button/check box misuse for multiple replies), confusing language, and half the time something didn't work with one of the OS/browser combinations I use. As I read the summaries last night I was trying to pin down my vague negative feelings, when I lacked some of the particular flashpoints other respondents had. That would definitely be it.

  2. Excellent analysis, Ruth. Thanks for taking the time to write this and compile the answers. I appreciated reading the full spectrum of answers from supportive to not supportive.

    I look forward to what we should look for in the next hire. I fear that the BOE does not know what to look for and this is too important of a time not to have someone at the helm.

  3. Being superintendent here would be an extremely tough job. I don't think many people realize the disparate populations we have in our schools. I have always said that it is a tough town not to be a genius in. Ann Arbor is home to some of the top people in the world in their professions and their kids are in AAPS. It is also home to families with minimal resources. These kids sit next to each other at school. How do you serve all of these students? How do you serve the music students who have had only the lessons offered at school when there are so many students who have had private lessons from a young age? What about sports like soccer? If you played locally in free or inexpensive programs, you cannot compete with kids who have been in travel soccer for years. Have a learning disability? If you don't have a parent who can provide individual help, what do you do? I think it would be much easier to have a more similar population. It would be clear where to devote the resources. I don't have the answers but, having been around since Irene McCabe, I observe that little has changed.

  4. Anonymous, that is definitely true! It's a district with high expectations, an enduring achievement gap, and involved parents. It would definitely be easier to be in a more homogeneous district--but part of what makes Ann Arbor special is that it is not homogeneous! So I hope the next Superintendent will see these things as an asset.

  5. I mentioned the "amateur surveys" comment to my PiHi 9th grader and his car pool buddy, and they both heartily concurred. They also mentioned that they'd like to see the results of the surveys they were asked to complete during school hours...