Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coda: Process Errors in My "Honeymoon is Over" Post

In writing my post about how the "honeymoon" is over (read it here), I got a lot of positive feedback--especially from teachers, who said, "Right on!" The teachers who contacted me felt that it mirrored very closely their lived experience.

But I also think I might have missed the mark in a three ways.

First, I think that some people might have read the post as violating one of my core blog rules, posted on the right hand side of my blog: "All are welcome to comment, but please be respectful, and assume that everyone wants the best for the schools." And for me, that approach is supposed to extend beyond the comments section, and into my blogging itself. If it came across to you that I don't believe that the superintendent or school board wants the best for the schools, then I am truly sorry--because I believe that Dr. Jeanice Swift, and every school board member, DOES want the best for the schools.

Second, perhaps I should have asked for a reaction from Dr. Swift before posting my piece, so I could have given her the chance to respond. I don't say that because I think my blog needs to be "balanced" or "neutral" in the classic newspaper way--I don't think it does. In fact I think my best blogging happens when I write from a point of view. However, I end the post by saying that "process matters," and if I believe that, then maybe I should myself be modeling better process and opportunities for airing disagreements. [And--if we're contrasting past and present here, I can say that former Superintendent Dr. Pat Green never answered my emails, and Dr. Swift always answers them.]

Third, from a comment that somebody made about how parents "can send her packing," I think some people might have inferred that I want to start a campaign to get rid of Dr. Swift.

So to set the record straight: That is not true.

I think that Dr. Swift has done a really good job on a lot of things for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. As I say in the first post,
Some notable successes--she got the principals of Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech to work together; turned Northside into Ann Arbor STEAM; got the school board to open seats to schools of choice, and also attracted a lot of Ann Arbor residents back into the schools. The number of students in the district grew significantly, and that allowed the budget to grow as well.
In her first year, I think we saw a marked shift from a culture of "No we can't" to a culture of "Yes we can." I appreciate her energy, her hard work, and her interest in all facets of the district, Many (not all) of the current issues can be attributed to the fact that there are fiscal constraints, which we ignore at our peril. 

Do I see Jeanice Swift as a strong booster of the Ann Arbor Public Schools? Absolutely yes.

Do I agree with her (or the school board) on everything? Clearly not

At the same time, that does not mean I think it's time to "send her packing."

No, I want to convince her (and the school board) that I am right and she is (they are) wrong. :)

We cannot be like the queen in Alice in Wonderland, who--whenever she didn't like someone (Alice)--cried, 

No, I want to convince her (and the school board) that I am right and she is (they are) wrong. :)

I want us to be a community where we can disagree and model conversations about these disagreements. 

That's why I want a transparent process. I realize that union negotiations can make that difficult, but ultimately I think we help ourselves if we make discussions about disagreements public, open, and honest.

Look for a post next week where I try to make that happen.

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