Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the District.

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a book review of a new book, "The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia" by Orlando Figes. It is apparently a compilation of interviews describing first-hand what Stalin did to the 'average Joe-Russian' family. I was struck by the description of the fear and intimidation injected into daily (communal) life; government informers seemed to be everywhere, people disappeared without word and people literally lowered their voices to a whisper even in their own living quarters.

Sounded to me like what my work life was like in the District. It was not a workplace where people worked together despite the hyped "collaboration" that was the professed banner under which we were working. There can be no "collaboration" when decisions are made by one person no matter how much icing is on the cake to hide it. When educational decisions are made with no stated educational reason ("to ease your load" is not a reason when you haven't talked to me about how "the load" was CREATED by YOUR previous decisions, also made without my professional input) there has to be another reason for making them. I do not discount stupidity or incompetence in the equation, but it seems to me that when a series of these decisions tend to impact senior staff members more than junior staff members and when this is pointed out to upper administration, it is ignored or dismissed ("I talked to Mr. X and he says that didn't happen"), there is something going on that is bigger and more complex than stupidity.

Please remember that management is usually disgraced when it is discovered that they tried to cover-up indiscreet or stupid actions rather than from the severity of the indiscreet or stupid actions in the first place. Thus 18 minute gaps in tapes are worse than breaking into the office of your political enemy.

The District will not become a better place to work until the fear, intimidation and bullying of subordinates stops. Nor will it become a better place to work until people who don't know what they are doing have no power over those who do know what they are doing.

Editorial: While I am sure this writer is not suggesting that district staff will end up in mass graves, I am surprised by the comparison. The atmosphere in the District has definitely been getting worse.


Anonymous said...

The comparison should not come as a surprise if you have been called into your supervisor's office on multiple occasions and called to account for minor issues that occured not in the presence of the supervisor but a particular faculty member who daily comes into your room to wait for the color printer (which happens to be located in your room) to print a document for them. The print job is sent to your room just so the co-worker can spy on you and report back to the supervisor because you have been targeted for bullying and mobbing by said supervisor. That's the basis of the comparison to Stalin.

No, you don't end up dead in a mass grave, but you do join the ranks of those who have been previously targeted and pushed out of the District.

The fact that someone would make a connection to Stalin in the first place should be instructive and cautionary to all.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to ponder the impact of this blog on attitude within the District. Before it began there was already low morale and a climate of distrust created by the gross incompetence of management we would all be better off without. The information that you and others have shared, which can easily be regarded as predominately true, has created solidarity within some groups, but disgust by many individuals who we will see quitting, leaving and retiring before the consolidation into a new building on a potentially unhealthy site occurs. Really, unless major changes are forthcoming I see little positive future for this District.

Anonymous said...

Collaboration? Does that mean the "Dog and Poney" show one has to sit through in meetings as "stakeholders" share their thoughts? Then after all is said and done, management does what it planned to do in the first place? Been there, done that.

Its no wonder I've become apathetic to "the Process." said...

Harness that apathy and run for a seat on the board. You'd be a shoo-in and would fit right in.

I kid. This is a sad, sad, sad state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

Be careful of "collaboration." There is "collaboration" between union and management on the annual "building climate survey." It is given to faculty in October, but only the new school year (two months) is to be evaluated. Thus new teachers, who are probably not even treading water in their new jobs, respond that things are just fine (because they aren't able to see what's going on). Teachers are generally a forgiving lot and fail to put down what they REALLY think because they don't want to blame anybody; they want to be nice to others. If you write an individual comment, it only goes to the principal; no one above the principal will see it. (There are horror stories about administrative "handwriting parties" where the object is to identify comments.) If there IS a climate issue in the building, supporters and opponents both go to the extreme ends of the response scale and balance each other out. (If you point out the split, one side or the other will shout you down and vilify you.) Results of the survey are shared with staff as part of a "learning process" but sometimes negative comments are portrayed as coming from "complainers." (Will YOU risk being held up as a "complainer" next time around?) Graphs are manipulated between one year and the next so that a downturn in "climate" is less noticable.

This "collaboration" goes on year after year. If you call the system into question, you have both union and management on your case. Eventually, you just figure, "What's the use?" and watch your attitude (climate) go downhill.