Why Change?

Last summer the school board here in the overly-large school district hired a new superintendent1 and since then we’ve been waiting for her reorganization of the system. Because that’s what new big bosses do, they rearrange things to fit their vision and add their imprint to the bureaucracy.

A couple of weeks ago that plan was dropped on us. The centerpiece is grouping the schools into five regions, each lead by an assistant superintendent and an “executive” principal. Which is different from the eight clusters we have now, created by the previous superintendent’s reorg. And the three areas (reduced from four) passed along by his predecessors. I’m sure there were other arrangement prior to that but my memory of past changes is exhausted.

In addition, the org chart for central office gets “streamlined” (although not really) with a new Chief Academic Officer, Chief Operations Officer and Chief of Staff. 2 Very telling that the Testing/Assessment office is shown reporting directly to the CAO,3 above anything to do with instruction in the diagram.

Anyway, that’s all very interesting (and not especially different) but the real bottom line question is: will any of this impact schools and classrooms? Does this latest organizational chart lead to improvements in how students learn and are assessed? Of course it’s way too early for clear answers. Bureaucracies like ours just don’t change very quickly.

I would like to believe that things will change in our district. I really would. Maybe this latest reorganization, combined with other initiatives from the superintendent (like the Portrait of a Graduate project), is the one that leads to that “learning revolution” I’ve heard our leadership speak of.

However, over the years I’ve seen too many of these promised “new way of doing business” to know that the odds of any meaningful change resulting from them are very low. There are far too many factors beyond the organizational structure that will work against any meaningful changes. 

You’ll hear many of our school and community leaders using phrases like “21st century learning”, “global student”, “4Cs”, “world class education” while still believing there’s little or nothing wrong. That the basic structure of our instructional system is solid and needs only a few tweaks.

We also are hobbled by a community, one of the wealthiest in the US, that refuses to adequately support essential elements of society like education and health, and politicians more worried about getting re-elected than about explaining to their constituents that, no, you can’t have high quality anything without paying for it.

Bottom line, standardized test score are high, the dropout rate is low, something like 80+% of our graduates go on to college, and every one of our high schools rank high on the Post’s “challenge” index. Oh, yeah, and real estate prices are solid.

How do you improve on that?


  1. After July 1 we’ll have to drop that “new” appellation.

  2. To catch whatever isn’t academic or operations, I guess.

  3. Chief Academic Officer, because we have to shorten everything to initials, right?

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