wasting bandwidth since 1999

Rearranging the Furniture – Again

School district bureaucracies are strange animals. While some teachers (and especially teacher unions) see sinister forces at work in central office, in most large systems like the one in which I work it’s more a matter of incompetence than corruption. But the one thing they all seem to have in common is the tendency to rearrange the organizational chart on a regular basis.

I bring this up because our little office has just been shuffled around again, the third time in the six and half years I’ve been working there. When I started we were part of a larger office. Then instructional technology became hot stuff and we grew into an office of our own. Now that ed tech has cooled off and is no longer considered a magic wand (never was, but that’s another story), we have been shrunk and have been shuffled back into a larger office. The same office we were in six years ago.

In the end, however, all this bureaucratic shuffling means nothing to the teachers and staff we work with in the schools. If anything, it only makes getting things done a little tougher. The really savvy people have collected a network of people they know can call to get things done and really don’t care where they sit in the big organizational chart. Let’s face it, the most valuable people in any bureaucracy are the ones who know how to work around "standard procedures".

The really funny part of all this shuffling is that the new superintendent (hired last summer) is supposed to be working on his own reorganization plan for the district as a whole. (That must another rule of bureaucracies: a new chief must reorganize.) I have no idea when that plan will be sprung on us but I’ll bet, whatever the new structure, it still won’t make it easier to get things done. It probably also won’t do much, if anything, to improve teaching and learning, which I always thought was the bottom line for a school system.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi. I just found your blog from Eduwonk. Great. You say that “The really savvy people have collected a network of people they know can call to get things done and really don’t care where they sit in the big organizational chart. Let’s face it, the most valuable people in any bureaucracy are the ones who know how to work around “standard procedures”.”

    How many people, on a percentage basis, can do this in your average district?

  2. Tim

    If you mean forming networks to make solving problems easier, quite a few, actually – especially in a large system like ours. It’s a survival skill.

    If you mean how many develop the skills to work around the bureaucratic red tape, there are probably more than you think. You don’t need someone who can navigate the whole system, just the part causing the current road block. :-)

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