Changes Close to Home

Are you sick of change yet?

Or maybe it’s all the talk about change you’re tired of?

I think I’m in that later category, especially when it comes to the watered-down fixes for the huge American problems now being batted around like a badminton shuttlecock by our Congress critters and other self-proclaimed experts on the talking heads channels.

But let’s face it: when it comes to changes, the ones that hit close to home are often far more important.

For exhibit A we have the major reorganization of the department in which I work here in the overly-large school district.

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Of course, part of the change is driven by the budget (several high priced positions were eliminated), but it also incorporates the philosophy of the big boss.

The biggest alteration in the reorg moves the elementary, middle, and high school curriculum groups, each of which were in their own offices, all into the same box on the organizational chart.

The basic goal is to get all of the folks who are supposed to guide instruction in the K12 “four core” areas (language arts, math, science, social studies) to talk to each other regardless of where they fall in the largely artificial grade level divisions into which we divide students.

Which is something I can actually agree with. It remains to be seen if it will make any change to the educational bottom line, student learning.

However, it’s another column on the chart, the one in which our little group landed, that bothers me.

It contains almost everything else – fine arts, PE, career education, adult education, and technology. (instruction for non-English speakers and non-English language instruction gets a third column)

All the pieces that are increasingly seen as “extras” in our standardized test-driven educational world.

Anyway, add in the fact that everyone is trying to make this work while being spread over four or five buildings and you can imagine that this process of rearranging the traditional departmental boxes is causing a lot of uncertainty and stress for many people.

But, strangely, not me. (Well, maybe a little. :-)

On a very personal level, in the near future I will be assuming a different role in this ongoing story (due to a retirement that was going to happen with or without the reorganization), something I’ll certainly be writing about.

This is a change I’m actually looking forward to since lately I’ve been hearing the little voice in the back of my head telling me that’s time for some alterations.

And I’m not sure all the rest of the upheaval going on around me is necessarily a bad thing.

Because I’ve learned from past changes, big and small, those that land close to home are often the ones that offer the greatest opportunities.

[Photo from flickr by 416style.]

Getting (re)Organized

Just before I left on vacation, the superintendent of our overly-large school district announced a major reorganization of central office.

That is, yet another major reorganization. By my count this will be number three in the past ten years, and that’s on top of the two or three departmental shuffles our little office has also been through in that time.

First, we went from the schools being divided into four organizational areas to three. I think the purpose was to reduce administrative expenditures. A few years later, we got a new superintendent and he divided the schools into eight organizational areas. But each had a much smaller staff so I guess the costs didn’t changed much.

Now, our latest superintendent, on the job about a year and a half, is planning to rearrange things into six areas (or clusters or regions – not sure of the name this time). He also plans to add a whole new department for staff development and training (which is actually way overdue) and move a bunch of offices into a new building.

In the end, however, I doubt these big organizational shuffles really mean much to the people working in the schools. Teachers and administrators who have been in the system for a few years have already figured out who to call when they need help. Or who to ignore. For the most part, they could care less about job titles or org charts.

Maybe, instead of moving around offices, people, and titles based on recommendations from high priced consultants, the people running our bureaucracy should try something different. Start by looking at what works. Find out how people go about solving real problems. Then, organize everything around that structure.

Of course, I wasn’t consulted in this matter anyway, but I do wish the school board and superintendent would answer one fundamental question about the changes: How will all this administrative shuffling of offices, people, titles, and organization charts improve teaching and learning?

No, I don’t expect an answer.