Saturday, November 17, 2012

Well, still no comments to my last post when I asked for readers to share stories and experiences about our journey as a school system.  This was actually the second request.  Perhaps I should let it go, but I am going to try and prime the pump by sharing what for me is a decision that has had a lasting influence on who we are.  Who knows, maybe the faucet will open and readers will share stories of their own.  My request continues by again asking you to consider responding to the following.

Which of these initiatives, interactions, and decisions have had a significant and lasting impact on the culture of our school system? Many of us believe that Tahoma is a great place for kids and for the adults that work with and for them. Why do we believe that? What do we do or not do that may be different than other systems? What story can you tell that helps define who we are, what drives our behavior, and who we aspire to be? 

There are many stories I could tell related to our work with the leadership of both TEA and PSE, but I believe that the decision to align our stated belief in collaboration with contract language was one of those times.  Many of us talk about the importance of collaboration in our work and the need for staff to have the opportunity to influence critical decisions at the building and department level, but it often does not result in consistent behavior that demonstrates this belief over time.

I can remember many years ago deciding that to move forward we must find ways for staff to see that collaboration is more than just words, it is a core belief, the foundation of our work.  When I first began to work with district bargainers and the administrative team on consensus decision making and then made the decision to embed this process into both negotiated agreements, it was not supported by all administrators.  The parking lot conversations were not positive and some were wondering if I was crazy.  I can imagine there were those thinking he isn't ready or doesn't have what it takes to be a superintendent.  Principals and department supervisors were forced to give up much autonomy and power and found themselves needing to facilitate the very conversations that resulted in the need to share.  The language below changed their world in a short period of time.

I don't believe that there are many bargaining units that have had the experience of district bargainers recommending an article on consensus and the subsequent language where our shared values are articulated. Is it working?  How do principals and supervisors feel today, especially those that were here when the language was first negotiated?  How is it working for teachers and classified staff?  I  believe that the decision to negotiate this language was a critical fork in the road on our journey, one that continues to influence who we are and how we respond to the issues that emerge as we move forward on this sometimes rocky path.

Does this example help you think of others at the system, building , or department level that contribute to the cultures in our system?  If not, I'll live by the three strikes rule and let this be my last request on this topic.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

As someone who is new to the district I would definitely say that Tahoma is different than other districts.

I attended a neighboring district in the 90's and early 2000's and the vibe there was completely different. At the high school I attended I felt like everything was about the WASL - and I graduated in 2007, before passing was a requirement for graduation - once we passed it didn't seem like they cared about us anymore. I don't get that feeling here. From what I've seen the teachers here are passionate and invested in their students and I think the students feel that.

I went to school in a good district, I was well educated and ready for college. However, as I've talked to students, teachers and staff members and continued to learn more about Tahoma and observed the community here I've found myself saying, "I wish I went to school here!" more than once.