Friday, August 28, 2015

Update on West Valley Elementary in Cupertino: was the principal the only problem?

Parents at West Valley Elementary in Silicon Valley are rightly upset by the disruption caused by the involuntary transfer of all twenty-five teachers from their children's school--and I agree that this is a bad situation for the students.

But the causes of the current dismal situation might be more complex than parents think. I doubt that the most recent principal was the sole cause of the conflict. I suspect that an unhealthy culture developed at the school over a number of years. Most schools are highly political institutions with constant maneuvering by certain teachers and administrators to establish power. There are usually a few people struggling to behave professionally, but those people are not likely to be highly influential for the simple reason that humans tend to follow those who have the most political power.

Parents need to establish a new culture of healthy, open communication among all adults at the school--and the PTA might not be the ideal vehicle for this. A new organization of parents concerned about poor communication at the school would seem to be a reasonable response to the crisis.

While parents do not have the right to be informed about personnel matters, they DO have the right to establish a culture of open discussion and mutual respect among all stakeholders.

It's amazing how much trouble can result from small problems that are not handled professionally by teachers and administrators. Teacher cliques sometimes react with remarkable outrage to small changes in daily schedules, curriculum, training programs and committee assignments. And the most powerful teachers often launch into destructive fury when they are given unpopular class assignments or when the principal fails to suspend a student when the teacher demands it.

But administrators are often even more politically motivated than teachers. "WVE town" provided this reaction to my original post about this story:
 ...The teachers were asked to attend a consultant's "Human Systems Dynamics" training class, which the Superintendent falsely portrayed as "multiple interventions". Superintendent Gudalewicz discussed it with the School Board in a single closed session without a vote, and then she told parents that teachers would apply and interview for to return to their positions, but internal district leaks revealed that all the teachers would be transferred. Within a week, they started using the description "reconstitution", Superintendent Gudalewicz, and the School Board led by Phyllis Vogel, refused to meet with parents in open meetings all through the summer. One thing to note is that the consultant Royce Holladay of Human Systems Dynamics that was paid $15,000 to "facilitate" the failed teacher session is now hired to facilitate the "re-imaging" of the school which was said would take 3 to 5 years. From the internal emails obtained, it is a story of administration arrogance and retribution, facilitated with some consultant greed.
"WVE town" also wrote this very interesting piece for the Cupertino Patch, summarizing the secretive and dishonest behavior of district officials. Sadly, this secrecy and dishonesty sounds typical of most school districts. If anyone is going to start an honest, open discussion it will have to be parents.

1 comment:

WVE town said...

It looks like some parent or insider took your advice that it was up to them to reveal the truth about the reconstitution of West Valley Elementary. They posted a blog with a ton of information called The Real West Valley Story:

There was also a School Board Meeting on 9/15/2015 where the School Board finally voted on the reconstitution that took place 3 months earlier!

Maura, I have a question if you know of any CA state guidelines for a reconstitution? The Cupertino Union School District School Board voted against adding school board policy language to require a vote of the School Board for any reconstitution or mass staff transfers, and their reason given was that they follow the CSBA guidelines that give the Superintendent total authority over transfers. The CSBA guidelines do not even define a school reconstitution, that I can find. Does this leave any CA school open to a Superintendent taking action to reconstitute without any Board oversight? It is disturbing how a top tier school can be reconstituted without any explanation. There was no discipline that took place, just some innuendo of tensions. Is there really no definition or guidelines for reconstitution, and do communities need to lobby the CSBA to get one?

The blog has a link to a youtube video of the School Board meeting too, if you want to pull your hair out.