by Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now |http://lat.ms/QbI1RO
Photo: L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy at a Los Angeles School Board meeting in Feb. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
October 9, 2012 | 3:43 pm :: School officials on Tuesday formally approved a one-year agreement for evaluating principals in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but the head of the administrators union also asserted that principals will be overburdened by a new teacher-evaluation system.
The new evaluation system for principals, which will incorporate student-achievement data, was ratified by the Board of Education after previous approval by the administrators union.
“We appreciate the collaboration with the district’s bargaining team during negotiations,” said Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents principals and others. “We agree that improvement is critical—and proper use of data will help us move forward in that direction.”
Perez was emphatic, however, that something has to give on teacher evaluations.
“Our administrators are overwhelmed by the workload mandated by district leadership,” Perez said, adding that 100 elementary schools have an office staffed only by a principal, an administrative assistant and a half-time clerk.
The district expects principals to ultimately conduct two observation cycles per teacher every year, Perez said, and each observation can occupy 12 work hours or more, a problem exacerbated by the required computer program.
“The use of the software takes too much time,” she said. “We need technology that helps reduce the workload not increase it.”
The most recent edition of the administrators’ newsletter (follows) is replete with views of unhappy principals. And last week, about 100 members of that union, at their regular meeting, voted unanimously to call for relief. Their resolution called for a suspension of the teacher-evaluation system as well as for suspending a “performance meter” used to measure school progress and a separate system for tracking disclipline “pending the addition of minimally adequate resources to schools.”
In an interview, Perez said about 30 of 112 principals dropped out of the teacher-evaluation program last year, when it was voluntary.
L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy acknowledged the process could be painstaking but said it provided the sort of feedback that helped teachers improve and provided a fair evaluation.
“We are in a pilot to understand how we can make it more manageable,” Deasy said. He added that it doesn’t make sense to go back “to paper and pencil.”
Separately, the teachers union has pursued a legal challenge to the voluntary teachers evaluation system.
- Dr. Perez said she believes the health of principals may be imperiled by the increased workload, which includes very long days and often includes Saturday and Sunday work – with principals not getting clerical of assistant principal help as many of those positions have been eliminated.
- The AALA one year interim MOU was offered to allow LAUSD and UTLA to come to agreement over the teacher part of the evaluation process, it is not a final agreement – and is meaningless without teacher/UTLA agreement.
- There was additional criticism of the District’s software assessment tool and the contract provider - and the time it takes to run a single employee evaluation – including from Board member Kayser – who at one time was an IT professional.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Part I
Associated Administrators of Los Angeles UPDATE | http://bit.ly/SQxR7e
Week of October 8, 2012 :: For the past three years, we have published numerous articles in Update describing the overwhelming workload imposed on AALA members. We have raised these concerns with two LAUSD Superintendents, dozens of District senior staff and Board members and during negotiations. Our members have given their hearts and souls to this District. They’ve agreed to 26 furlough days between 2009 and 2013 and they’ve lost additional salary through basis reductions. The cuts to clerical, custodial and supervision staff have directly increased the administrative workload at school sites. Those who work at Beaudry and other offices have had to shoulder additional responsibilities as their colleagues’ ranks were reduced. AALA members, both certificated and classified, are reeling from the stress of taking on too many extra responsibilities. As we have said before, with power, politics and personalities constantly changing, AALA members continue to hold this District together. Their reward? More initiatives, more plans, more responsibility, more accountability, more intimidation—and less support, less compensation, less autonomy and less professional growth and development. Add to this the District’s trifurcated reorganization that separates instruction, operations and parent services—necessitating principals to report to three supervisors. Superintendent Deasy, we heard you when you said that you were dividing the responsibilities that the directors had under the previous structure because they were overwhelming for one person to handle. Yet, the schools have lost clerical, custodial, supervision, cafeteria and administrative support, and principals are being asked to do more with less. Don’t you find that overwhelming for school administrators, or do only directors get overwhelmed?
Plans, plans and more plansAttendance, Safety, Single School, Accreditation, Common Core, Master, Discipline, Parent Involvement and Autonomy—all plans! Dr. Deasy, are you even aware of the number of plans that principals are supposed to develop, submit AND implement? Couple that with targets for the Performance Meter in your multilevel Strategic Action Plan, the numerous “certifications” that they must sign, the difficulty accessing information from the District’s MyData system and the lack of user-friendly software, is it any wonder that principals are feeling like they’re drowning and it’s just the second month of school? AALA continues to receive letters from principals who are frustrated with the arbitrary deadlines, the lack of support and the continuing barrage of documents to submit.
Below is an excerpt of a letter from an elementary principal.
I am a dedicated, hardworking principal who is totally overwhelmed and frustrated… I received an e-mail yesterday afternoon that [mentioned] the required Attendance Plan that is due Monday. You will see that no information was provided as to where we would find it. I first logged into Inside LAUSD, checked What’s New and What’s Due, but it wasn’t there. I next went onto the ESC website to the Operations page, but no information or links were to be found. I called several other principals; no one had the information, knew where to find it or had started it. Just last week the ESC had a four-hour Operations meeting. The Attendance Plan was not mentioned at all. It is due on Monday, October 1, the same day as two volumes of the Safe School Plan are due, the same week that the Fall Survey is due and our Goal Setting forms are due to our directors. Please note, on pages 4 & 5 of the template, there is no way to insert the information into the triangles, arrows [and] text boxes … and the directions do not address this. In addition, many schools met the benchmark and goals from last year as well as the Performance Meter. These schools should not have to rewrite the entire plan. Where is the acknowledgement for meeting the goal or any type of differentiation or support for schools that are struggling?
In addition, at our Operations Meeting, the agenda did not address some of the critical concerns of principals such as how off E-CAST was for many ESC schools, the textbook shortage created by using E-CAST, the plan to rehire any RIF teachers or the online Administrative Certification. I have completed my 7th year as principal at my school and have never felt so frustrated and unsupported. I had a full-day principal meeting with my directors, a half-day operations meeting and the discipline training all within a few weeks … I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I do not know how I can meet all the deadlines next week and still support the teachers, students and parents at my school. I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way, please help!
Here is part of a letter that was sent to Superintendent Deasy from a principal in a different ESC:
I’ve been a principal for a few years now, and I’ve never seen such a bombardment of e-mails on a daily basis related to complianceattendance plans, discipline, operations, instruction, budget, personnel, staff relations, parent engagement, etc., etc. It is nonstop. Principals are so overwhelmed in [my] ESC, they are afraid to open their daily e-mails… Morale is at an all-time low… as we are being asked to do more with less support and pay… Between the operations leaders, the instructional directors (many who have been out of schools for years) and the other directors… I’ve never seen such micromanagement, fear and intimidation.
Dr. Deasy and ESC Superintendents, you need to be aware of how the reorganization, with the various new initiatives and lofty ideals that are being tossed at principals, is impacting the day-to-day operation of schools. The above are just two of the many letters we have received regarding the increased workload and pressure which school-site administrators are facing. AALA staff members met with a group of more than twenty-five elementary principals from different ESCs on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, and were stunned at the level of despair, intimidation and anger that they are feeling. Rarely have so many raised issues of work overload and low morale so early in the year. Do you realize that there are 83 new principals? Given that the letters above were written by well-experienced principals, can you imagine how the novices must feel? We have had principals relay to us that they are receiving sometimes more than 100 e-mails a day, requiring immediate responses. When are they supposed to do that? Given the mountain of paperwork and the lack of clerical and supervision support, when are they supposed to get into classrooms? Many principals do not have an assistant principal. The District is demanding more, yet continually reducing resources; requiring plans that should take thought, time and effort to develop while not providing any assistance to accomplish the task. The technology administrators are required to use is not user-friendly, frequently difficult to navigate and often inaccessible.
Principals know when they accept an assignment, that the challenge of running a school, while transforming teaching and learning, is no easy task. They are not prepared, though, for the myriad demands from forces external to the school and in many cases, the actual undermining of their ability to do the job. The three pronged structure of the ESCs means that administrators are receiving direction from multiple directors and support from none. For those of you who have never been a principal, be advised, it is like running a city, except in the LAUSD city, the mayor is also the chief financial officer, chief medical officer, community liaison officer, city manager, chief human resources officer, head of maintenance, ITD director, PR director, mental health director and transportation coordinator. The District principal must assume all of those roles while focusing on teaching and learning, implementing the Strategic Plan (to which they had no input), raising test scores and fundraising. We know that our members are giving their all, working nights and weekends—they don’t need to hear platitudes from senior staff. What they do need is a respite in order to really focus on the needs of their students and staff AND maybe, just maybe, have some kind of personal life.