Monday, October 17, 2011


editorial in Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Update - Week of October 17, 2011 |

14 October 2011 - Earlier this week an AALA member, a supervisory administrator, sent a particularly cogent and poignant e-mail message to the AALA office describing the climate of fear that seems to be pervasive in some District offices.

When asked if we could publish the e-mail in Update with or without attribution, the member declined, explaining he was fearful of retaliation for expressing his views.

Something is seriously wrong in LAUSD when AALA members are so afraid.

The District’s financial crisis over the past three years has caused AALA members a great deal of stress because the resulting reductions-in-force, Basis changes and furlough days have dramatically increased their workload and reduced their pay. At the same time, administrators have experienced heightened pressure to improve student performance with greatly diminished resources to do the work. Understandably, all employees are anxious to hold onto their jobs. They worry that formerly plentiful advancement opportunities are currently scarce. It is precisely in these difficult circumstances that District leaders must increase their sensitivity to the needs of those they supervise and provide a higher level of support at all levels.

We all learned in Educational Administration 101 that building trust is essential to getting the best work from those we supervise. Leaders of successful organizations focus on goal achievement, promote teamwork, foster consensus, establish clear and timely communication, encourage problem solving and respect individual contributions to the work. They listen to the concerns of individual employees and are attuned to the tone of the culture.

When secrecy, isolation, cronyism, self-protection and a “gotcha” attitude prevail, teamwork is impossible. If people feel continually threatened, fear begins to fester and grow. Fearful employees focus on survival and stop contributing their best work to the organization. They do the minimum necessary to get along and oftentimes turn on their colleagues. Cynicism increases. Allowed to go unchecked, fear can be insidious, damaging the health of individuals involved and, ultimately, the organization itself.

In the spirit of supporting both our members and LAUSD, AALA urges District leaders to reflect on their own treatment of hardworking administrators. Address directly the climate of fear that has permeated too many LAUSD offices and departments. Do everything possible to restore to the workplace a sense of trust and efficacy.

Promote transparency. Be equitable and fair by promoting personnel based on merit, not friendship or politics.

Ensure department heads manage their staff members by engaging their talent and energy as opposed to demanding sheeplike compliance.

To avoid dealing with the issue of fear will put every significant District initiative at risk and may indicate that the climate of fear is but a symptom of an underlying institutional illness. Plagues are contagious. Fear breeds fear.

We are hopeful that District leaders will recognize the infection and treat it before it continues to spread.

1 comment:

Dan Basalone said...

The culture and climate of any organization starts at the top. In the case of LAUSD it is impossible to know if the culture is being promoted by the Superintendent or the Mayor of Los Angeles. The Mayor has always been self-serving and unfortunately his puppets on the Board have allowed him to influence educational decisions for promotion with his and Eli Broad's politics. It is up to Dr. Deasy to truly be an educational leader who inspires and encourages...the hallmark of any great leader is someone who knows how to teach and positively reinforce as well as act decisively when needed based on clearly defined goals.