Friday, March 07, 2008

Eggplant Appointments - Tucson Style

(Patricia Lopez) Tucson, Arizona. The board of the Tucson Unified School District is in the process of selecting its next Superintendent. I encourage the reader to consider the following four resumes. The proper understanding occurs when they are read from the lens of "Who are their friends?".

Patricia Lopez, ED.D.
Deputy Superintendent, Tucson Unified School District

Delfino Alemán, Jr., PhD
Area Superintendent, San Diego Unified School District

Elizabeth Celania-Fagan, ED.D.
Associate Superintendent, Des Moines Independent School District

Richard T. Myers
IBM Retiree, Community Volunteer

(Delfino Alemán) If you don't read the resumes, you will not understand this post. Who do the above know? Still, the astute can notice something before reading the resumes. Let's say the community wants fresh blood from outside the system, which eliminates the very qualified Patricia Lopez. The argument for a new, outsider perspective has merit. That leaves an obvious choice, Delfino Alemán, a highly experienced bi-lingual education professional with a proven track record running a huge district in San Diego. The choice is a no-brainer. He will make a huge difference. Next.

Well, not exactly. As Cigar Man has eloquently noted, results and performance have nothing to do with anything. Eggplant appointed no one based on qualifications or experience. He appointed loyal, politically aligned insiders. Both Lopez and Alemán, the most qualified for the slot, have been eliminated. That leaves:

(Elizabeth Celania-Fagan)
Celania-Fagan. Education: Doctorate in educational leadership
Myers. Education: Bachelor's in engineering

Hmmm. Who should run the county's largest school district? While not Lopez or Alemán, Celania-Fagan has a doctorate in educational leadership and a track record in schools at various levels including the front of the classroom. Myers, however, has absolutely nothing regarding education in his background. He has distinguished himself as quite successful in chasing and catching a buck, but the man has never taught a K-12 class or served as a principal (requires commitment to children, not one's personal fortune), never taken a single course in education, and never run a training organization.

The education community has a thing about certification. I would love to teach those kids math, but I can't without certification or concurrent activity to gain certification. To be a principal, one must have the associated certification. State law prohibits someone without superintendent certification from evaluating, disciplining, or other activity regarding certified officers in the system. Myers would have to find certified puppets to implement anything. Sound familiar?

Of course Myers is going to get the job.

(Richard Myers) We are talking about a prescription that fuels rebellion and a union management relationship fiasco. Teachers are unionized. Does IBM or Bourn have unionized workers? Why stop with TUSD? Let's put someone who never entered a hot building or held a hose in charge of the Tucson Fire Department. Let's put an investment banker in charge of Tucson Medical Center. Let's make a heart surgeon our next Attorney General. Let's install Wesley Mouch as Chief of Police.

In its 2/26/08 piece, the Tucson Citizen was kind, quoting Myers as saying student achievement is mostly a "societal problem." They didn't include, "Part of our challenge is that we have 'cultural groups' with families that do not appreciate education."

Qualifications, the welfare of the students, or having the most functional school district possible have nothing to do with it. The $200K+ slot is payback for helping make RTA happen.


Blogger Dustin said...

as soon as I saw the list a while back, I knew it would be myers. Our society values aheivment, and business executives most of all. It does not matter what he did, only that he was an executive, and that he worked for IBM (denotes intelligance I assume). It's the same platform bush ran on.

3/07/2008 7:30 AM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

You do know how to irritate certain well connected people.

I love it.

Your post is spot on.

3/07/2008 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Matt.
You are indeed a good public servant. Or provide a good public service.

3/07/2008 12:00 PM  
Anonymous the doctor said...

Didn't you know that children are just raw materials to be manufactured and processed? Surely we can just bring in some lean manufacturing consultants and squeeze the inefficiencies out of the system.

Running a school is no different from running a business.

Let's hire some fancy consultants for $5M (I hear TREO knows some good ones) to draft a TUSD "Blueprint For the 21st Century!" we can then unveil at a luncheon.

3/07/2008 12:02 PM  
Anonymous ms said...

Doc, can you take the time to make your point on some conservative blogs? Who knows, it might help.

3/07/2008 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for supporting and encouraging a well-defined career path for students considering teaching and educational administration. Spend years getting advanced degrees and working your way up from teaching to various administrative positions, and then bump up against the glass ceiling placed at the top of TUSD by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. Thank you very much.

I think there is something to be said for skilled and talented people being able to be effective in most leadership positions, but this situation is ridiculous. He doesn't have a shred of experience or education that prepares him for the unique challenge of running a large school district.

I agree with Myers that there are families who don't value education, and that this is a major obstacle, but he goes too far in suggesting this is a trait of particular cultural groups. There are plenty of white trash families who don't value education any more than the minority families he is obviously referencing.

3/07/2008 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Myers is a troubling consideration. He is “a suit” with no classroom experience. He is a “pencil pusher” who’s never been to a faculty meeting. He’s a “yes man” who capitulates to the “bottom line” mentality.

Consider the world of movies. I can’t think of a movie where the corporate leader came in and rescued anything. But look at the list of movies about teachers: “Stand and Deliver”, “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, “Dead Poets’ Society”, and the list goes on. Above I used several clichés for individuals who work in the corporate world. Notice they are all pejorative. Can you think of any negative labels for teachers? Being a teacher is an honorable profession. It is not about seeking money or title. It is about choosing a career that will help create a world where everyone understands and helps each other. An individual who is not trained as a teacher and has not spent time working with others for no reason other than to experience the journey of learning would not understand; because in the classroom, with students and their desire to learn, there is no “bottom line”. Just think of all the overtime teachers put into their work without asking for compensation.

Almost 70% of the district is American-Mexican. Many children are from homes where English is not the dominant language. Here is an opportunity to embrace the diversity of our TUSD community and hire a lifelong educator who speaks Spanish; an educator who can articulate to the community the achievement gap in more than one language. Instead we’re considering hiring a man who thinks that some “cultural groups…don’t value education”. We can all read between the lines. This is a racist euphemism, and it’s a euphemism that lacks understanding of the equity issues of school districts across the nation.

The challenges facing education are not the same as corporate America. Public schools cannot become the next “Office Space” where spirits are crushed and fresh ideas dismissed. If there is one component in education that is magical it is inspiration. Don’t try to tell me that a former IBM manager is our children’s future. Remember Kubick’s brilliant “2001: A Space Odyssey”? Kubrick had a reason for naming the evil computer H-A-L…each letter preceded I-B-M.

I have taught in TUSD for nearly 20 years and I can see this mistake coming down the road.

3/08/2008 4:41 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Great comments.

I don't know anything about Myers other than his resume. If his heart is in the right place (something he could demonstrate by stating he'd accept an annual salary of $1), there is a world of difference between those who wish to make a difference after "getting theirs" and those committed to making a difference their entire lives.

As it stands, for all we know he's another ego in a suit after a fat check and a power trip. That he believes he can run a school district is not a good sign.

Teachers will resent him by default. What credibility does he bring to his interactions with principals?

I smell a fiasco.

3/09/2008 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"School officials usually relied upon a combination of pedagogical and popular sociological explanations to the 'Mexican problem'...failure to appreciate education, inherent inferiority, and so on" (Montejano, 1988, p. 192).

Sound familiar ... same old tired deficit racist thinking.

3/09/2008 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an educator for thirty years, I am very concerned that the TUSD school board would consider anyone that does not have experience in Education. Yikes!!! Don't make a mistake and select Rick Myers as the new leader of our school district just because of his business background. You MUST select someone that has passion and cares for the students in our community. We also need to select someone that appreciates the diversity of the student population. I feel that Rick Myers will be very impersonal and that is NOT who we want as the new Superintendent of TUSD.

3/09/2008 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a minute,...I thought he was saying that we had a societal problem with education and that certain groups don't value education. Like the Pepsi, Chetos, Cell Phones and iPods brought to us by easy credit that funds the corporate world? That's a true societal problem.

The idea that certain groups, like young people, don't always value education is a no-brainer. We're going to pay $200K for that?!?

3/09/2008 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your prediction is right on.

Its that leadership council stuff. Will the same kind of stuff that led to past insider hires in Tucson. The old...why go outside when we have someone who knows us?

The problem is that this kind of provincial thinking is what always keeps Tucson a one horse, western town.

We need fresh ideas from outside. The person from Dem Moines (highest literacy rate problably in the WORLD in Iowa) would be best.

3/09/2008 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also a teacher in TUSD and am deeply offended by Meyers comments which were targeted toward specific ethnic communities. How can the TUSD board hire someone with that type of ideology when a majority of TUSD students are minorities? Is this the same type of innovative pedagogy that inspired classes such as "productive gardening" and "thrift education" for Mexican American students in the 1930's? It was troublesome enough that the man has ZERO experience in a classroom, school, or district, but to reveal such discriminatory and dehumanizing attitudes about our community, well, that is not forgiveable. If the board appoints him, the educator community, and community at large will react.

3/09/2008 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need a leader who is knowledgeable about education and human relations (psychology etc). And one who listens to parents and the people who are responsible for the teaching and welfare of students.
Rick Meyers would be a very bad choice. Managing a big for-profit company and leading the RTA transportation proposition require radically different skills than running a school district where students are the most important and education is the goal.
Yes, he is good with public relations and sales. He was instrumental in persuading the politicians to accept the RTA transportation proposition before the plans were made. And he listens to and works well with the “right people” (the leadership style he described) – the growth businesses. This RTA plan may have been a good car-moving one, but it reflected extreme tunnel vision by ignoring the negative impact on the inner-city community (like many destroyed local businesses.)
We need a superintendent who listens to and works well with educators and puts students first.

3/09/2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger Casey DeLorme, APR said...

Okay, I have to come in on the other side of the Rick Myers issue...

I know Rick. (I want to state up front that he had nothing to do with this comment... in fact, I haven't talked to him since I left for Sand Diego. But I do need to catch up.)

Rick has two particular talents I've noticed.

The first is that he is one of the most impressive readers of character I've ever encountered. He will often meet someone I'd never thought of collaborating or working with, insist I meet them... and he'll be spot-on. He's done it on numerous occasions... and I know many others who've echoed the same. This includes individuals and teams who I clashed with, but we had great chemistry when working on a project.

That leads into his ability as a leader... Not a pencil pusher at ALL! Rick is one of the most amazing consensus-builders Tucson has. And he knows how to bring together powerful (and highly-intelligent) personalities with diverging (and deep-seated) opinions. He was the driving force behind the recently passed (after what, 30+ years of failing) Regional Transportation Plan. Say what you want about the plan itself (politics is messy, messy work that rarely results in anything perfect... which makes it easy to criticize), but getting SOMETHING to move forward on this issue is a monumental achievement.

It's easy to write off the "powers that be" (i.e. Click, Diamond, Finley, Walkup, etc.), but these ARE really smart people with strong personalities and opinions. To get them to come to consensus on ANYTHING, then get a community to vote in that direction. Wow! That's impressive. And, truth be told, anyone at the top of TUSD is going to be considered part of that crowd.

Now, I can't speak to his educational credentials... but running an organization as big and bureaucratic as TUSD requires some serious leadership chops. (And that's one of the sad things about an entity like TUSD... it's inherently a bureaucracy first and an education machine second... as much as we'd like it to be the other way around.)

The other aspect I'll touch on is the "specific ethnic communities" comment by Anonymous. That doesn't sound like Rick. First, he's introduced me to a lot of people in the community... and they covered the spectrum of ethnicities and genders. That includes male/female, straight/gay, Mexican, white, black, Tohono O'odham, and Indian (as in, from India).

Anonymous should be ashamed for jumping to the "race" card. (And if you're going to do it, at least put your name and face on your post.)

You can't choose your parents.

I'm Swedish. Even among white people, I'm white. I went to a TUSD school (Sabino) that was predominantly white. And WE had the culture that didn't value education... anyone who excelled was dubbed a nerd and ridiculed. That's a US cultural norm... hell, it's a b-grade movie staple. And it's a miserable environment for educating our kids.

So I dismiss that any discussion about "cultural groups" is racist or hearkening back to days of racial yore.

But I'll embrace that it IS a discussion of "How do we get kids (and their families)--of any sex, race, or whatever--to become seriously engaged in their education?" And that's something anyone being considered for this post has to take seriously and be willing to debate. You have to include looking at cultural attitudes toward education at all levels (including whites) to accomplish that. There's no racism there.

I don't know the other candidates for this one, so I can't really debate beyond Rick. But I know he makes a great leader in any situation.

3/10/2008 10:24 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

All right, Casey, I will not argue with you regarding Myers as a human being or a leader although his remarks in a public venue do not suggest the sensitivities desirable for the superintendent of a large school district that serves a predominantly Hispanic population. Let’s go ahead and say he’s a great guy with extraordinary talent.

Even so, placing an individual with no education credentials into the superintendent slot is inherently problematic for many reasons. He enters the position with a de facto hostile unionized workforce who regards him as a threat who views them as inefficient, incompetent, and ineffective, whether he believes that or not. Almost universally they regard him as someone who thinks the district is broken and needs to be fixed. Fixed with what? Better funding? Providing teachers better tools and educational resources? No.

Teachers and administrators perceive him as a blade wielding samurai in search of necks, a hatchet man with no distinctions regarding the reality of the day to day classrooms and the issues involved. What does he know about what practices produce what results in the context of kids in rooms? On what credibility does he stand when he faces a not for profit committed to children environment starved of funds? When he starts telling them what to do, what context exists in the minds of his audience? True or not, in the minds of the teachers who serve children for peanuts, Myers is a suit who hob knobs with millionaires, a man who amassed a personal fortune and now padding his pension at their place. I’m not talking about whether it is true. Why does he want to run a school district? What can he say to convince them otherwise?

The neon sign, "HE HAS NO CLUE!" flashes before he even gets the job. The resentment and fear are already there. Delfino Alemán would have been welcomed. The bi-lingual leader could address rooms in either or both languages, has a background with addressing diverse populations, has years of experience running a challenging school district in San Diego, has educational networks and contacts across the country, and could hit the ground running. Myers probably does not know what pedagogy even means.

If the TUSD school board wants to bring the skills of financial corporate wizard to bear on the district’s financial operations and accounting, fine. If the person is an extraordinary leader and consensus builder, even better. Bring Myers into the school as a Chief Financial Officer or Treasurer or similar position and grant him full access to the budget, forecasts, accounting operations, and the attention of the superintendent. The position can work with the school board and the superintendent to craft policies to improve the district and maximize its financial well being.

Myers may prove me wrong, but if so it is in spite of, not because of, the reasons he got the job.

3/10/2008 2:24 PM  
Blogger Casey DeLorme, APR said...

Now that's an interesting argument. And I'll leave the debate between the qualifications of the various candidates at that.

Though I'm a regular reader, I always have a problem with slagging of the "powers that be". It's too simple of a view. Though they collectively make some puzzling decisions... there are some amazing people within that circle actually working to make things better for all of us. As you can see, I'm a Rick Myers fan. To me, he fits this category.

I think the most frustrating thing about the educational debate is that our school system is constructed from a century-plus old public bureaucracy that has an impossible time changing at the pace with the rest of the world.

That means that kids and amazing resources (i.e. teachers) get short shrift, while layer upon layer of bureaucrats and constrictive rules prevent the institutions from being as effective as they could be.

Takes some serious leadership to blast through all that... question is, how do you choose? Change agents? Those who appeal to all audiences (nearly impossible)? How do you attract the leaders you need? And once you do, how do you keep the "system" from sucking them into expending all their energy into just maintaining the status quo?

But I believe the Ph.D. you're working on is dedicated to making a difference in this area. To that, I raise a toast.

3/10/2008 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Casey, before one starts shaming anyone else, it is important to note that x4mr did a much more accurate job of relaying the comments of Mr. Meyers and the context from which it was said than the newspapers did. It was directly related to communities of color.

I appreciate that you know Mr. Meyers much better than most, however, at best the comment was badly timed or insensitive. Perhaps he didn't mean it? Perhaps he regrets it? Those might be your instincts since you know him, but for the rest of us, we have to take what we hear and read at face value. I'm not playing the race card. It was already played and we mustn't ignore it.

I, too, am Swedish and an educator. The comment should bother anyone regardless of their ethnicity. It sounds familiar to stereotypical comments that have been made for years. Since you know him, Casey, you may afford him a "pass" on this one, but for those of us that don't, for those of us that work with students everyday, we must be critical of words and attitudes such as these. I will not shame you for defending your friend, but you must respect the views and histories of others who have been hurt by those from the past with similar ideologies.

3/10/2008 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes someone with a BIG heart to manage TUSD, and NOT a corporate business man. Our school district is diverse and has a unique student population. We should embrace those programs in our district that are helping meet the needs of those students, families, and the community of Tucson!

3/10/2008 10:26 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

The appointment of this man who is clearly out of touch with the realities of what exactly "culture" means, is another reprehensible example of TUSD's willingness to yet again sell out our children to corporate interests. I want the members of my child's school board to be educators NOT unqualified members of corporate America, who continue to perpetuate at the highest levels of society racism and ignorance. This has no place in our schools!

3/11/2008 5:13 PM  
Blogger enough is enough said...

This is way too late seeing as someone was already chosen for the job and their choice seems logical. I have in the past made the comment that "having Rick Myers act as auditor or moderator for the City Council and Mike Hein in regards to the budget would be a conflict of interest". And I still feel that way. However, I will say that there are many people here attacking someone they don't know and they are quite wrong about him. And I think that Casey DeLorme made some good points in his comments about Mr. Myers. I have worked with Rick Myers and while I don't agree with everything SALC did during my time there, Rick Myers is a very caring person, he respects everyone's opinions and his leadership skills are admirable. I still respect Rick even though I have spoken out against SALC's role in hiring Mike Hein - who I feel is an incompetent, dishonest scoundrel who should have been fired by now. For all I know, perhaps Mr. Myers regrets helping Mr. Hein get hired (and maybe not). Mr Rick Myers has dedicated a lot of time trying to help TUSD in the past for no fees and I do believe he cares about the future of our kids education in all school districts. I agree with TUSD in their choice of someone with an educational background for the job of superintendent but after reading what was said about Mr. Myers, I didn't agree with much of what was assumed about him. And Casey makes the very true point about society's lack of appreciation for education in the fact that part of our society includes our youth and many school age kids don't realize how important and valuable education is and that they should take as much as they can. Also, society is so busy these days that often parents are not as engaged in their kid's educations as they should be. I'm not trying to pick on dual income families, but along the way many parents have become too busy and not as involved in their kids lives as they used to be and as a result, our youth generally suffered from an educational and values standpoint. Like it or not, it's true. That is how I see Mr. Myers and Mr. DeLorme's comments about culture and education.

12/04/2008 2:17 PM  

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