In response to the post, “Who Really is Not Getting the Job Done,” a reader writes:

“I liked this topic, and I cannot agree more. However, what about former leadership that has left a wake of weak, entrenched teachers flailing about, who are too numerous to fire in one years time? The reality of public education is that leadership changes regularly, and often times they do not handle difficult HR issues before they leave, out of fear! Ultimately, they leave the incoming leadership with a campus of low morale, sub-par teaching, and an “us against them” attitude that is very hard to overcome in a short period of time. As a new VP this year I have witnessed a little of this at my campus. I have done my best to raise morale and still enforce intense accountability, but there are some entrenched teachers who are politically connected that will never be fired. It is just frustrating that some teachers are “above the law.” Please educate me on what you do about entrenched, politically protected, less than marginal teachers.”

SC Response
First, this situation is not uncommon. Generally speaking, the weaker the leader is, the weaker the staff. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is as follows: If I am a teacher with skills, ambition and options, why would I work for somebody who has no capacity to make me better. To paraphrase Maxwell, if you look around and notice that all your staff is sorry, you need to step up your game. All of that to say, that with some skill and experience it is possible to turn around the described situation.

As a stated in a previous post, we all crave leadership. A lot of staff behavior is the result of no leadership. Give your people something worthwhile to work for; bring them the tools they need to be successful; give them support, feedback and a kick in the butt when they need it. You will find that most of the staff will start to respond positively. Then, watch those that don’t respond positively. Find the one that is actively working against you and make that person your special project. They will either improve (you win) or they will leave (you win). You don’t have to (and can’t) fire everyone. So act strategically. Co-opt or remove the opposition leadership and if your mission is compelling, the masses will quickly fall in line.

As for “above the law” teachers, you generally have three options. One, you can cater to them, like everyone else has. I wouldn’t do it, but I have been told that you can catch more bee’s with honey than with vinegar. Two, you can get in a war. Build your case, bury them in the objective proof that they are bad for kids and relentlessly push for their improvement or removal. With this strategy, do know that you can win the battle and loose the war (especially if you are in a small town and the Ag teacher is the problem). Finally, you can “nothing” them. To “nothing” someone is to act as if they do not exist. You are a driven, busy educator that is working everyday to make things better for your students. You have limited time and resources. Those that are working with you, receive that time and resource access. Those that are not working with you get, “nothing.”

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…