A Superintendent Writes… Treat the Symptoms vs. Treat the Disease

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A LYS Superintendent submits the following:

LYS Nation,

Of course we know that not every disease has a cure.  If a patient is sick, then most certainly the ideal course of action is to cure the disease.  This can be done through surgery, or perhaps through antibiotics.  Of course there are some ailments that simply can’t be cured.  In these cases physicians treat the symptoms: can you lower the fever; stop the bleeding?  You get the idea.  There may be no cure for the flu, but we can lower fever and manage symptoms until the body heals itself, which is a neat trick.  Too bad organizations can’t spontaneously heal themselves.  

Now I am sure you are wondering where this is going.  You see, I was recently asked to interview in a larger district. In the interview I was asked a question about dealing with a principal who did not get along with his faculty.  I gave the Board the correct answer, but it was not the answer the Board was looking for.  Which means that particular Board failed in my interview of them (and it is safe to assume that the reverse is also true).

If you have discord on a campus between administration and faculty, it is prudent for the superintendent to cure the disease.  In my interview scenario the board obviously wanted to hear that the principal had to go.  They heard no such response from me.  My course of action would be to determine the source of discord: administration or faculty.  If the principal is a tyrant bent on abusing people, the principal has to go.  If the faculty has a general attitude of insubordination and doesn’t want to do what the principal asks them to do, then a whole bunch of faculty needs to go.

The Board believed, and wanted me to confirm, that it would be easier to find a new principal rather than a whole bunch of new teachers.  Easier yes, but that is treating the symptoms, not the disease.  

If I take an utterly dysfunctional faculty and add another principal, guess what?  I sill have a dysfunctional faculty.  I cured nothing, and the symptom relief I get will be brief indeed.  I have seen campuses go through every type of principal possible before realizing some teachers had to go.  In the interim, the children suffered tremendously, a fact that the adults and leadership aggressively ignore.  

It is emotionally and intellectually satisfying to think replacing a principal is the best way to solve discord problems on a campus.  And certainly, it is numerically easier (and politically easier) to replace one principal rather than a bunch of teachers.  But unless the principal is the problem, you have cured nothing, the disease will still rage (although it may go dormant for a short time) and the children will suffer.  Be brave and take the high road.  Determine what the disease is, and act to cure it.  It will take decisive action, because unlike the body, your organization will not heal itself.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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