Walking the Talk When Using High Involvement Principles in Shared Planning and Decision Making
COURTROOM: THE AUDIENCE IS FILLED WITH A SCHOOL BUILDING’S STAKEHOLDERS, i.e. TEACHERS, STAFF, PARENTS, CHILDREN. THE DISTRICT CLERK STANDS BY THE JUDGE’S BENCH. LAWYER FOR THE PLAINTIFF ENTERS STAGE RIGHT WITH HER CLIENT, PRINCIPAL LAWRENCE LIPSERVICE. LAWYER FOR THE COMPLAINANT ENTERS FROM STAGE LEFT.
JUDGE ENTERS FROM HER CHAMBERS. ALL RISE. SHE GAVELS THE COURT TO ORDER.
All may be seated. District Clerk, please read the charges in this case.
Principal Lawrence Lipservice of Anytown Elementary School is charged with falsely implementing district policy about stakeholder involvement in school improvement planning and decision-making. Principal Lipservice is charged with routinely holding and presiding over meetings of these stakeholder groups and with ignoring its recommendations and actions.
Very well. I will take opening remarks from the Plaintiff.
Your honor, Principal Lipservice has been the educational leader of Anytown USA for eight years now. As such the school performance rates continue to be at best mediocre. This is particularly true in the cases of the school’s special education population, its English Language Learners students, and those of our poorest students. These trends persist, so much so, that the state education department has been called in four times in the past five years to assist the school in assessing itself, in using program review and root cause analyses, and in setting and following out remedial actions to right the ship’s course. In each of these cases, it is expected by state regulation and by district policy to convene stakeholder groups to collaborate with and contribute both to the diagnoses and to the strategies the school should use. In each of these cases, Principal Lipservice has ignored the input of these groups. At best he has listened to their deliberations and then has outright refused to follow their recommendations, at worst he has ignored them or even found ways to sabotage their efforts.
In addition Dr. Lipservice has asserted his so called educational, unilateral power structure so as to negate the collective wisdom and input of his stakeholders. He has not used recognized principles of educational research and practice related to High Involvement by intentionally blurring areas of stakeholder authority. He has given short shrift to professional training of school improvement groups. He has withheld important data. He has not communicated these groups’ efforts to other stakeholders. He has ignored their goals, will not delegate authority for enacting its goals. He either has not sought or will not provide resources to help them meet their goals.
In short Principal Lipservice is better titled King Lipservice. That is, instead of adhering to the age-old paradigm of principal as the first among teachers and stakeholders his behavior more nearly suggests that he is the only decision-maker that matters. And as such, his school and the children it serves, suffer for it.
Very well, I will hear Plaintiff’s response.
Thus begins the trial and testimony of Lawrence Lipservice and how or to what extent his leadership uses High Involvement variables. As you consider the evidence the variables will be examined individually but also sometimes in tandem with others. At trial’s end, we can debrief and parse what each of these variables actually means in true principal leadership. But as primer:
– Power: The extent to which a planning group knows where its actual authority begins and ends.
– Knowledge: How or to what extent the planning group has been trained to analyze data, draw valid conclusions, and plan strategies. It also refers to how and to what extent the group has been trained to be cohesive in its actions.
– Information: How or to what extent the planning group has the data, qualitative, and quantitative to make and take valid and effective action. It also refers to the extent to which the planning group represents and seeks input from all involved participants.
– Leadership: How or to what extent the planning group delegates authority on an ad hoc basis to effectively meet its goals.
– Goals: How or to what extent the group’s goals SMART.
– Resources: How or to what extent the group either seeks to obtain or uses the range of resources available to it to meet its goals.
– Rewards: How or to what extent the group receives recognition and satisfaction for its efforts.
~Richard Bernato, Ed.D