Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dear Babs ...

You've barely gotten your feet wet, yet those you must work with inside Greece Central are already showing that they do NOT want change! From the Board of Education, to District Office staff, they are already resisting your efforts to accomplish what you know needs to be done to get the Greece Central School District back on track. The evidence is absolutely oozing from the documents produced after the July 26th study session. How else can you explain that "We need to move more aggressively on closing a school." gets translated as: "Contemplate closing a school" in a PR piece? Or that "As a board we need to pull together as a team" morphs into a manipulative statement like: "Establish a strong governance team with the Superintendent, Cabinet, and District"?

You must realize quickly that the people you work with are DYSFUNCTIONAL! They insist on retaining control! They do NOT WANT CHANGE! They fear change! That's why they left the school-of-choice, transportation, school boundary and school configuration mess alone following committees, studies and O'Rourke's year of devising a plan! They don't want you to make any changes either.

With all of that in mind, I'm sharing a few ideas on how to operate as you travel down this murky path you've put yourself on and survive. It won't be easy, but it can be done.

First of all, you must stay strong and insist that your vision, ideas and plans for change are the reasons we brought you to Greece. We hired YOU after two nationwide searches, so this is no small matter! Your sense of what needs to be accomplished is what landed you the job. You must stay the course. To do so, your message to board members, staffers, etc. must be "RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!"

In other words, be ready to dig in your heels on issues where you know what needs to be done and then insist that those you must work with get on board to do it. If you fail to do this, you may as well throw your hands into the air and surrender now. Your peers will eat you alive if they sense any weakness. Don't believe me? Ask Steve Achramovitch, your predecessor. The two times he ever tried to do his job as Superintendent, keeping the best interests of the whole district in mind, the BOE turned against him! They reversed his decisions and left him neutered and powerless. (Firing the hockey coaches, dispersing West Ridge's under-subscribed kindergarten to other district schools.)

Second of all, you must refrain from attempting to become friends with the people you work with. Keep business as business, period. You can not go golfing in the afternoon and then try to go against that person you golfed with in a meeting 5 hrs. later. It doesn't work! No eating out with employees or board members or Chamber of Commerce or Rotary members unless it's a business/working meal and everything is kept on a professional footing. No drinking after meetings with the BOE at Applebee's, the Lamplighter, The Distillery or anywhere else. No tennis games, no visits to Pineapple Jack's or other "clubs", no road trips ... you must remain the consummate professional at all times, or they will expose any Achille's heel you may have and use it against you.

Lastly, these people are expert manipulators of issues, words and people, thus half a dozen Superintendents in about as many years and a pile of problems steeping on the backburner waiting for your attention. If you wish to stay the duration of your contract, you must remain professional at all times. Don't let them distract you with personal attacks while trying to deal with a difficult issue requiring change. Diversion is one of the behaviors they are masters at. This is the game of Survivor. You must outwit, outlast and outplay your colleagues to win. You CAN do it, but it won't be easy.

Best of Luck,



Anonymous said...

I think we would all be fool-hardy to underestimate this woman.

She's going to be transformational.

You think she doesn't know it's a game of Survivor?

If you really think so, joke's on you. The only successful Survivors are the ones skilled enough at the game that they get others to gladly do their scut work for them. They get what they want by playing the big game while others are distracted by the little game.
Sandra's the only one to win twice, remember?

In Greece, the little game is the noisy one...the one with the online SCREAMING, the fury of emails and phone calls and the bountiful board meetings packed with irate parents.
The big game is making the changes.

So, welcome to the alliance ;)

If anyone thinks the Board Briefs document SCATS is inflamed over was posted without being vetted, you're sorely mistaken. Being polite and even-handed putting out information gets more people to consider your ideas, rather than just stick with their knee-jerk reactions. There's far more than one constituency that's going to have to get on board in order to make wholesale changes in the system.

Can't just be Captain Bligh...not unless you want to find yourself floating out to sea.

Steve Walts was that kind of imperious leader. You might disagree mightily with what he was doing, but I'll tell you this...when he wanted something done, it was done because "Resistance if Futile."

You always have to remember that it's you who works for the Board of Education, not the other way around. And, you can't fire thousands of union-represented employees. What you need to do is

What Greece NEEDS is an tungsten carbide hand in a fuzzy velvet glove.

Complaining about the process is all part of that little game. Let's keep an eye on the big game and the absolutely upcoming results.

SCATS said...

To 4:01PM ~~ Who is Sandra? Where is the rest of your thought on this: "What you need to do is " ?

As far as transformational goes, I really hope you are right. Believing requires seeing ;)

Anonymous said...

Good letter SCATS. It never hurts to remind the top bosses what their job really is. 4:01 sounds like an administrator. If he or she thinks Greece vets all of their PR with the super before releasing it, then he or she is part of the trouble. I still remember one board firing the PR person for the garbage that went out.

Anonymous said...

Lets hope this reminder isn't too little, too late. Word is she's already been wined and dined by the board and administration.

Anonymous said...

SCATS, I wonder where you work. In this job climate, at a place that is cutting costs, your main objective as an employee is to survive. If a change puts your job in danger, you fight that change by undermining it. You also suck up big time and humanize yourself to your management so as to make it difficult to fire you.

You act like GCSD is some special place that's not like Kodak or anywhere else where this is going on. I have friends at Kodak that daily debase themselves and make or support ridiculous decisions if it leads to them keeping their jobs.

Please don't keep acting like you don't understand the actions of GCSD people. They are in survival mode and it's like that all over. "Babs" might be able to rise above that but she's human too and wants people to like her. It's going to be a fine line between being some kind of hatchet-wielding queen b@tch and someone that people will be able to trust. But that's why she's getting the big bucks, right?

Anonymous said...

"Steve Walts was that kind of imperious leader." Yes he was but he had some great ideas and was not afraid to try them. He tried to use the law to help him remove poor teachers. The union did not like that he didn't use their leadership to push people out by extortion as his predecessors did. Then the union aligned themselves with the CARE group. The rest is history.

SCATS said...

To 8:44PM ~~ Re: "You act like GCSD is some special place that's not like Kodak or anywhere else where this is going on."

Where WHAT is going on? Kodak & GCSD have little in common with each other given that GCSD still employs 1000+ teachers despite a huge decline in students. To top it off, most of those teachers get raises no matter what they do (or don't do) or what the economy does.

To 8:48PM ~~ Steve Walts had the right idea about which teachers to oust. It was his methods that did him in.

Anonymous said...

SCATS: Sandra won Survivor twice.

"What you need to do is"...morphed into what Greece needs...

5:17 - the only person the board can hire or fire is the Superintendent. If you think a Super is going to take a hit for a PR peon...well, let's just say it's way more than unlikely.

Have you never worked for a big business?

And..."4:01 sounds like an administrator."

What an utterly fascinating thing to say... Why?

'Cuz, frankly, I haven't even played one on TV.

Anonymous said...

To 9:30 - Previous Greece supers let the PR folk run amok. Only HMO ever took that issue on and fired some of those twits for pumping out garbage to the citizen taxpayers. No super has been held accountable for PR errors in the last 35 years that I recall.

Anonymous said...

Interesting letter Pus. Here's an idea - you think you have all the answers? Sounds like you have a platform you should run on for next year's election. Go for it and let the people decide if they agree with your thoughts. It's the democratic process.

SCATS said...

To 4:08AM ~~ It's only "the democratic process" if I want to run for office. I don't, but thanks for your support.

Anonymous said...

To 5:17, the state says that the job of the Supt is to suggest programs that carry out the policies and goals of the school board. Oh wait! the board has no policies or goals (like improving grad rates to XXX by YYY) or limiting growth on budget to a set percentage, or reducing drop out rates by XX, or improving test scores by YYY. Without direction, the Supt can offer up change after change, guessing what the board will like.

Anonymous said...

4:08 How do you know scats hasn't run for office? How do you know that scats isn't in office? Scats could have been a board member or assembly person or town council member.
The letter seems to present the view that if the superintendent is on track and does her job, the district will run smoothly, like most of the other suburban districts in Monroe County.

SCATS said...

To 8:47AM ~~ Now my little "secret" is out! (Cheshire smile)

The idea of Greece Central running smoothly shouldn't seem novel, but it does ...