We found unexplained coincidences and confusion in the recent bad national press that Gilbert Public Schools has allowed to fester, so we began to connect some dots among unexplained elements of recent media stories.
Would it surprise you to know that Westie found some interesting correlations among what at first appeared to be unrelated data? Of course not, this is Gilbert Public Schools, where weak leadership at the superintendent and administrator level creates incessant turmoil.
A data point that intrigues us is the way GPS principals have been taught to manage their time with the proprietary coaching program, The Breakthrough Coach. This is fancy stuff! It’s research based.* It costs money! Here’s how the program is advertised, which shows what’s really important in this program:
The Breakthrough Coach (TBC) consulting team works with education leaders to adapt proven business management techniques to the educational environment at both the building and the district level.
TBC’s Management Methodology™ is a research-based program with a track record of:
•Multiplying the time instructional leaders spend in classrooms
•Raising student achievement
•Decreasing total work hours
TBC’s Management Methodology™ enables educators to:
•Spend two full days each week observing classroom instruction
•Maintain a sensible workload
•Achieve fulfilling professional and personal lives
It’s very important to The BreakThrough CoachBS that principals attend with their secretaries. One of the touted benefits of this program is:
Empower your secretary to run the front office – she’s much better at it than you are.
That’s a dirty little secret that the GPS administration doesn’t want you to know. The secretaries (in GPS, they’re called Administrative Assistants) are running the schools. There was training for each element of this program, starting with the need for the secretaries to manage the principal’s calendar. The whole point is to allow principals to spend only 80% of their time running their schools. The priorities are 2 days for supervision of employees (observations, evaluations, etc.) and 2 days for parents (conferences, phone calls, discipline, etc).
What do principals do with that 5th day each week? That day is reserved for meetings at the district and other places. Unless you’re principal Robyn Conrad of Playa del Rey Elementary School; she is on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). For the next three years she will serve as director and representative for principals in Zone IX, which covers Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, and Samoa.
Dr. Robyn Conrad also was the biggest proponent for adopting The BreakThrough CoachBS for Gilbert principals and their secretaries. She’s a busy gal. Besides, what could possibly go wrong with secretaries running the schools?
Perhaps the parent who called the television station about bullying felt like she got the brush off when she called the school (as the parent said she did). Maybe the parent called and discovered it wasn’t the principal’s day to meet with parents. Yeah…. you’re right, that’s a bit far-fetched, especially given the school where the bullying allegedly occurred. You have to wonder if such a thing could actually happen.
Wait, it DID happen! At a school where The BreakThrough CoachBS is revered as a consummate management solution! What happened was that a student was referred to the principal on February 7th for bullying in the classroom. On February 18th, the parent emailed the teacher to say that the principal’s secretary had scheduled a meeting on March 4th between the parents, the teacher and the principal. Almost a month sounds like a long wait, doesn’t it? It was, but that’s how the principal’s secretary scheduled this principal’s calendar, using The BreakThrough CoachBS principles. In the meantime, the student who was bullying became the class celebrity as she continued to bully without consequence while the teacher waited for the principal to handle the matter according to district policy.
Do you recognize these delays as the first indicators of impending doom in Sarah’s Story? These events occurred in 2011, but the same conditions exist today. Parents have to make appointments to discuss matters with their children’s principals. Teachers have to make appointments to talk to their principals. The secretary decides who gets on the principal’s calendar and who does not. No one would take these ideas to the level of absurdity, would they? As it turns out, with all those professional, highly educated people working in each and every school in the district, there’s only one person who runs the front office, and therefore, the school. The secretary.
Turns out those delays were a feature, not a bug! Seriously. Malachi Pancoast, President and Founder of The BreakThrough CoachBS actually tweeted these gems of wisdom for principals:
It’s not about doing as you like. It’s about doing what your secretary tells you to do. (Feb 20th 6:05 PM)
Where can you practice saying,”No. I am not going to do that,” today? (Feb 20th 5:02 AM)
Here are two “success stories” about The BreakThrough CoachBS program that showcase a level of absurdity:
When I arrived at [my school], I found an office filled with junk, and even an old envelope filled with cash from some long-ago fundraiser! I emptied the office (I now have only 2 chairs, a conference table, a bookshelf, and a stand-up desk). I immediately began daily meetings with my secretary and empowered her to manage my calendar. We began using TBC’s recommended accountability log and request forms, and – most important – began regularly scheduling at least 2 coaching days out of the office each week. [Note from Westie: It seems that fundraisers with leftover money lying around the office might happen more often than we thought!]
Steps to Achieve Breakthrough: This story is about how I’ve attempted to be a principal in 40 hours a week, give or take a few hours here and there! … 2. Cleaned my office. 3. Purchased a new filing system. 4. Employed a new secretary… [Secretary] now has her own office away from the interruptions of the reception area. We now have full coverage in that area which allows [Secretary] to focus on her work. [Note from Westie: Fire one office employee and hire two in her place – what a way to achieve breakthrough!]
So, parents of students in Gilbert Public Schools, look at the principal’s office the next time you’re in your child’s school. The BreakThrough CoachBS teaches that principals should have nothing in their offices but a desk and a conference table with some chairs. That’s called “Maintain your office impeccably – there should be nothing to distract from your priorities.” There’s even additional-cost support materials you can order, such as: “Want your colleagues to better understand what you’re now doing in the front office and why?”
Is it any wonder that communications are screwed up in Gilbert Public Schools? Who sat around thinking this up, as Dave Barry would say? (Check the title of Dave Barry’s new book, Insane City. We’re talking here about “Insane School District.” Sounds like a good name for a rock band.)
Honestly, we can’t make things up that are any funnier or more inappropriate than what really happens in Gilbert Public Schools under the guise of educational endeavors led by trained professionals. In the end, educating children comes second to these wonderful features of edu-bureaucracy. We’re waiting for the Powers That Be to tell parents they can’t make an appointment to speak with an educator until the parent masters the vocabulary of edu-speak. Sheesh.
BEWARE: The BreakThrough CoachBS is coming to Phoenix on March 13-14, 2013, and they’re offering special 2-day training sessions for principals and their secretaries:
DAY 1 Administrators attend ONLY. Day 2 Administrators attend with their Secretaries. All support materials included. Location: Paradise Valley Unified School District. Cost: $565 per team of two.
Memo to the GPS Governing Board: The BreakThrough CoachBS offers training for you, too!
* Big Fat Asterisk: When you hear “research based” in connection with any area of education, whatever it is will cost money. Lots of money. But like spycraft, if GPS told you how much, they’d have to kill you. ;>)