My visit to school Z was pushed to next week. My visit to School Y last week was a bit less tense than the last meeting.

I don’t lay this all on the resistance of the district to the process imposed on them. I will take some process blame in my own self-reflection. The state agency should also recognize its mistakes too.

As for me, my mistake(s) likely were assuming that the process had been clearly communicated to the school by the state agency. Another error on my part at the outset was assuming that the school and the district’s receptiveness to the process had already been cleared and clarified.

Not true in either case. When I began to repeat the role responsibilities of everyone district and building officials became concerned. They claimed they did not know about the review teams’ charge to observe classrooms. They claimed that  they did not know that the review team should not consist of members of the school under review.

Another mistake I made was that I dug in. Even though I was correct in understanding what I and the team was expected to do I initially made no room for a win-win. I think I dug in because I felt challenged virtually from the outset by a district official who claimed not to know about the classroom visits and felt that inasmuch as the school was cited for not meeting the standard in the categories of English Language Learners and of Students with Disabilities any observations we might do should only be of Special Education or ELL classes.

Now I was right to dig in about the need to observe a sampling of all classes! The official’s thinking, silo thinking of the first order, was actually quite telling on reflection. He simply did not see the school performance issue(s) as system / school wide and the sum of how instruction and of grouping these children might be affected.

And we will be observing all kinds of classes. But I confess to having been put off at the challenge and that led to needless win-lose conversations about the other processes noted above.

In the end I had enough good sense, the next day to realize that my own rigidity, in reaction to their continued rigidity, would only breed a he-said she-said mentality that would interfere with my own and the team’s ability to perform its duties and to make the best recommendations for the school and the school’s children. I won’t bore you with the specifics but in the end I relented on some procedure points that gave them concern without sacrificing the process.

The other elephant in the room is the teachers’ union. It is clear that the union is protective, rightfully, of its members. It is clear that the district is very mindful of the union’s sway and anxious to ensure that the union does not get upset.

I had and have major problems with this notwithstanding my own respect for what a union is supposed to do. What has saved the day in my estimation, at this point, is that I have worked with the union official assigned to the team. While is she is clearly devoted to what her role is it is equally clear that she is a professional who will collaborate and contribute mightily.

The review will begin after the holiday and we shall see.

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