Friday, March 18, 2016

Comment of the Day: New Administrator Needs Time to Prove She Can Help D181 Turn a Curriculum Corner

This morning we received a series of comments from highly respected, D181 resident, former BOE member and active D181 Committee Volunteer -- Ann Mueller -- addressing one of the two new Curriculum Department hires.  We think Ms. Mueller's comments are spot on and are therefore publishing them (the portion dealing with Curriculum) as the Comment of the Day. 

As always, SOUND OFF -- however, in the interest of being constructive, we will not publish comments that are simply attacks on past administrators. It is time to look to the future and be positive and hopeful in our commentary.  


Ann Mueller said...
I would like to answer both 3/16, 8:15 am and 3/17, 10: 04 am's questions about both the interview process for the new Asst Supt. of Learning and the actual individual selected, Kelley Gaullt. I was a member of the interview committee for this position. Kelley Gaullt was absolutely my #1 choice of all the individuals interviewed, even above the person first offered the job who turned D181 down. I didn't select the individual who first turned D181 down as my first choice, because I could tell that person was only going through the interview process in order to go back to their current district and get a longer contract and more money. And, that is exactly what happened! I've seen it happen before. You know when a candidate walks out the door and tells you "Good Luck!" that they aren't genuinely interested in the job!

Anyway, as a former teacher, D181BOE member and BOE president, and someone who experienced D181 at its best, I absolutely recognize, as mentioned, that D181's curriculum is a "hot mess."The last eight years have been a disaster in D181 in the area of curriculum. D181 is absolutely in great need of an educational leader who can assess the D181 situation by talking with teachers, administrators, parents, and other community members and then, with the knowledge of best practice and appropriate educational approaches for D181, assemble a plan for D181, roll out that plan and assess the plan's outcomes. I genuinely believe that Kelley Gaullt has the background, experience and knowledge base to do exactly what D181 needs!
Part 2: In reviewing the Dept. of Learning in D181 over the last 8 years, we have experienced Asst. Supt.s for Learning who may have had PhD's, but in the case of one individual, the PhD was in facilities, NOT CURRICULUM. Therefore, this person knew nothing about curriculum and that was the beginning of the "hot mess!" In addition, while this individual was head of the Dept. of Learning, other individuals were added to the D of L, who may have had PhD's (again NOT IN CURRICULUM) and there was a case that D181 actually PAID FOR a person's PhD, but they were worthless!!!! Perfect example where experience and actual knowledge gained on the job trumps rushing to get a degree every time. It is unfortunate that in today's education world, very few administrators take the time to gain the actual work experience and knowledge base along with the graduate degree, like in the "old days." In general, today's administrators rush to get a degree, in order to increase their salaries, but do not have the work experience and knowledge base necessary to do the job. Have we seen this situation in D181?? YES!!! There were and are administrators in D181 who had/have higher level degrees and KNEW/KNOW NOTHHING!!! That is why D181 has experienced 8 years of curriculum "downfall!" Also, I need to mention, administrators in D181 recently that have been elevated to positions that they had no training or experience in, but for some reason they ended up in the D of L. I don't need to name names because you know who they are. Fortunately, one is leaving and Dr. White and the BOE had better get rid of the other before Kelley Gaullt joins the district.

Kelley's job of fixing the curriculum mess in D181 is a big one and will take time. She is up to the challenge and has the knowledge base and experience, but she should not have to deal with the inept current people who NEVER belonged in the D of L to begin with! Kelley needs to be able to come in, assess the messy situation in D181 and develop a plan to fix the "hot mess." She needs to be able to have people she trusts and knows have the knowledge base and experience to help her with the D181 challenge. She needs her own people, not worthless individuals who have sucked up to pervious superintendents to get elevated to positions they had no business ever being in. As you can tell, I feel very strongly on this point. If Dr. White does not let Kelley do her job...come in and assess the situation by talking with teachers, administrators, parents and community members then develop a plan to fix the D181 situation with the people she needs and trusts...then he needs to go. This will be a huge test of Dr. White's perception of what now needs to happen in D181 since he really blew it to begin with. You know what I mean!!!!!

Enough lamenting, but it is painful to see what our D181 students have been exposed to or not exposed to over the last 8 years. Our students are resilient. However, I can't help but think how well they'd be doing if they had been exposed to the right things! To have to now overcome exposure to inappropriate or lacking curriculum is a shame. But, believe me,your children can and will do it. And, they, in all probability, possibly will be better students for it. Regardless of our desire as parents that our students only experience the best their whole lives, life presents challenges. As a former principal at Elm once told me, it is far better that our children experience failures and challenges early in life and learn from these challenges so that they carry on in their lives with the necessary coping skills to be successful. I have seen proof of this in my adult children's lives.
Part 3: I'm almost finished. As far as Kelley Gaullt's background and experience in education, the reason she was my first choice for the D181 position of Asst. Supt. for Learning is because she has experienced and done it all! She was a classroom teacher, a specialist, an assist. principal, a principal and, finally, a curriculum person. And, as a curriculum person, she worked in a K-12 district and had SpEd as her responsibility, too. Believe me, you just don't see educators with this depth and breath of experience anymore. They just don't exist anymore.

On top of Kelley's knowledge base and experience, my perception is, and I have also been told this by someone who has worked with Kelley, that Kelley possesses exceptional people skills. D181 has NOT experienced an Asst. Supt. for Learning with that skill set for a very long time. My understanding is that Kelley is a "child centered educator." She wants what is best for kids. That will be a new and different experience in D181, too. I don't mean to be horribly sarcastic, but it is about time D181had an administrator who cared about kids and not just about themselves and their career. Please, give Kelley Gaullt the chance she deserves to do right by our students. She will need your support for her to make the changes necessary to bring D181 back to being the"lighthouse" district it use to be. She knows what to do because she has done it before. Let's help her in any way we can. Our students deserve the best."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ann, I could not have said it better myself. Outstanding summary and post! To add one more thing, I hope the new Assistant Superintendent of Learning/Student Services is equally qualified and up to the task of addressing our horrifically broken special education services! We cannot call ourselves an outstanding school district unless we are fostering excellence in education for all students. Excellence in education means using evidence based and research based instructional practices to address the challenges and foster the strengths of our different learners, who exist across all levels of abilities and intellect.

Over the past several years, smoke and mirrors and manipulation of test data have been used to prevent identification of such student needs. The very few students who are acknowledged as needing additional help and/or different type of instruction are basically provided a bandaid to address a hemorrhage. Administrators have had little to no knowledge of research and evidence based practices. This has been the most obvious within the area of reading and literacy skills. Administrators and others in pupil services have been known to actively deny the existence of reading challenges, and struggling readers have simply been pushed from grade to grade and from elementary to middle to high school. I am in utter shock and disbelieve that ensuring ALL students EXCEL in literacy skills is not one of THE MOST important tasks of any school system. Data is actively manipulated and/or ignored on a routine basis throughout the district. Many in the district do not even seem to know what the multitude of standardized tests given to our kids even measure, or importantly do not measure, let alone how to interpret the data.

As an eternal optimist myself, I am hopeful that our new Assistant Superintendent of Learning for Pupil Services comes with the desire and ability to comprehensively rehabilitate our horribly broken special education system at all levels, particularly with the identification process as well as implementation of evidence based practices. It will be critical for both of our new administrators to work collaboratively in this process as our Response to Intervention services are not even remotely utilizing good research based practices that would prevent need for special education services in the first place. We have known in the education community for many years that there is a not insignificant portion of the student population that requires a different type of instruction to learn to read or master math or to foster unique gifts and talents. Please, we beg of our new administrators to rehab a broken curriculum (regular ed, special ed, gifted ed) utilizing evidence based, child centered, state of the art practices worthy of a premier school district such as D181.