Parents in Sonoma Valley can relax: There is NO truth to rumors that school trustees are heading to Afghanistan to learn how to run a decent school district.
At least it wasn’t mentioned in the superintendent’s recent letter to parents, sent after yet another wave of staff resignations in the annual rite known hereabouts as Spring Breakout.
In his letter, this year’s superintendent announced his determined determination to staunch the flood of resignations by hiring only The Best And The Brightest. Apparently, hiring The Best And The Brightest has not previously been the District’s policy, and/or school staff racing for the exits this year and in previous years were not The Best And The Brightest.
Or maybe they were. At least bright enough to recognize that working in our schools was not meeting their professional goals or enhancing their resumes.
Perhaps some found it embarrassing to work in a district where so few students can read at grade level. Perhaps they were demoralized by shrinking enrollment that has left some schools increasingly empty. Or felt leaderless in the constant churn of superintendents. Or were disgusted by the squabbling among school trustees, past and present, or by long daily commutes from places where they could actually afford to live.
Some may have departed to retirement, others because of changes in family circumstances, or to take jobs closer to home or for better pay, or simply because they found Sonoma Valley Unified “just isn’t what they thought it would be.”
Does anyone really know? Presumably, the District has or will conduct thorough exit interviews with the Dearly Departing to learn their reasons for leaving, in hopes that whatever drove them to quit our floundering school district might be remedied and/or to recruit replacements willing to work in spite of such conditions.
In short, it’s easy to recognize The Best And The Brightest. Attracting, hiring, and retaining them is an entirely bigger challenge. It begins by appreciating that it’s impossible to hire them unless they first want to work here, and that is increasingly unlikely for a school district with a reputation for high staff turnover and low student achievement; for trustees, administration, staff, and/or parents constantly at war with & among each other; and with a student body now fearful of entering the restrooms.
Hiring The Best And The Brightest begins with understanding and accommodating their needs and expectations, and matching their talents, interests, and energy to The District’s Grand Plan.
Speaking of which, there seems to be none. Instead of spending taxpayer money investigating each other, trustees might consider convening a retreat where administrators and staff can confer together with teachers and – yes – the unions representing them to devise a school-by-school, grade-by-grade, student-by-student Grand Plan for creating an educational enterprise that will have The Best And The Brightest beating down the door to teach in Sonoma Valley Unified.
Otherwise, there seems little or no reason to expect this year’s superintendent – or next year’s ? – to fix the District’s existential problems without a clear plan crafted, understood, and supported by the entire educational community.
In other words, Sonoma Valley Unified seems to need what parents of learning-disabled Special Education kids know as an IEP – an Individualized Education Plan – identifying all areas needing improvement, setting measurable goals for success, and designating the personnel, the means, and the timetable for achieving them.
The Best And The Brightest would expect no less.