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Monday, Oct. 15, 2007 | Emily Alpert‘s article, “Are Three Schools Better Than One?” falls short of all the issues here. The inclusion of a parent’s perspective is fantastic and I was thrilled to see the new area superintendent was included as well. What wasn’t taken into account is the timing and intrusion by the board during all of these activities.
There was little to no funding that came in support of this transition, and certainly no funding that followed the next two years. As an active employee at Mann Middle School for the past two years, I struggled to gain support from the school district for additional resources. Along with the parent academic liaison and a volunteer for the School of Expression, we started a strategic planning committee and were able to draw in parent support here as well.
But very little was accomplished due to the lack of support from the District, no funding, and inability to create the change needed. The community is in support of rebuilding this school and recognizes the change that occurred in just two short years. The neighborhood is cleaner — students have been out cleaning up the streets — there are fewer graffiti issues, and fighting has been curtailed down to a minimum, if at all.
What isn’t seen in Ms. Alpert’s article is the love for the school that the staff puts in on a daily basis. Teachers work hard to develop lessons that are engaging and standards-based in order to level the playing field, as best they can. Teachers and staff used to be known for the home visits they would do in order to connect with students’ families. And, if you took just a bit of time, you would notice that the after-school student clubs were well-attended. Kids liked being at Mann.
The mass exodus by teachers was a direct response to the removal by the school board of two principals, with no direction because the area superintendent at the time had already moved on to another school district. The new administrators were appointed during summer months — even though this is a year-round school — with no voice or participation given to staff through the selection process.
The superintendent and union president did come out to the school for a staff meeting, but the message was loud and clear: We know you have it hard. It shouldn’t be that way. We haven’t communicated with you and that isn’t going to change. This is your only chance to give input on what’s happening here at Mann, but we don’t agree with what you are saying, and will go ahead with our plans.
So, take a great idea, with staff and parent support, but don’t help it in any way, and what do you get? Increased test scores (Expressions’ scores increased by 19 points!), a staff and student population that believe in the cause, and steps towards success. Take away the leadership and change it all again just two years later and what do you get? Low morale, teacher turn-over, lack of vision, poor implementation, and all of the negative outcomes begin to crop back up. Shame on the San Diego Unified School District for not supporting Mann and the milestones it had already made!
Change theorists know it takes a minimum of four to five years to see marked results when an organization takes these kinds of drastic steps. What now you ask? That question must be answered by the teachers, students, parents, and staff at Mann. No one else truly knows what is needed.