Monday, November 08, 2004

From The Registry Of Bad School Administrators: Alan Bersin Of San Diego

Getting Their Jobs Back
Several years ago, the San Diego Unified School District hired a superintendent that had no experience in the field of education. As soon as his multi-year contract was signed, sealed, and delivered, Superintendent Alan Bersin began to make wholesale changes to the system, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was in this case.

He began by increasing the size of the District's top-level bureaucracy by hiring a group of cronies to fill a number of newly-created jobs. The governing board of trustees rubber-stamped the hirings. Bersin paid top-dollar, and ensured that "his" district administrators received substantial yearly "bonuses" that he, and he alone, submitted to the board for its automatic approval.

He then turned his attention to "sending a message" to practicing teachers and school site administrators. Among other things, and without warning or explanation, he reassigned 15 principals and vice principals to the classroom. Not surprisingly, administrator and teacher morale plummeted at schools throughout the city.

Out of that group of 15 reassigned administrators, 11 filed lawsuits alleging the District failed to follow correct procedures. Fellow school site administrators helped raise funds to pay the staggering legal fees. After several years in and out of court, The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting
former principals win their case against district. The decision requires the district to reimburse lost pay, benefits, and legal fees.

The Education Wonks do not live nor work in San Diego County, but we are very familiar with Superintendent Bersin. His reputation has spread far and wide, and California is not that big.

In his effort to implement wholesale changes, he forgot one of the fundamental principals (sorry) of leadership. When one takes a management job, "Work with the people that are there until you can evaluate them yourself."

Terror makes for a poor leadership model.

Bersin's tenure as Superintendent has been bad for teachers and bad for school site administrators. And anything that lowers the morale of educators is therefore bad for kids.

To Confidential TipWonk In San Diego: "Stout hearts and common sense will prevail."