School Leadership Teams/ Open- Closed Mtgs, Etc.

Dec 2, 2016 by

School Leadership Teams (SLTs)  have been around for a long time and probably will stick around til the end of time or the demise of our public schools, whichever comes first. They are useful to democracy-touting politicians, Department of Education publicists and those who promote self-deception in the public interest.

It certainly sounds like a good idea and indeed it is a grand scheme.  A bit like the United Nations. But the reality falls far short of the ideal and probably deliberately so. But that doesn’t diminish the purpose it serves.

SLTs were recently in the news when a principal mistakenly closed her school’s SLT meeting to the public and the press. The chancellor had earlier determined they were to be closed but a judge ruled otherwise. Except for folks with a fetish for boredom or with a high curiosity threshold, or a sopping passerby seeking shelter during a cloudburst, nobody would attend a typical SLT meeting except under duress of a court order.

I personally feel the meetings should be closed. Just in case outsiders with their own agendas pop in.

The School Leadership Teams were designed to give every constituency in the school community ( except the slugs left in the yard after a rain) a role in shared decision-making, regardless of training, knowledge,experience, or motives.

The epic particulars are spelled out in a chancellor’s regulation in the form of a 23-page pdf.

These teams are charged with identifying and prioritizing each school’s unique educational needs, devising a Comprehensive Education Plan based upon them and apportioning the school’s budget accordingly.

There is a stipulated minimum and maximum number of members on the SLT and the number of members to be drawn from each group. Most are parents. The rest are school administrators, teachers, and others. Even students are included.

When it comes to achieving a consensus, the votes of all members are supposed to be equal, each getting one vote. But it rarely works that way. Anyway,  is it realistic or desirable that each member of the SLT have a single vote of identical value?

Principals take total charge of the agenda, run the meeting and orchestrate the decisions. They don’t need to seize control as most of the other members accept the culture and former logic of the principal being best suited to be in-charge.

Technically there must be a quorum for business to be transacted. But unless there are repeated reminders  and there is plenty of pizza and babaganoush, many invited members will forfeit this ticket to ride the democracy in action. train. 

Can’t blame them.  People are are too busy to be gulled into feeling franchised. They probably sense they are being exploited to give the bureaucracy brownie points for setting up a mirage of creative inclusiveness.

If School Leadership Teams are to continue to hold meetings until the expiration of eternity in an everlasting quest to seem egalitarian, at least they should be closed to the public and the press.

Imagine the New York Post being able to sit in and audit meetings at which confidential matters, including personnel and privacy issues, will be discussed.

Or sharing necessary secrets with random and unvetted members of a community, or imposters who say they are. Consider the risk leaks and the pitfalls of playing to unknown audiences!

The School Leadership Teams may be dysfunctional in practice but they remain legitimate in conception.
Like the United Nations.

Ron Isaac

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