Educators – Learn How to Tell if Your Staff is Prepared for Change

Educational Leadership Case Study

Facts:

GrandBlanc School District houses 5300 students and over 700 employees. The district lies in an area that was once in the middle of a booming automobile industry, but since the demise of said flourishing, keeping people employed and residing in the area has become a challenge. The school, however, has no such problems in keeping attendance up, in fact, with its high record of academic achievement and a curriculum in place that is ever-changing and being updated that is founded on the concept that all students are treated as students who can obtain high standards of learning the school has become overpopulated. While the student population is ever growing, the staff and room to accommodate them are not. Staff is becoming younger and less experienced, and the newly hired assistant principal has not received any kind of training that you could call proper. A huge decision to create a split campus is in the works and the new A/P is in charge of giving the changes to the superintendent. Because he has not received adequate training on very pertinent issues that could affect this change, and because teachers are too busy to help him learn, morale is low and people are wondering exactly what is going to become of their jobs and their school in the very near future.

Morale is low among teachers and staff, not only because of the issue with the assistant principal, but also because teachers and staff workers were given no input on any of the changes that are about to take place.

Leadership Issues and Tensions:

The first and foremost important leadership issue was already mentioned, and that is that one of the hugely key players amidst all of these new changes is the assistant principal, who has virtually no training. This is an issue because without the proper training and experience, or at least the knowledge and background of what has gone on in the previously within the school system, and what areas need work and why, he is most likely not going to be able to get a truly adequate recommendation in to the superintendent prior to the implementation of the newly split campus. It also creates tension as teachers feel they are being inadequately represented in the whole scheme of things because he has no prior knowledge or information that could place them or keep them in the areas they feel is best for themselves and/or their students. They also could be feeling a lack of trust in how he will represent them (both because of his lack of experience and because of his lack to push for their involvement in such large issues that are going to inevitably affect them), and without trust work teams tend to fall apart (Wheatley).

Another issue, and one that blatantly stands out in the story, is the overpopulation of the school. This is creating tension because teachers want the school to remain popular and highly populated, but they also are not having enough time to properly instruct their courses and/or provide sufficient attention to each student to ensure the students maintain the academic achievement standards that they have in the past. In addition to this, the school currently receives the second highest level of funding in the state for the MEAP scholarship and in order to keep that they have to keep the academic learning level very high, which is difficult to do when so many new changes are coming about. This creates tension because if the standards are lowered in the school, and the academic level falls, there will be a whole new ballgame, so to speak, as far as how the changes will be perceived as affecting the school, and what the new roles for teachers and staff will be. It could create a hornet’s nest of problems that could have a domino affect on negative happenings within the school district. This needs to be prevented at all costs, but how to do so is a troubling issue for all involved.

A third tension abounding is that the deadline for the new changes has been issued with a very short time frame for implementation. This creates tension because change in itself is difficult and a transition period is absolutely required for smooth transaction, but with such a relatively short time frame, adjustment and transition time are not necessarily something that is being considered. This leaves the staff feeling like a fish out of water as they stand on uncertain ground, not knowing exactly what their place will be or how they are going to be able to fit in to their new surroundings. It also leaves tension amongst the staff because many do not want to be moved or resituated at all. Seniority has no say so in who is permitted to remain in a position they have had, and no input is being allowed from the teachers on this matter, so of course uncertainty amongst them is prevalent.

Next Steps/Alternate Approaches:

The first step/alternate approach that needs to be taken is that staff needs to set aside a time, multiple times, in fact, to better school the new assistant principal on what changes might best be made for individual classrooms, teachers, situations, etc. It has been stated that there is no time for this line of thinking, and that simply needs to change. He cannot go in there uninformed and be expected to make the best decisions for his school. The changes that are going to take place are ones that will be set, presumably, for a very long time. In order to make the best decisions that he possibly can, he is going to need proper training and I think the staff needs to get together on this, and with haste. It is an imperative step towards a positive outcome, and allowing the teachers to be on the inside of the circle, so to speak, will also create a better sense of harmony for them as they feel more a part of the plan (Cuilla). This will help morale, and allow relationships to flourish as the teachers learn to create a personal and professional connection with their new leader, which is essential to a productive work team.

A contingency plan must be created to counteract possible negative affects the change might have on academic success. They cannot go into the plan just hoping for its success, but instead have to come up with specific curriculum mandated policies and practices to ensure as best they can, that it will. Groups and task teams, as well as professional development days are no strangers to this group, so getting them together to brainstorm and come up with grand ideas to counteract anything that might go wrong is essential to future success. I think this should involve members of the school at all levels, and that members of the community should be involved as well. A united front will work wonders for this plan, and again, the involvement will encourage and inspire those involved to remain on task, know their roles, and do the best they can do to be a crucial part of the school’s upcoming and inevitable changes.

Another step that needs to be taken is the teachers leaving, for whatever reason, need to take time aside and thoroughly train the new teachers so that what has been going right, remains going right. With too many untrained members coming in, old standards will be impossible to keep up, because simply, no one will know how to do so.

An alternate approach that might be considered is extending the deadline for the changes. The timeframe now is approaching so quickly that people are having a hard time adjusting, and generally just freaking out, and understandably so. Perhaps with an extended timeframe ease of mind can set in as those who need proper training can get it, and those who are dealing with the transition are given more time to adjust to the changes coming about.

Another alternate approach would be to seek outside training help, where professionals come in and explain the changes taking place and note the benefits (from past experiences in schools with a similar situation) to the staff, teachers, administration, so they can get a better grip hold on the changes, and become more embracing and supportive of them.

People generally want to be trained because it better helps them to assess their place and value within the company (Vaill) and should be very willing to accept the measures put into place for them to be so.

All in all, there is a very strong foundation in place in that the school has already achieved a great reputation and has a high academic standard for each and every one of its students. The staff has proved committed and caring in the past and with great care can and should be expected to continue to do so in the future. I think that with the right training, the proper approach, and a high level of trust going on in all interactions that the plan the school has for a split campus, although undoubtedly a challenging one, can and will prove to bring about successful changes for the school, students, staff and administration.

Cuilla, J. B. (1996). Leadership and the problem of bogus empowerment. Ethics &
Leadership Working Papers. Academy of Leadership.
Vaill, P. (1997). “The learning challenges of leadership.” Academy of Leadership Press.
http://www.academy.umd.edu/publications/klspdocs/pvail_p1.htm
Wheatley, M. (1997). “Goodbye, command and control.” Leader to Leader, No.3. The
Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.

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