[Susan notes: Here is a strong letter that, written about the situation in San Francisco, rings true for the corporate management style in effect in urban districts across the nation.]
To the editor
I would like to take issue with your characterization of Superintendent Ackerman in your editorial today. You say that the superintendent’s “decisive leadership” and her priorities of “stabilizing the district’s finances” and implementation of “fresh and independent ideas” will “improve public education” and “address vast disparities among schools”. This sounds wonderful, if we knew if any of this were true. But let’s, for the moment, pretend that reconstitution, direct instruction, scripted curriculum, parental contracts, and “just say no” truancy campaigns are new and original; and that, contrary to the most recent Consent Decree and Civil Grand Jury reports, they will keep students in school, raise graduation rates and close the achievement gap; and that stonewalling and intimidating parents will successfully thwart all the financially destabilizing lawsuits-in-waiting because the district is out of compliance with dozens of state and federal laws. Let’s pretend that the superintendent’s ideas are good ideas. That leaves the issue of leadership. It is one thing to lead a charge, but quite another to get people to follow you. Ackerman’s top-down, authoritarian leadership, which you label as “decisive,” has successfully alienated the very people who are supposed to put into practice her “fresh and independent” ideas. How do you think her ideas are going to be effectively implemented when they are accompanied by demoralizing threats and retaliation against school staff, parents and students who have legitimate questions and concerns about her ideas?
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