Sunday, December 05, 2004

PPS boss, Dr. Thompson, do we re-up or not?

Dr. John Thompson gets ink in Trib on Nov. 28. More ink flows in early December as a "secret consensus" seems to be flowing from the School Board -- but yet un-announced.

I do love the headline, "It is never going to be a smooth ride. ... It's the name of the game of a large city school superintendent. It's never going to be a smooth ride," said Thompson.

As a coach, it is my job to take people out of their comfort zones. As a challenger in politics, perhaps, I've got to walk with the same type of passions. To learn is to grow, to change. To break the machine, we'll have to teach, to fuel efforts in new directions, to get out of our rut.

If you are content, like Mr. Rooney, perhaps, then I don't expect I'll get your vote. And, I expect to be escorted away from the gates of Heinz Field again some time soon. But back to the school's super, Dr. T.

There are deadlines and then there are sunsets and expirations. Our contract-speak, for both Walt Harris and Dr. Thompson is being reported upon poorly. "The deadline might have to be extended." Fine. No worry at my end.

The quote last week was, "Thompson will be offered a fair contract." Fair Warning, as in "fair share" and "fair tax base." This week the headline is not so certain, "set to decide."

Challenges remain, but why would one of them be listed as "a school board opposed to raising taxes." I'd say that is an asset. So, the legislature goes and robs the school district.

Also included in Dr. J. Thompson's priorities is cultivating a better relationship with the school board, ... and other area politicians.

"It really concerns me that I haven't built a better relationship with the board and some of the politicians in the area. That's a must in order for the school district to move forward," he said.

Bingo. This is a huge statement. Huge. Let me explain. When Dr. Thompson first came to Pittsburgh I wrote to him and said, "Garbage in = Garbage out." This is an old slogan from the world of computer programming. If you have a bunch of junk programming, your program is going to be junk. I explained to him that our political system is ill and sick. Hence, the only one's he'll get on the school board are going to be products of that environment.

The winners of the local elections for school board are not sick. But, the process they need to navigate is. The process in our local democracy is frail and can't craft a method that insures great outcomes, as should be the case.

Dr. T needs to work with the school board much more than with the teachers and far more than with the students. Dr. T needs to be concerned with the board, its make-up, and the landscape of our politics in Pittsburgh.

Until that statement was in the paper, Dr. T has been sleeping at the wheel. He has blown many great opportunities to do things in new ways with political implications. Now, perhaps, he thinks this is the time. There is no time like the present. But there is much to do. Might be too little too late to come to this observation. I'm very excited to get this progressing.

The unresponsive and insulated remarks are sure to stick when he didn't engage in the politics.

So, as a fix the board and leaders say the rancor is to be reserve for private sessions. Wrong. Let's be civil. Let's be open. If you got to rumble and step in some rancor -- do it in public. Don't revert to the stone age and do a non-debate Allegheny Conference style. Then we have to wonder if the board is getting better or just getting hi-jacked.

Hate to see PG reporting such as this: "even Thompson's attire has beomce ammunition for detractors, who say he is overdressed. He favors tailored suits, starched collars and flashy neckwear."

Brently: "This process has not been clearn or open or honest." Does Mt. Lebo have a board member who can break ranks and say that? But, on the flip side of the same conversation Brently accused one un-named board member os saying Thompson is "too dark" to continue as superintendent.

Romaniello said he would have exposed the person who said it. Exactly the right thing to do, rather than smear without a name being mentioned.

All in all, I think we have a long way to go. But, I think we are making some good progress. The schools in the city in much better shape than the city itself. But, the bailout will cause a good bit of pain for the schools.

If Dr. T stays, I hope he wakes up to the need to do more politically with the district. And, I'll give him a long list of things to consider. He can start with the Pittsburgh Park District white paper.

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

My posting to

PG: "But Thompson's problem, board members said, is not what he did but what he failed to do -- in particular, his failure to close a widening gap in achievement between the district's white students and black students."

That's at odds with: "...two districts ... have in common, Boards prefer Superintendents work with the system. No rocking the boat allowed."

I'm certain Dr. T is in trouble because he didn't rock the boat enough. People I know are hacked off about him because troubles were put to his attention. He talked with these 'whistle blowers' and saw their perspectives. Dr. T was in agreement with the needs to fix the troubles. He says the right things. He has the right feelings for the situations. But, 3-months, 6-months, and 2-years later, nothing changes. To be fair, little changes in some areas but nothing on other instances.

Situations in PPS are unlike Mt. Lebo's. We, the people, in the city want positive change. Different sticking points, IMNSHO.