Monday, February 10, 2003

A Model of Supervision

A Community of Learners:
The traditional education environment has been modeled after a "factory" model of design. Bring in the raw material (the students), process this material throughout the machinery (classrooms and the school), by trained and skilled laborers (teachers), and output a completed product (the graduate). This model is further delineated by defining the supervisory role of management (the administrator), and the subjected role of the subordinate (the teacher). This is the traditional role of our education system. What is nonexistent in this equation is the role of the learner. I like to propose a logic argument that is similar in concept to the “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” This argument is a circular logic argument which incorporates scientific knowledge, philosophy, spirituality and critical thinking. I apply this same argument to the roles of the educator ‘Which came first? The teacher or the student?’ It is with the assumption of definition that there cannot exist a teacher without a student and again a student cannot exist without a teacher. The underlying belief is that we develop our schools as an establishment where learning takes place. But more so than not our educational institutions exist as a function of a super and subordinate caste system. This caste system exists in several tiers: student to teacher, teacher to principal, principal to a governing type of school board. And this seems to be where the problems lie.

It is understood that in order to teach or educate students that a sense of appropriateness in behavior on the students’ part must be in place and enforced. It also assumed that each student has differing needs and abilities and that the educator needs to reach out to these abilities in order fort he student to develop completely. But while new forms of educational deliver and procedures exist for our students the “factory” model of management still exists as we move up the caste tiers. An “ideal” classroom exists with several delivery methods incorporated into the lessons, it has authentic outcomes and assessment processes, the instruction is designed to incorporate several types of intelligences and has a standard by which it follows. We also encourage teachers to “model” or practice behaviors they wish to teach or instill into their students, and yet, these accepted and agreed upon practices do not exist in our “instruction” of our teachers.

Proactive vís a vís Reactive:

In order to head off the problems inherent within our system we need to be proactive instead of reacting to the problems. We need to move away from the “traditional” business or “factory” standards processes of supervision and evaluation and further develop our community of learners. We need to provide our teachers with educational development, personal and professional growth opportunities as well as a formalized understanding of authentic outcomes. It is strange that our current educational system pursues “specialization” in specific areas of education, and then does not allow for promotion or advancement. An English teacher for example will always be an English teacher perhaps they will be a “chair” of a department but nonetheless they will still be an “English Teacher”. If this teacher were to pursue a personal development in history our current educational system would frown upon this “new development” and discourage this teacher from changing roles. (This is demonstrated in the rigorous and repetitive processes which teachers need to become certified for each individual license. Some of these licenses require the same coursework but they cannot be shared between licenses.) We exist in a system which often frowns upon personal development and yet, we require this not only to become a teacher but to remain a teacher. A good and encouraging model of supervision needs then to encourage an authentic sense of personal and professional development – both success in the classroom and outside of it.

Owning our Classrooms:

To promote an authentic learning community for all teachers by providing direction and mentoring for the new service teacher through ownership and empowerment of their practices as well as the continuing growth of excellent teachers. There are many unique and diverse objectives concerning teaching. Often we can use the analogy of a triage when prioritizing these objectives. The maxim we encounter most however is that if we can influence the positive behavioral objectives the academics will follow. Are we suggesting one is more important than the other? No. We are suggesting that children who understand what is expected of them socially, will accept academic training more readily than a student who is oppositional.
With this philosophy in the forefront we educate our children through activity based instruction. The premise is simple: if the children are having fun being involved in the learning process they are less likely to act out. If the children do not perceive their academics in this light they tend to rebel, shut down or worse. We define activity based instruction as project based learning. At St. Aemilian's we follow a school wide behavioral theme or objective. This way we develop a sense of community within the school. As most of our children come from broken, adoptive or foster families it is imperative that we provide them with a safe structured environment: it is our mission to provide these children with a sense of belonging. We accomplish this partly through our united themes, our hands-on activities and projects. Through this we wish to provide experiential learning: making the experience meaningful and real. In order to do this the teacher needs to be involved in the learning activities rather than an authoritative observer. The teachers' roles are developed along with the class structure: a family within a larger education community. Building trust is the singular most difficult aspect of our work. Because of this we need to invest time, one-on-one instruction and collaboration. Once we develop that trust factor we need to nurture it throughout our daily lessons.

Working with children is often time consuming, energy consuming, and taxing on resources. As educators we strive to provide a social team atmosphere of education. Within our social community we have experienced teachers, specialists, therapists and more to assist in planning the students' daily activities. This “plan” is designed to facilitate our teacher’s in developing lessons that correspond to the pedagogy of education within that wonderful world of education we call home.

St. Aemilian follows the “Pod” model of school wide management and design. These pods are aligned by similar academic abilities and ideally with a seasoned or master level teacher and a new service or novice teacher. Although this is not always the case. We further encourage this pod collaboration through the development of an “electronic lesson plan template”, (see Appendix A). The idea here is to develop a library of lessons, (see Appendix B). that all of us utilize here at St. Aemilian. At anytime if we find a lesson not working for us there will be many others at our fingertips. This also allows for other teachers who work with these students to understand what they are doing as a class as well as how, why, etc. This also allows for a substitute or administrator to load up the lesson and be able to teach in the case of a classroom emergency.

Collaborating in our Classrooms:

The most important and relevant method we utilize of insuring collaboration is through our weekly lesson plan meetings. These consists of the pod lead teachers, teaching assistants, our reading, art, physical education, therapy and technology specialists and our assistant principal. These meetings generally last between 5 to 10 minutes. The impetus is on the teacher to develop or introduce the other members of her team her idea for a lesson plan. It then becomes a collaborative effort as each team member discusses how they can assist the teacher in meeting these goals. Once this development is completed the information is then inputted into the electronic lesson plan template. This then provides a collaborative map, a sharing of ideas between all of our staff.

What is different and encouraging about these “lesson plan meetings” is that all levels of teaching and experience come together and design the lesson. It is no longer a solitary effort for a teacher to redefine a wheel in order to teach. This not only “forces” the reluctant teacher to participate but more importantly encourages them in a positive and open setting. (Our meetings are currently in the morning and someone usually brings donuts and coffee – the collaborative effort is a relaxing and charged atmosphere instead of the more usual groggy, punch the clock and begin concept.) Our teachers share ideas and not all ideas are brought forth to fruition. This is a positive development as teachers are engaged in positive and constructive feedback immediately as they design their lesson.

Specifically on a supervisory level, this peer coaching or conferencing also borrows from an action research design. While throughout the course of these “lesson plan” meetings the collaborative team involved discusses problem areas, themes or ideas that were well planned but were unsuccessful, it further promotes discussion on authentic assessment and how to do so, it provides input and experienced information from those educators who are experts in their field for those who are not. This design also allows for the new service teacher who happens to be a rather excellent teacher to impress his ideas onto more seasoned and sometimes reluctant teachers.

Supervising our Classrooms:

This model also allows for the assistant principal who has been delegated the supervisory position of all the educators to observe, interact, collaborate and otherwise direct their teachers in an informal setting. This encourages the supervisor to discuss that a particular lesson sounds exciting or interesting and then allows for that supervisor to observe that lesson. This incorporates the “pre-conference” design in a peer collaboration: which allows for the removal of the negative aspects of supervision: those beliefs of being singled out, or non-existent observations, of mystery evaluations.

This process or supervisory plan allows for:
· analysis of one’s own teaching and providing in-service for others
· identifying and articulating reasons for professional behaviors
· developing and demonstrating new curriculum
· supervising beginning teachers as well as encouraging more experienced teacher
· providing expertise and empowerment of the teacher
· collaboration and effective constructive critiques

PI-34, Authentic Assessment, FBAs and Evaluation:

The discussion then stems the tide from encouraging and assisting or facilitating the professional growth of our teachers to make them the most successful teacher that they desire to be to how do we authentically assess these teachers’ teaching abilities? What is foremost is the implementation of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s PI-34 which replaces the existing method for teacher certification. What this new law does in fact provide for the teacher is a strategic method for developing a “portfolio” of their professional development.

The new rules give current educators two ways to renew their old license(s):

  • Successful completion of 6 semester credits directly related to a license held or to the Wisconsin Standards from an accredited institution.
  • OR, successful completion of a professional development plan.
    The option of earning clock hours will not be available after May 30, 2004. Educators who are not working but who currently hold licenses may continue to renew their licenses by giving evidence of six credits earned. Those who earn a Professional Educator license after 2004 and leave the profession can use the six-credit option to renew their licenses. Opting to complete a professional development plan means:
  • A professional educator demonstrates increased proficiency in selected Wisconsin educator standards. Goals are identified as well as activities related to the goals with evidence of application to the classroom or learning community.
  • A timeline for achieving the goals with evidence of annual review of goals and activities
  • Evidence of collaboration with professional peers and others including the review panel required (peer selected by their peers).
  • An assessment plan that specifies indicators of growth and how meeting the goals improved the educator’s professional knowledge and affected student learning.

Currently licensed educators are also impacted through the initial educator license process within the role of mentors. A mentor is an educator who is trained to provide support and assistance to initial educators and who has input into the confidential formative assessment of the initial educator but is not part of the formal employment evaluation process. The mentor must volunteer for the assignment and receive training for the role. Should the educator/mentor decide to renew his or her license by developing a professional development plan, the mentoring activities could be incorporated into this plan and support the license renewal effort.

Finally, current educators will be needed and may volunteer to serve on an Initial Educator Team and on the teams of currently licensed educators who opt for the new system of re-licensure. Educators will design professional development goals and their successes on reaching these goals will be verified by a three-person team. Experienced educators will be needed to serve on the initial educator teams. Although it seems that the current rules are far off in the future, their impact will be felt throughout our systems, as we become "performance based:”

  • Understand. Familiarize themselves with the 10 Wisconsin Teacher Standards and the 7 Pupil Services Standards and the 7 Administrator Standards.
  • Reflect on their own professional practice in regard to these standards.
  • Plan. Plan professional development experiences, choose those that will offer training toward these standards as they fulfill local district requirements.
  • Document. Keep records of their professional development experiences in a portfolio that is organized according to the 10 Wisconsin teacher standards. Keep documents that provide evidence of professional growth.
  • Mentor. Think about mentoring as a positive professional experience.
  • Seek Mentor training through your local district.
  • Serve. Serve on local district’s professional development committee and assist them in aligning their process to the new standards.
  • Stay Informed. Log on to the DPI licensure Website:

Functional Behavior Assessment

  • Is an assessment tool which allows educators to develop a “plan of attack” this is known as an action research.
  • Is proactive in that it show educators where problem areas are allowing them to predict or head off future problems.
  • Is simple, easy to do, and more importantly we are already doing it!

School by Time of Day (YTD)

This graph shows us the positive behavior scores for the entire school by Time of Day. We can see how the school functions as a whole per time of day. We can see a “trend” line that shows that we are experiencing our worst behaviors during our 3rd period. 1st period starts well, overall, and then positive behaviors decline through 3rd period. Our 3rd period also falls below the “error bars” suggesting that this is a significant “difference” in positive behaviors and we should look into other avenues of positive behavior incentives.

Positive Behaviors by (TOD) - School

Positive Behaviors by (DOW) - School

This graph shows us the positive behavior scores for the entire school by Day of Week. We can see how the school functions as a whole per day of week. We can see a “trend” line that shows that we are experiencing our worst behaviors Mondays. With a trend that levels out during the middle of the week and a significant increase in positive behaviors by Friday.

Positive Behaviors (YTD) - Classrooms

This next graph shows us the positive behavior scores for the entire school by Classrooms. We can then compare different classrooms to see how effective their therapeutic/academic interventions are over time (YTD).

While all classrooms fall within the “error bars” what is significant to note is that those classrooms who have embraced the “activity based” instruction model have higher positive behavior scores. (Classrooms 6, & 10 are the classrooms we utilize for all of our pilot projects as the teaching staff are more experienced and are agents of change.)

Positive Behaviors School - Average (YTD)

Positive Behaviors (DOW) - Classrooms

This graph shows us the positive behavior scores for the individual classrooms by Day of Week. We can then compare different classrooms to see how effective their therapeutic academic interventions are throughout the week.
With this information we can pinpoint trouble areas, times and days for the individual classrooms. We can predict with a degree of validity how each classroom will “behave” for any given day. This then allows us to implement different intervention strategies.

By utilizing a Functional Behavior Assessment tool not only can we observe and evaluate how well our students are progressing but it also allows us to see what areas teachers may need assistance in. This tool is not an end all and should only be used to assist in the development of needs assessment as presented by the individual teacher and their lesson planning teams with the assistance of the principal.

Re-reinventing the Wheel

Currently we have evaluation tools for our educational staff. These tools are again based on a “factory” or business mentality that do not allow for the differentiational needs of our teachers’ abilities, strengths, weaknesses, nor growth, (see Appendices C, D, and E). Because of the encroaching developments of PI-34 teachers will have a “built in” evaluation process ready to implement. A process based on peer coaching, mentoring, action research, and professional observation. The problem lies in having the school district re-align themselves from the checklist concept to the more authentic assessment through portfolio construction. To further encourage this growth and development we have implemented our Functional Behavior Assessment tool which allows us to review the entire school, the classroom, time of day, day of week, and how the individual students are progressing. The evaluation process should emulate our current supervisory model of the peer coaching and lesson plan teams. The needs assessment would be developed by the teacher with the input and assistance of their mentor and administrator. This process would then exist as a more formalized observation based on the needs presented during a team meeting. This process can also be formulated individually with the teacher in order for the teacher to further develop their own personal growth.

The question lies in what outcomes are we looking for? Since this question is partially answered by both the Wisconsin Teacher Standards and PI-34 we need to reinvent our evaluation process to match these: this can be done through our existing lesson plan teams which we can refer to as our peer coaching process. We need to look beyond the standardized test scores and integrate the effective learning principles in order too make our teaching, our development, our learning constructive and authentic.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Reframing Suburbantown K-12

Description of Organization

Kitsap Middle School is a unique school, during its development designers were able to plan for the future and build a school which can grow as the local population grows. KMS is located in the Suburbantown School District in a large, growing community in Kitsap County. The district is comprised of four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school which serves a student population of just under 3,700. Each school has a building leadership team and a PTA to help promote learning for all. Students are actively encouraged to participate in a variety of extra-curricular activities including music, sports and academic programs. KMS currently serves 1,100 of these students housed in a single facility. The building itself is divided into two “wings” with offices in each: the Blue office representing the 6th and 7th grades while the Gold office represents the 8th grade. (Blue and Gold happen to be representative of the school’s colors.) The school is located between an industrial park and farmlands, is maintained in a prairie grasslands format, and is across a field from the local Fireman’s Baseball Park. This setting attributes the concept of being a small town school in a growing metropolis. KMS was restructured during 1993-1998 because of an increasing continuation of population. KMS is unique in that it has a new wing that is designed to be able to be expanded further by going up instead of spreading out. The foundation is in place with a future vision that KMS may actually become two schools housed in one building. In 1995 the classrooms were restructured within the houses to incorporate the “house” policy that has demonstrated effective in other middle school settings. Each grade level is partitioned off by its place in the school. The 7th grade consists of a “U” shaped hall that circumscribes the building holding the 6th grade. The 6th grade is comprised of two connected corridors. And the 8th grade is located in the new “Gold” wing which are rooms located on both sides of a large oval. It is joked, but accurate, that the distance from the last classroom in the Gold wing to the front office is over 1/8th of a mile.
KMS is the only middle school in the district and is fed by the four elementary schools as well as the local parochial schools. The majority of students come from middle or upper-middle class families, although a good portion of these students come from a rural or farming background. There are approximately 400 students at each grade level. These students make up the three houses in both 6th and 7th grade while the 8th grade is designed in two houses, (as part of the method to introduce students to the high school format the class sizes in the 8th grade are larger.) Being a middle school in Suburbantown the student population is mostly white with the most significant area of diversity being students’ with special educational needs. Approximately 23% of the student population are students identified with need special educational services, there is another 11% of the population which has demonstrated some time of supplemental need without being identified with specific learning disabilities.

The staff is not diverse either, with all members being able to be categorized as white. The administrative members consist of a principal and two associate principals, all white males. The teaching staff consists of 88 teachers, 11 cross categorical special education teachers, and 9 paraprofessionals. The diversity gets even less here whereas the entire 6th grade teaching staff is comprised of woman, there are 2 male teachers in the 7th grade, and 5 male teachers in the 8th grade. The special education staff including the aides has only 2 male teachers. The KMS staff is a young staff, with only 10% being teachers with over 5 years experience. Traditionally the turnover rate has been low with the exception of a lot of changes in the last two years. Approximately 12% of the current staff hold masters degrees in their fields while an additional 17% are pursuing advanced degrees.

Kitsap Middle School is rich in technology. The school has two Information Media Centers, (IMC) both of which house computer labs for research. The Blue IMC is the more traditional book laded IMC, whereas the Gold IMC house more of the electronic media components. Each grade level has their own Macintosh based computer lab with network and internet access, there exists a networked PC based lab in the Gold wing as well as the technical applications department having two computer labs, (a Macintosh and a PC lab). There are also two mobile labs of 15 Macintosh laptops each that are on a wireless network which can also be networked to the existing wired network. All teachers have at least one computer in their classroom, and the Learning Center also has a small banks of Macintosh computers for doing writing assignments or other lab work.

Frame by Frame Organizational Analysis

The four organizational frames as outlined by Bolman and Deal (1997) in their work Reframing Organizations were utilized to bring perspective to Kitsap Middle School. For each of the frames both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. The qualitative takes the form of school records, schedules, handbooks etc the quantitative data however was inconclusive. The data was gathered utilizing a survey (Appendix A) that was distributed to the staff members via their in school mailboxes. Out of the one hundred plus survey sent out only six were returned. Perhaps this is a demonstration of what Bolman and Deal (1997) view as “Uncertainty and turbulence” in the development of hierarchal forms of cooperation and coordination.

Structural Frame Analysis

The Structural Frame identifies how a school is organized through its physical sense as well as philosophical underpinnings. It addresses the goals, hierarchy, specialization and delegation of responsibility within the organization. The importance lies inn not only understanding the established linear chain of command within the organization but also the unspoken chain of command, the lateral exchange of information, (Bolman & Deal, 1997). The Structural Frame involves allocation of work to be performed, and the establishing of roles and responsibilities.
There are a variety of artifacts gathered to support the Structural Frame concepts. The Staff Handbook, Student Handbook, union contracts, and the school calendar were the most readily available. These artifacts outline policy, expected procedures, code of conducts etc. Within the structured governing body of KMS we have our Professional Resource Team, (PRT). This team holds representatives from each house as well as parents and is the decision making body for changes or new implementations concerning the teachers as a whole. This committee was formed after our current principal took office in response to ambiguities concerning the shared vision of the KMS mission. The overarching motto is “Reaching for Excellence Together” and the KMS Mission Statement “educate by meeting the diverse needs of all students in an environment which fosters high expectations and mutual respect for diversity through learning experiences that can be applied throughout life.” These philosophies are what drive the educational practices at KMS. Teacher assignments and duties are other qualitative artifacts. At KMS the teachers are divided by house assignments (academic) and Coordinated Arts (non-academic). The Coordinated Arts teachers include those teaching Family and Consumer Education, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Band and Chorus, music theory, technical applications, art, computer, Health Applications and physical education. Each house teacher is assigned to their grade specific house. Members of the house share common planning time. (The planning times coincide with the Coordinated Arts house classes: therefore 6th grade has 7th and 8th hour as their planning time, this then is when Coordinated Arts has the 6th grade students with 7th grade having 4th and 5th, and 8th grade having 1st and 2nd hours. This is more confused by whether it is a Blue or a Gold day in which the students would have different classes. For example 7th hour on a Blue day a student may have health in Coordinated Arts. Whereas, on Gold days that child may have Multimedia Art Concepts.) Minutes from all house meetings are published and provided to all the other houses to be shared during their individual team meetings. Theoretically, this would allow all the houses to further bind into a stronger more integrated larger team. While we do share student concerns and successes, it is the exchanging of ideas or planning outside of the house that is detrimental to the process of team building at KMS.

Because Coordinated Arts planning time does not coincide with any planning time from any of the houses. This means that information published and shared does not readily get to the Coordinated Arts staff in an efficient manner. Furthermore, often the Coordinated Arts teachers are left out of student concerns because of confidentiality, and yet these Coordinated Arts teachers deal with these students on a daily and hourly basis. This leaves the Coordinated Arts team out of the loop as it were for brainstorming, developing cross-content lessons or modifications.

Unfortunately, for all the teamwork that is taking place the proposed quantitative data is inconclusive as it represents approximately only 6% of the staff surveyed.
The theoretical precepts behind the Structural Frame indicate that KMS is on a positive track as they do attempt to meet the needs of their students through their missions and belief statements. The concern is that as some frames were developed others were allowed to rot. This being the division between perceived academics and non-academics and the difficulty in bridging the two. Currently KMS has sought to resolve this issue by including a position that works directly at bridging these two educational elements. However the position has not seen a favorable light perhaps because the mission is to integrate or bridge the two. These are areas that the PRT and other KMS committees have taken a glance at, further communication, team building exercises and collegiality need to be present to keep this division from becoming a distressing influence on the KMS mission.

Human Resource Frame Analysis

The Human Resource Frame deals with the hiring and training of staff members, preparing and supporting employees, and other aspects concerning the well being of the people within the organization. The needs of the individual and the needs of the organization should be inextricably intertwined. When individuals are able to find work that is satisfying and meaningful organizations then have the talent that they find necessary to be successful. Too often, however, these two do not work together. Conventional wisdom suggests that social needs and interpersonal styles arte substantially influenced by experiences early in life, (Bolman & Deal, 1997). “Those patterns do not change quickly or easily” (p143). Often the talent is hired by someone else located in the district office that is seeking to fulfill a need with a body. This body then does not find the meaningful or satisfying work and then the dance of retention and retraining and rehiring etc takes place. To break this cycle is the ultimate goal of a good leader, (Pellicer, 1999). The leader needs to undergo this challenge, to perceive the needs of the individual as well as the organization and to find that balance.

For the 2001-2002 school year KMS undertook the challenge to make sure that the students’ needs came first. This was done through surveys to the district, parents, families of upcoming and ex-students. What was discovered was a need for a safe place which provided the students’ educational, emotional and physical needs while supporting their character development, (Appendix B). This has further been implemented in the KMS vision: We believe that middle level education should …
  • foster a successful transition from childhood into young adulthood by guiding the development of ethical character,
  • develop responsibility and accountability for self,
  • recognize and practice respect,
  • provide experiences that attain and apply knowledge,
  • engage students in a variety of activities,
  • build upon social, physical and mental health.

Qualitatively, samples of the KMS student and staff newsletters contain examples of how employees, students and parents are perceived. This information, while previously used, also contains information concerning the Human Resource Frame. Part of this structure is the Study Skills program which is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays directly after school. Here students can receive assistance regarding homework and other study opportunities under the direct supervision of certified teachers who have volunteered to assist. Peer mediation is often utilized at both the student and staff level concerning crises which occur in the volatile atmosphere that is the emotionally charged field of working with or as adolescents. Guidance counselors, and teachers are available as counselors for the students, KMS has a unique charter which has teachers who have formed relationships with students to more or less a mentor in making sure that the student meets his or her requirements throughout the school year, again this is a voluntary position. KMS has a plethora of after school activities, clubs and social gatherings, where even this year they have incorporated a “social” that included a dance instead of the singular dance.

Parents are valued as important resources as they too volunteer to work in the classrooms, some have come to provide the staff members with cookies, cakes, etc to demonstrate their support. The relationship between parents and teachers is very strong, awards are presented back and forth at almost a humorous pace. Parents take an active role within the PTA, and are often volunteering to assist in after school activities as well as in school activities. KMS offers classes and in-services for parents to attend and welcome them to the regular scheduled staff development days.

Unfortunately, as stated earlier the proposed quantitative data is inconclusive as it represents approximately only 6% of the staff surveyed.

Our principal is often heard stating that we must look for the good, that kernel of goodness that must exist in all things. This ideal parallels Pellicer’s sentiments when he addresses what a good leader should be “it is critical for leaders to believe there is a world of good to be found in every one.” While one could argue what and how some of these elements are indeed good for the organization the school has been successful in its endeavors, mistakes will always be made but it is to the stature of the organization when these mistakes are corrected instead of fretting about and bringing the whole works to a braking stop. Perhaps more development in staff understanding, correlation of visions, and support will stem the tide of turnover currently in effect at KMS.

Political Frame Analysis

The Political Frame is concerned with securing resources to accomplish the objectives of the organization. Leaders must become savvy about how to get resources for the programs they support, they must learn the language of compromise, shared resources, and alliances. Often conflict begets change and change is necessary for any type of growth. Conflict management becomes the major leadership responsibility within the Political Frame. It is the politics an organization must deal within, and not necessarily those political concepts within the structure, (Bolman and Deal, 1997).

The Suburbantown School District utilizes site-based management, this gives the political power to the building principal who has to compete with all the other district principals in front of the school board. Often the school board will have it’s own agenda which makes the principal’s plan difficult at best. Sometimes the political arena is purely based on how a school member perceives or “likes” an individual proposing.

The biggest barrier to the change process at KMS exists in not the political atmosphere within the district and school board but rather in how the union perceives any change. While it is imperative for an individual to have questions and solutions at hand these concepts are often not welcomed by the union. As a political force the union is the one stabilizing mechanization that can stop the change process at KMS. An interestingly enough the union is strongly supported by the KMS staff. This may be a call in response to the fears of change that must take place in any growing organization. Regardless, this fear factor often is the “no” negotiation.

Symbolic Frame Analysis

The Symbolic Frame represents those stories and relationships that are felt or understood without clarification within the organization. It is the unwritten or unspoken rules, the “culture” within the organization , that governs the every day. In the change process, it is assigning meaning that is the most difficult and the most significant concept, (Bolman and Deal, 1997). Too often vision becomes unfocused or blurry because the Symbolic Frame was not given thought during the visionary implementation. Each symbol within the organization means something different depending upon the perspective of someone. The core assumption of the symbolic frame are often overlooked. These are (Bolman & Deal, 1997):

  • What is most important about any event is not what happened but what it means.
  • Activity and meaning are loosely coupled: events have multiple meanings because people interpret experience differently.
  • Most of life is ambiguous or uncertain – what happened, why it happened, or what will happen next are all puzzles.
  • High levels of ambiguity and uncertainty undercut rational analysis, problem solving and decision making.
  • In the face of uncertainty and ambiguity, people create symbols to resolve confusion, increase predictability, provide direction and anchor hope and faith.
  • Many events and processes are more important for what is expressed than what is produced. They fiorm a cultural tapestry of secular myths, rituals, ceremonies and stories that help people find meaning, purpose and passion.

What this means is that the reality is not what is but what is perceived. Truth then becomes how something wants to be remembered instead of exactly how it happened. This is too often the case when teachers will get together and discuss “the legends” from their teaching experiences. The Legends are how that particular teacher remembers the student. This also happens from the students’ point of view. Often the students remember a teacher, class, situation in the highlight that they focused it on. Two students can have very different views from the same experiences. For example, at KMS there exists many different computer labs with vying operational software platforms. When the PRT decided to buy new PC based computers they forgot that it was the vision of others who had brought in the Macintoshes. And by there dismissing the symbolism of the Macintoshes they dismissed the intellectual, emotional, and professional understanding of those who could relate to that symbol of technology advancement. KMS puts a high emphasis on spirit day going so far to incorporate the school colors into everyday activities. The fact that every other day is either a Blue or Gold day as a way of discerning what the school schedule is reflects upon this notion of symbolism. Our principal finishes the daily announcements with a “Saying for the day” and those students who can remember or recite it for him are given rewards. The fact that houses represent themselves with artistry and imagination and playful competitions are held across houses also is infused with that symbolism.

Our overt symbolism reflects the care and understanding of the KMS mission to our students. But what is not so overt is the myths, traditions, and stories held by our staff members as well as students. Too often change is seen as a method for erasing those stories and myths. It is important to understand what these stories are and how important these symbols become to the people who hold them in esteem. If you ignore the symbols referred you often anger people and even they may not know why. What is important is to acclimate new people to the histories, the heroes both regaled and fallen, who have gone before. Sometimes it is that quiet guy in classroom 102 who tends to shy away from everyone that you realize was the mythical hero of a change gone by. Bolman and Deal suggest , (1997) “Symbols embody and express an organization’s culture… it embodies accumulated wisdom from those who came before us.” (p217). The strength is in the details, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Pellicer (1997) states that the successful school is the one that focuses on the details.

There is a saying that states that the people who really control the school atmosphere are the secretaries within the offices. These are the details we forget, the symbolism we must latch onto, those minute details that determine who and what we are. We forget that when we believe we do not have time for “spirit day” or that it is too silly, we forget that this is the school and experiences of our students and by not observing this rituals we are saying that our students are not important. Everyone is important and we must remember as the leaders within the organization, and teachers are the leaders within the school structure, that many eyes, many identities, many future philosophies hinge and what we say and do.

An Integrated View of Kitsap Middle School

KMS stands as a model for other schools to follow. As we reach across the Structural, Human Resource, and Political frames we can see our school is currently in a flux state of “settlement”. This is to say that those teachers who have been with our school for ten or more years, are not looking forward to change. The interesting and most perturbing issue concerning this change is that these teachers have metamorphosed into an autonomous stage of education. KMS has as an entity moved into a corner where finger pointing and blame are the common occurrences. Things do not work well, or as assumed or planned because of the fault of others. We often have clashes between departments as to who is responsible or who is in control. It is an ironic state of affairs since our school is one with the behavior and emotional development of children in mind.
The KMS collective pedagogy is to establish comforting and rewarding relationships with our students in an intellectually rich and social environment. And yet, our school itself is divided by cliques and relationships and departments all vying for the control of this act or that emphasis. As with our students who we try to teach to not be manipulative or exploitive we tend to manipulate and exploit our causes inside our own educational department, again the trouble between “coordination and quality control” (Bolman & Deal, 1997 p66). We delve into the teacher-center, or school centric as this case may be, and focus our attentions on what we as an agent of the school can get out of the course of the day’s work. To cynically paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ‘ask now what you can do for your school but ask what your school can do for you.’ This paraphrase is not all that far fetched nor is it “wrong” when it is applied through the student and their needs as a student, through the direction that the student’s school is going. This then could be what Bolman and Deal (1997) call “academic skepticism” (p103) within the school. This type of philosophy breaches when an entity or autonomous relationships exist and denies the concept of “A good fit benefits both.” (Bolman & Deal).

Where we have fallen down is the understanding of what vision is. And whose. It is important to understand the symbolism that has been neglected within our school. As I often tell my teachers: just because you enjoyed the lesson does not mean that the students learned anything from it. Ultimately it is the students who we need to be concerned about but if we can not get the teachers involved in this vision, then what we are doing is a detriment to our students. We need to address each others’ concerns, find those things we can identify with, have a discussion concerning our fears and desires and how ewe can best move forward towards that goal of: educate by meeting the diverse needs of all students in an environment which fosters high expectations and mutual respect for diversity through learning experiences that can be applied throughout life.


Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (1997). Reframing organizations: artistry, choice, and leadership.

San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

KMS Beliefs, Vision and Mission. (2002). [Retrieved from the world wide web].

Pellicer, L. (1999). Caring enough to lead: schools and the sacred trust.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Suburbantown School District Staff Handbook. (2002). Suburbantown, WI:

Suburbantown School District.