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Arizona’s lead educator has squandered her elected position

Joseph Hattrick

Joseph Hattrick

To say I am disappointed or embarrassed at Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction is an understatement. Many have speculated the conditions that have put our current superintendent in office; I am not here to speculate. My concern is that our current reality is that while Arizona has tremendous potential for growth, the state’s lead educator continues to squander her elected position and is consistently missing this tremendous opportunity provided to her.

The truly unfortunate part of this is that while teachers, students, and educational leaders like myself are going to work every day to provide the students with whom we are entrusted a quality education, she goes to work and devalues our efforts. What Arizona needs is someone who puts the needs of our wonderful students, teachers, and schools above all else.

Instead of hearing inspiring words from the state’s superintendent and plans to improve student achievement and bring honor back to the teaching profession, we hear arguments about who gets to be the “boss,” who touched whom, and why someone “moved my seat.” As a proud elementary school principal and superintendent these topics and statements do not resemble those of our educational leaders. Rather, they mimic statements I hear in kindergarten classrooms.

School administrators in the state and across the nation are held to high professional and ethical guidelines; specifically the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards. These standards are broken up into six categories each having its own unique knowledge, behavior, and practical implications. The standards that school leaders are to adhere are vision, culture, management, community collaboration, integrity & ethics, and social/political responsibility.

Why is it permitted that while our educational leaders are striving to improve schools through the ISLLC standards, the state’s chief academic officer is held to no such standard? The National School Climate Center defines a positive school climate as a key contributor to student achievement and defines school climate as the quality and character of school life. If our educational role models cannot demonstrate positive climate and culture through their actions and words, what must our students be thinking?

I delight in the opportunity to provide support to my staff, service to the community, and set high expectations for my students. But then to come home after a rewarding day at work to find my leader in yet another ridiculous battle with those people she should be working with to support me, my staff, and students is a shame! Enough is enough! Arizona needs a leader who is transformational and willing to put her ego aside and begin rolling up her sleeves to support students and teachers.

Superintendent Douglas, our Arizona students need you to step up to the plate to improve education in our state. Our parents require a leader who understands the challenges facing our schools and identify opportunities to remove barriers to the best education possible; our teachers insist that you attend to the teaching profession in order to increase funding and dignity to education; and our school leaders urge you to begin to address the climate and culture of education in Arizona. As we see on the news every day, the quality and character of the education in Arizona is negative, litigious, and embarrassing.

In a time when classroom sizes are too big, teacher shortages are growing, and school funding is declining; we need a leader who is bringing honor and prestige back to the profession rather than adopting juvenile behaviors to battle colleagues. I am asking Superintendent Douglas to join Arizona’s educational leaders in transforming our current state of education, put childish egos behind, a truly begin to assess her role in Arizona’s educational landscape.

By no means is my goal in writing this to disparage or belittle anyone. My goal is to stress the fact that our jobs as educational leaders require us to act as role models and lead with a servant’s heart. This is a calling which we cannot take lightly and our children are watching. I just hope leader’s change their actions before children start following the example we set. We need leadership through example…no exceptions!

— Joseph Hattrick is principal of Riverbend Preparatory Academy in Laveen and has been in education for 16 years.

3 comments

  1. Dear Mr. Hatrick,

    While I appreciate your opinion, I disagree with the notion the fault belongs to Douglas. I submit that the Superintendent has been given less than a fair chance and certainly not a fair hearing.
    The media has in no small way been less than honest with the citizens of the state in covering this dispute. The acerbic atmosphere the issue of “CC Standards” has brought to ADE is not Douglas’ fault – although it seems to be her cross to bear.

    Let me refresh your memory. Huppenthal as Superintendent spent time denigrating good people who for very good reason voiced reservations about CC, via anonymous emails and posts on various chat sites. There is also the case of internal emails and vitriolic outbursts that actually led to an apology from members of the ADE staff and the “intimidation” of a teacher who dared to “vilify” CC and was removed from the CC team he had worked with for several years. The Goldwater institute did in fact file a lawsuit on the teacher’s behalf, which while it was dropped, was certainly taken serious enough to bring it to court. This rancorous atmosphere no doubt helped to bring us to today’s impasse between the Board and the Superintendent.

    You sir in your experience have surely experienced a class where a “clic” has made your life a living hell -disrupting your classroom and frustrating your agenda. So it is with Ms. Douglas. This same clic, if you will, seems to revolve around Ms. Thompson and President Miller – who may well never allow Douglas to achieve any good whatsoever. We may in fact have what you describe – but are letting it be taken from us by a “clic”.

    The tension between the Board and the Superintendent is not a new phenomena. It is has been going in for decades. If you have even a passing interest you can refer to John C. Bury’s doctoral thesis written in the late seventies – The History of the Superintendents of Education. The issue of “standards” dates back well over 100 years, if not more, with several federal interventions affecting the relationship between the Board the Superintendent and Parents along the way.

    It seems under the banner of “standards” that what really happens is one ideologue group replaces another – not with a clear simple simple vision, but instead a complex set of “well let’s try this” – notions that have what can be only be called a frantic “missionary” quality of a new religion and our children become the “experiment” in a “new way of walkin…”. And there is always the some very serious catastrophic threat that stalks us if we don’t follow this “new way of walkin…”. So it is with CC. The people did express their concerns in their choice for Superintendent. Do you not owe them then, at the very least, the respect to listen to them. I agree things are a mess – I disagree that Douglas is the cause.

    I suggest that if we couldn’t “succeed” under the “old” standards what make you think we can succeed under these new standards? Quite frankly it is counter intuitive – but apparently heaven help those that say so.

    Your patience appreciated

  2. Michael S. Ellegood, PE

    The key issue facing education is simply funding. We have a legislature and Governor who repeatedly rob education funds to fund other priorities and our kids and the teachers take the hit. Almost remarkably, Diane Douglas, came up with a very workable plan to immediately increase funding. This is juxtaposed against Gov. Ducey’s plan to steal from another pot of money in a couple of years, maybe.
    Unfortunately, as well intended and as excellent and idea DD’s plan is, it’s DOA at the Gov’s office, she is the wrong messenger; she has dulled her sword by the persistent pettiness.
    I think that she should be recalled and that we get a strong advocate for public education, one with traction with the administration and the education community.

  3. Tigeraz, Huppenthal was bad, that doesn’t make Douglas better.

    There is an air of angry child about her, hiding microphones at public meetings, not answering questions from the press (we want a confrontative press in the USA, see the founding fathers for more on that), and if you fire people that you’re not legally allowed to fire, that’s called incompetance.

    Part of her job is knowing what her job is.

    And it’s too bad, because her call to increase funding is one of the few not completely crazy things I’ve heard from the capital since, well, forever.

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