Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Forsythe parents protest Principal move

22. June 2005 • Murph
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The following was received by e-mail:

School is out but the fight continues to stop the decision made by Dr. George Fornero, Superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, to reassign popular Principal Mike Madison to a temporary, short-term position at Ann Arbor Open School.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education is meeting tonight, June 21, at 7 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library. Important public commentary will be heard on the decision by Dr. Fornero, Supporters of Mike Madison plan to meet on the first floor of the Ann Arbor District Library at 6:45 tonight and then proceed to the meeting together. The meeting is on the 4th floor of the AADL.

See http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-13/1118846510287010.xml?aanews?NEA

It is important that all Forsythe community parents who support Mr. Madison and the teachers at Forsythe come to this meeting to show their support. Wear t-shirts, bring signs, bring your children, etc.

The decision to transfer Madison out of Forsythe was made without first hearing input from a majority of parents, teachers, and students who believe that Principal Madison should stay at Forsythe to continue his legacy of commitment to all students at this middle school. Our community opinion, was not sought and therefore completely disregard in this decision.

Supporters have protested this move since they learned about it through a letter that was sent to all Forsythe parents and guardians in early June (or late May). See the website http://www.bringbackmike.org/,

Dr. Fornero has made a decision without the necessary input from the entire community at Forsythe. In addition, there has been a rush to form a transition team to secure a new principal at Forsythe. A letter by Joyce Hunter, Administrator for MIddle Schools, written on June 17th to the parents/guardians of children at Forsythe pushes ahead with an unrealistic plan to be able to announce a new principal by the end of July 2005.

The administration is not hearing what the community is saying to them. Tonight they will have a chance to hear, reflect, and then respond to concerns.

For more information you can e-mail me at anneljackson@yahoo.com.

Thank you.
Anne L. Jackson



  1. The meeting last night (June 22) was a success for both Forsythe and Northside (Elementary) constituents. Supporters of Mike Madison (Forsythe) and Kevin Carr (Northside) were out in force.

    The administration **MUST**formulate a new process for relocating principals. The current model is inconsistent and damaging—not only to the school communities but to the AA school district as a whole.

    On request from the Board, Dr. Fornero has agreed to analyze the situation, taking all community input into account, and report back to the BOE on July 6, 2005.

    Supporters must insist that the NEW process, if approved, be implemented retroactively to take into account decisions concerning the relocation of Mike Madison and Kevin Carr (and others) that were made using the OLD process.

    IMPORTANT! MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
    There will be another board meeting on Wednesday, July 6th, 2005.

    Please take the time to write to Dr. Fornero and cc: the School Board. See http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/boe.home

    OR

    Write to the AA News and express your opinion in the Letters to the Editor:——letters@annarbornews.com

    Letters
    The AA News
    PO Box 1147, AA, MI 48106

    Guidelines: Letters must be 250 words or less. Letters must include the author’s full name, address and a daytime telephone number.

    Thank you.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 23 '05 - 11:14AM    #
  2. Update. Read latest news at

    http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-13/1119537714275481.xml
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 23 '05 - 03:26PM    #
  3. The periodic, inexplicable mass principal shuffle has been an AAPS tradition for some time.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the protests. On the one hand, it is hard to accept such decisions without any real explanation or justification. On the other hand, we do need to be concerned about building principals establishing an unassailable local power base and no longer having to really answer to district authority (note that I’m not saying this is the case in this—I don’t know any of the affected principals). Also, if principal retention and transfer comes to depend on public displays of support by vocal groups of parents, politics among parents at a school could get pretty ugly. Most principals would be able to call on at least some core of vocal supporters—will parents who’d like to see a change have to stage counter-demonstrations? And how comfortable will parents feel in publicly demonstrating against a principal that may, in the end, be retained and will continue to be responsible for their kids education?

    And should the super be able to transfer a popular, dynamic principal from highly successful school A to struggling school B because B needs the help? Even though the parents at A would like to hold on to the good thing they have?
       —mw    Jun. 24 '05 - 08:27AM    #
  4. You raise good issues. I would say that if struggling school B needs an effective leader, then successful school A shouldn’t suffer. I believe in the “abundance” concept rather than “scarcity.” All schools can be “raised” to the level of being a successful school without sacrificing those that already are. There is enough to go around without taking something away from the other.

    In my view, if there is good communication and good processes, then the demonstrations will be diminished. Not go away, but lessened. The fact that there are so many protests points to a fundamental flaw in the administration’s thinking, I believe. The public schools no longer are a monopoly. That has been the case for a while. Like it or not, free enterprise is at work and it’s economics at work. Public schools have to compete as a “business” and need to embrace another model. The “top-down” approach is on its way out. Being constituent (client, customer, whatever) forcused is a necessity. Gone are the days when the public schools were the “only game in town” for the majority of people. Charter and private schools are here.

    I’m not an advocate for free enterprise. I am a passionate supporter of public education. But, it’s an economic and social reality. And, I believe, the public schools can learn much from the business model. Successful, creative businesses listen to their customers and involve their customers.

    I think the old model doesn’t work and hasn’t for a while. Things are slow to change. It would be in the best interests of this district to be innovative at the top and embrace that change.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 24 '05 - 09:56AM    #
  5. The “top-down� approach is on its way out. Being constituent (client, customer, whatever) forcused is a necessity.

    Agreed. But there are a whole lot of levels. Our system is already less ‘top down’ than almost any system in the world—not only is education a state rather than national responsibility but then local districts have a great deal of control. So we are already way to the extreme ‘right’ (or left if you prefer) on the decentralized scale. What’s more, our schools are funded and run at the district level. We elect board members to run the entire district—we don’t elect neighborhood school boards to run individual schools. If we get to the point where individual schools and administrators are no longer really answerable to the board we elect or the superintendent they hire on our behalf—that would be a problem.

    But that all does now have to be balanced with making individual customers happy in a way that was not necessary before (before prop A that is).
       —mw    Jun. 24 '05 - 10:30AM    #
  6. I think it’s important to have a “centralize” district body, such as the School Board who are elected by the public to represent the needs of the public.

    On the issue of relocating principals, we heard from the board that this is the superintendent’s job—to make the decision. The board gives recommendations.

    In the case of Forsythe at least, the board stated at the last meeting that they had not even discussed the issue of placing Mike Madision in a temporary, dead-end position at AA Open. Therefore, it follows that they did not give him a “recommendation.”

    However, because of the outcry of public support, the Board seemed to need to respond to those who elected them to give recommendation to Dr. Fornero that he should take input presented at the meeting by the public and report back to the board on July 6.

    There seemed to be a tacit agreement by Board trustees that the procedure needs to be looked at. I would argue that there are probably a number of procedures that need to be addressed. The fact that people voiced this put them “on alert” to the necessity to look at this particular procedure that was made behind the scenes based on reasons that are still unclear to everyone.

    A model that was suggested at the meeting was that the PTSO (parent, teachers, AND students) could be a body that presents some “truth” to what’s happening in each particular school.

    I have to ask—who knows better? The Board admitted they were not experts in what is best. Does that leave Dr. Fornero to know what is best for each school? I would say not. I don’t think he could possibly know, given the amount of issues he has to deal with each day. I think that the customer (P, T, S) can present what is best & worst at their school to the super. Then, ultimately—you are right—someone has to make a decision (by weighing all the input) and the Board needs to stand united behind that decision.

    The current Board, while being comprised of extremely dedicated and intelligent individuals, has lost sight of “who is their customer.”

    They stated at the meeting that the school board used to be more involved in the day-to-day activities of the superintendent and the school administration. They called it “micro-managing.” Well, OK, there may have been that. But to react to that and swing so far to the other side of not being involved in extrememly important issues (it’s not just Forsythe, it’s Norhside, Abbott, and remember Pioneer?) is not only unacceptable, it causes mismanagement of a whole list of problems including communication and being able to respond effectively to the community.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 24 '05 - 11:34AM    #
  7. In the case of the Forsythe principal, one thing stands out-he was not transferred to another school that needs his expertise, he was transferred into a short-term, dead-end job. Therefore, the district has a school without an administrator, and a highly qualified administrator without a school. I would personally not be putting up such a stink, and my guess is neither would others, if this were not the case.
       —susan    Jun. 25 '05 - 04:37PM    #
  8. “short-term, dead-end job”

    susan and Anne, both of you used this term. What makes it so at the Open School?
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 26 '05 - 09:38AM    #
  9. I agree (Susan). Steve – The reason we are using these words is that Mike’s appointment is to fill the position left by the current principal while she is on maternity leave. As I understand it, she will be back mid-year 2005-06 and therefore Mike will be without a school.

    To move a highly effective principal into a short-term postion, such as this, is not acceptable. Mike is a dynamic, successful principal who has worked tirelessly to make Forsythe clearly one of the best middle schools in the city.

    The other point of contention is that the process for reassigning him is suspect. Dr. Fornero will be looking into the community input he received at the last school board meeting and was requested by President Karen Cross to report back at the July 6 meeting.

    On a larger issue, many believe that parents, teachers, and students (through possibly the PTSO) should be involved in the process for relocating principals and other important issues that affect the schools. The school board trustees admit that they are not “experts.” I would submit that neither is Dr. Fornero. The real “experts” for the school as a whole are the people who are there, day-in, day-out—the involved parents, teachers, and students. I have no problem whatsoever with having a superintendent make the decisions. But, these decisions should be very well informed.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 27 '05 - 10:24AM    #
  10. Anne, thanks for the added detail.

    In the interest of community-building, I suggest you consider dropping the term “expert” altogether and present this as an opportunity for all parties to work together, each contributing their own valuable perspective, especially those which haven’t been solicited in the past.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 27 '05 - 12:22PM    #
  11. No disrespect intended to the AA Open community. It is the temporary status of the job I object to, not the school itself.
       —susan    Jun. 29 '05 - 08:49AM    #
  12. As a transplant to Ann Arbor, I have a hard time understanding AA parents and the power they feel they should have. Principals are hired by the Superintendent. Even though parents and school staff have input, he has the final word. Principals are not elected by parents or the community, so why should they decide if he/she leaves or stays? In private industry, middle management is routinely added or removed without any input from direct reports or clients. It is upper management’s (e.g. Fornero’s) responsiblity to make those decisions since it is their job to assess the performance of those who report to them. I think it is arrogant and insulting to imply that Fornero doesn’t know what’s going on in the schools. The Principals routinely report to him as well as parents. AA Parents want what’s best for them and their child, regardless of how it may impact others.
       —Sheryl P    Jun. 29 '05 - 09:04PM    #
  13. The word “expert” was initially brought up by the board members at the last meeting. I don’t have the exact quote, but it was made by one of the board members saying that “we are not experts.” This was not ever brought up by parents. I am responding to their assertion that they are not the experts.

    I would be glad to “drop” the term—there are many levels of expertise, shall we put it—the superintendent has expertise in administration, the board members have expertise (hopefully) in representing those who elected them, and I would assert that the parents/students/teachers have much expertise to lend to the climate and effectiveness of the school.

    I am a born and raised Ann Arborite, Sheryl, but I can appreciate your perspective as someone who has moved to Ann Arbor. I’m curious as to what school district you have moved from.

    As a child, I still have memories of my parents discussing “the schools” and the various superintendents. Granted, it is a tough job. That goes without saying. As mw said, above, “The periodic, inexplicable mass principal shuffle has been an AAPS tradition for some time.” Yes, that is true. And, the involvement of parents has a long, long history. It’s not arrogance as much as involvement and using one’s intelligence. OK, call me arrogant about the intelligence factor (!) but let’s face it—we have a very educated, involved population here who question things and expect the administration to do an even better job that they think they are doing.

    I won’t go into the various inadequacies of the communication and process problems, but the school board has 1) admitted (in the AA News) that their communications need to be improved and 2) that Dr. Fornero should look into the process and report back on July 6. This is entirely reasonable and required of those who are administering the public (again, the emphasis on “public”) resource—our schools.

    The public commentary at the school board meeting on June 22 gave voice to those parents who previously had not been “heard.” Apparently Fornero had “heard” a small group of parents who allegedly set out to get Mike out of Forsythe. Much is not known about “why” or exactly what the motives were.

    I would like to think that anyone who feels a commitment to go speak to the board (15 people from Forsythe, 4 from Northside) and anyone who was part of the great number of supporters that were there should be lauded—this is a democracy, not a monarchy.

    In terms of decision making, of course, someone needs to make the decisions. But I would argue that the decisions should be made weighing the input of all, not just a few.

    Again, I think that while the super should hire the principals, sure, the PTSO could and should have a role in the “hiring” process. Not just a rubber stamp, but a voice in the process. That’s not too much to ask.

    If you haven’t seen the June 22nd School Board meeting, it is being rebroadcast today, Thursday, June 29 at 1:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 2 at 9 a.m. CHANNEL 18 “Education Station.”
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 30 '05 - 10:29AM    #
  14. ————
    NOTICE
    ————
    The June 22nd Board of Education Meeting is being rebroadcast today and Saturday on CTN (Community Television Network):

    Thursday, June 29—1:30 p.m., Cable Channel 18

    Saturday, July 2—9 a.m., Cable Channel 18
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jun. 30 '05 - 10:37AM    #
  15. Sheryl, I’m with you. Principals service the superintendent, and as the chief executive, the superintendent needs to be able to reassign his managers.

    It is absolute nonsense to hold the district responsible for improved student achievement if the superintendent’s hands are tied by politics. I mean, what are schools for? To comfort the parents, or to make sure all kids achieve in school?

    I know the Northside principal, and I suspect he’s being moved because he’s done a terrific job at Northside. There is evidence through studies of educational leadership that leaving principals in place for too long makes them less effective, not more effective. It is also possible that some of the principals have indicated they are interested in new challenges, and are accepting of the changes. But perhaps they can’t say that because the parents are making too much noise.

    For parents, moves are jarring, but then again, the parents are the ones being served by the schools—it’s their kids. If Fornero is trying to make sure that the most AA kids get the best possible education, then I’m all for it, even if it makes a few parents unhappy to have to get to know new people. I think that the PTSO has no place in making decisions about AAPS personnel. They can complain to the board, but I think the board has enormous faith in Fornero, and for good reason. He is doing a great job.

    Many schools have managed to survive changes in leadership and so far, no fatalities.
       —JennyD    Jul. 1 '05 - 07:51AM    #
  16. Oh no. PLease revise that first sentence. “Principals serve the superintendent.”

    (I am still on my first cup of coffee….”
       —JennyD    Jul. 1 '05 - 07:52AM    #
  17. I was wondering if there was any type of concensus about this issue from the teachers at the schools in question?

    Given that they are directly supervised by the building principal, I put a lot of weight behind their opinions of the quality of work done by Madison and Carr.
       —Kurt    Jul. 1 '05 - 09:27AM    #
  18. Kurt – I can speak about Forsythe. The teachers overwhelmingly support Mike (I would *estimate* on the LOW side 90% and as high as 98%) and are NOT happy about the reassignment. The data for this is that a number of us have spoken to teachers and have gotten their feedback and a number of teachers have attended organizing meetings in support of Madison. They have lent their opinions and support.
    They share similar outrage and discontent with the process that went down.

    I am interested in knowing what Dr. Fornero’s achievements have been this past school year. I ask seriously, because I would like to know. What more has been said about “No Child Left Behind”? How have things improved with that? The district gave NO money to the principals to implement the changes for this basically non-funded Bush mandate. How is the district supporting the principals and our students? I would really like to know. I’d like to see communication on that fact. If you know of any, please point me to it. I am very interested in this.

    I would also like to emphasize that supporters of Mike and criticism of the process that went down are not out-and-out of indictments of all that Dr. Fornero has done. And, the said supporters would be happy to hear from Dr. Fornero that our excellent principal will do his good work in a permanent postion at another school. We are in support of all children’s achievement, as is Mike. If another school can benefit from his leadership, then great!

    But, this has never been stated clearly. And, there is reason to believe the process was not “above board” No input was sought by the superintendent by enough parties to make a rational decision. It seems that a very few parents spoke up, pressed and pressed the issue, bragged about “getting rid of Mike” (on behalf of their children—they were not thinking of anyone else’s!). Many believe that he heard them loud and clear and that this was the motivation for his change.

    I say: Prove us wrong! Speak plainly. Throw out the platitudes and paternalistic pitches. Get rid of the administrative-ese. Plain talk.

    A question: Why in the world would AA Open parents want Mike Madison to be the principal of their school when he has been forcibly removed (yes, he sure did want to stay) and put in a temporary position until the current principal comes back from leave? Wouldn’t that raise questions of AA Open parents? Who is this man and why was he removed from a great middle school and demoted to be a temp until the real principal comes back? What in the heck happened?

    If he was removed because he is an excellent principal and the school district needs (for some reason) to put him in a temp. position, THEN SAY THAT!

    But they can’t or won’t say that, and this is cause for a great amount of suspicion and a lack of transparency in the process.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jul. 1 '05 - 11:31AM    #
  19. It was said:
    Many schools have managed to survive changes in leadership and so far, no fatalities.

    Probably meant to be funny, sorry if I’m reading it wrong. But I take a little offense at this. Activism and fighting for one’s believes should never be compared those fights for change that have resulted in deaths. I take this to heart because I know a great deal about about the social activism that has brought about deaths for many of our brothers and sisters on this planet.

    Fighting for what you believe on a very small scale shouldn’t be cast aside with a comment that basically says “What does it really matter in the large scheme of things..life will go on…get a life!” Of course life will go on.

    Please don’t disparage those who believe in justice and are willing to fight for it—even on a level that may seem insignificant. By doing this, every cause, great or small, is diminished.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jul. 1 '05 - 11:44AM    #
  20. If we are to run our schools on a business model – a suggestion I would strongly contest, by the way – perhaps we should start by looking at what’s being produced.

    By virtually any measure, the “product” at Forsythe Middle School has been remarkable: a thriving student body, an energized staff and an involved community of parents. Many of us are convinced that the quality of that product can be directly attributed to the manager in charge, Principal Michael Madison. Were that not the case, I doubt very much that we would be witnessing the outpouring of support and consternation which has characterized his reassignment.

    Principals, particularly principals as gifted as Michael Madison, are not interchangeable, bureaucratic cogs. Schools, particularly smoothly functioning ones, are more organism than machine; it would be hopelessly myopic to suggest that one can simply lop off the head without doing damage. My wife and I have children who have attended a variety of schools, at every level, thoughout the district. We have met and worked with a variety of principals, all of them competent and sincere, but none of them Michael Madison’s equal. I do not find it particularly remarkable that parents would be interested in what’s “best for them and their child(ren).” In fact, I would find it remarkable if that were not the case.

    That said, the angst here is not merely about Forsythe Middle School losing a gifted administrator. It is about losing a gifted administrator while at the same time doing absolutely no good to anyone else in the district. As Anne, and others, have correctly noted, Michael Madison is being reassigned as a caretaker replacement for a principal on maternity leave. His future with the district after her return in January 2006 has been left very much in doubt.

    (For those interested in a more detailed, though not exactly dispassionate, account of the reassignment process as it relates to Mr. Madison, please check out the following URL:)

    http://www.bringbackmike.org/Briefhistory.htm

    The Superintendent’s thinking on these matters has been less than transparent, another source of community concern. Communication from the central administration has been belated and incomplete, leaving parents, teachers and students to ponder what are, in effect, imponderables. All of us would like to believe that the Superintendent has sound reasons for doing what seems, on the surface, so unreasonable, but he does his office, and the community, no favors by playing things so close to the vest. If the case for reassignment is so compelling, Dr. Fornero would serve the district better by laying at least some of his cards on the table.
       —Steve    Jul. 1 '05 - 12:01PM    #
  21. Well said, Steve.
       —Anne    Jul. 2 '05 - 08:00AM    #
  22. May I offer this: I strongly disagree that we run school on a pure business model, but let’s try this:

    If the quality product at Forsythe Middle School is totally and solely dependent on the presence of one distinct person, then there is big problem at the school. If he is so important that his departure will cause the place to collapse, cause the kids to stop achieving, cause the teachers to stop working hard…then what does that say about the school as a collective, working organization?

    That sounds quite dysfunctional.

    I suspect that it’s also not true, that Forsythe is a sum of its parts.
       —JennyD    Jul. 2 '05 - 08:14AM    #
  23. I have a couple of questions:

    How does anyone know that the principal does not want to leave? Did he say so before the parent outcry, or after? Imagine for a moment that he did want to switch schools, and was caught in a bind when the parents began to protest. How could he possibly tell these supporters that he wanted a new career challenge?

    Second, if he is so popular, how on earth could he get railroaded? That doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen principals pushed out, but it takes quite a force to do so.

    Third, here’s my prediction: this principal is being warehoused at the Open School while the new high school is built. Then he will be named principal of the new HS. Why? Because Forsythe will be entirely redistricted into the new HS, and perhaps having a new principal in place who is already familiar with the kids and parents would be good.

    As I recall, when Bob Galardi left there was a big hullabaloo, but it came out later than he wanted to leave. He also ended up in great spot.
       —JennyD    Jul. 2 '05 - 09:03AM    #
  24. In the absense of more detailed information from the Superintendent’s office, we are all free to speculate – which, in my view, is part of the problem. If there is, indeed, a larger plan for Michael Madison’s future, district authorities could go a long way in allaying community concerns by making that plan public. To date, the administration has not been so forthcoming, indicating only that they are “looking for another placement” for Mr. Madison. If you’re right about the new high school, Jenny, I suspect that many Forsythe parents would feel better about the move. And, if you’re wrong?

    I’m not sure that anyone is suggesting that Forsythe would collapse without Michael Madison as its principal, but the school would not be unaffected. There is a marked, but fragile, difference between a thriving academic environment and one which merely functions. For many of us, Michael Madison has been the difference at Forsythe. Unless we are to concede that we don’t really care about our children’s education, how could we not prefer that he stay?

    There is, obviously, much that we don’t know about what went on behind the scenes in the principal reassignment process. All of us would, I think, like to believe that the administration was acting in what it felt were the best interests of the district, and that politics and partisanship played no role. Sadly, by declining the opportunity to explain his decisions in a timely and explicit way (leaving parents, teachers and students belatedly in the dark) Dr. Fornero has only spurred speculation over the purity of his motives and the correctness of his course.
       —Steve    Jul. 2 '05 - 01:34PM    #
  25. The way I heard it, Mr. Madison jumped at the chance to run the Open School for a year to polish his resume while he prepares for a major career advance and departure from the district the following year.
       —Rhümer Maanger    Jul. 2 '05 - 01:35PM    #
  26. The district cannot by law disclose these things. C’mon think about it: Madison is not an indentured servant. He’s an employee and he has a right to some privacy about his employment situation. If he’s had discussions with the district about his future, then he is freer to discuss them than district managers are. Perhaps Madison doesn’t to discuss them with parents and the public.

    The more I learn about the AA schools, the more I realize that there is always a back story, and sometimes it is straightforward, not at all nefarious, and might even have something to do with allowing someone to make a good career move that’s good for kids too.
       —JennyD    Jul. 2 '05 - 04:06PM    #
  27. I really appreciate all the views expressed here. It’s given me a lot to think about.

    I believe that there is certain information that can be disclosed that hasn’t (we haven’t FOIA’d), so I do believe that it is in the best interest of the school district to at least outline the process and make some more details known (the ones that can be shared).

    Indeed, there has been a lot of speculation and rumors—it would be in the best interest of the school district to keep these to a minimum, or at least try.

    The district has already said that communication from the school administration needs to be improved. Let’s start now with more disclosure.

    I certainly hope you are right JennyD. I would love to see Mike in charge of the new HS.

    I think the best practices of a business model should be adopted in the school district: listening to your “customers,” involving them, responding to them. If you don’t like the word “customer” there are many ways to rephrase the role of customer for the public school model. The days are gone when the public school was the only game in town. We need good leadership and effective management involving all stakeholders.

    Note
    Please come to the School Board meeting tonight (Wed, 7/6) at 7 p.m. Ann Arbor District Library, 4th floor.

    Dr. Fornero will be reporting back to the Board about the principal reassignment process.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jul. 6 '05 - 10:15AM    #
  28. Update on School Principal Reassignment

    As expected, Dr. Fornero reported back to the School Board on his review of the principal reassignment “process” that took place at the end of June 2005.

    And, as expected, the communication was obviously written by the same person who wrote Dr. Fornero’s other letters…but did include 2 points worth noting (one is still vague, natch; the other is clear without detail.

    Noteworthy:

    1. Fornero apologized about the inadequate communication surrounding the reassignments and how word got out to parents (Sarcastic Note: Some children carried home letters in a backpack! geez…Now that’s a great process!).

    He said that he has talked to his staff about improvements and said “We missed the mark.” In the future, he stated that the administration would contact representatives (including parent reps) at the school and that they would be involved in the process of how to best inform the school community. (Anyone who was there, feel free to better say what I’m saying). It was left unclear as to whether parents would be contacted before reassignments are being made or after such reassignments are decided by the administration.)

    2. That Mike Madison of Forsythe will be in an interim position at AA Open, but that he will have a permanent position in January 2006. Where? No details. (Mental Note: What happened to Henry?)

    Some progress, but a long, long way from anything substantial. The only good news is that the two points are “in writing” so to speak.

    So…things to do:

    CHECK CTN for replay times for the Board Meeting (http://www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us/CommunityServices/CTNPI/CTN/)

    READ the AA News tonight (Wed.) for another letter to the Edior on this issue. Two more letters were in Sunday’s News if you still have that lying around.

    READ the AA News tomorrow (Thurs) for an article on the decision by Fornero and parents’ reaction.

    GO TO bringbackmike.org for updates and for information about the next organizing meeting.

    Future action on this issue, and the possible focus on a larger issue(s) is continuing and will be ongoing. The next Board meeting is in late August.
       —Anne    Jul. 6 '05 - 10:31PM    #
  29. Anne, thank you for your report from the board meeting. Given all that you’ve written, I doubt I need to the AA News.

    I agree with you about the communication issue. There are all kinds of things that get communicated poorly.

    On the other hand, there’s no way parents can be consulted for approval on staff moves. AS I said before, we don’t know for certain that Madison is unhappy about this. The outcry has made it impossible for that to come out.

    Fornero was at a PTO meeting at Angell just before school ended and said the redistricting plan for the new HS would be out to the public by early 2006. He also said that Forsythe would be redistricted entirely into the new HS. No students already in HS will be moved, but starting in Fall 2007, incoming ninth graders would all go to the new HS.

    He anticipates parent opposition to whatever plan is proposed, which is what makes me think the principal is being warehoused in preparation for this new job.

    Has anyone asked Madison what he wants? I mean, he is allowed to switch jobs…
       —JennyD    Jul. 7 '05 - 07:15AM    #
  30. Mike Madison had stated that he “supports” the administration and is “behind” them. (You also have to read between the lines.) He continued to work as normal (doing an excellent job) in the last days of the school year. He did not bring up the issue with those that talked to him. However, he expressed sincere regret. When I talked with him in those last days he said that it’s been “an emotional rollercoaster.” He was obviously proud that so many parents showed their support in those last days.

    It’s obvious that Mike continues to want to be involved in the district, there’s no doubt about that. Again, his statements about the administration are appropriate given his position.

    That being said, he did not want to move from Forsythe—that we know for sure. He was very sorry and sad to leave. This is not what he wanted.

    So, our efforts are independent from Mike’s at this point. That is, he is not and cannot be involved with us. This is not appropriate for him and we understand that.

    I hope you are right about future plans and I do hope that input from parents/students from all schools in the district is carefully listened to and considered in a more transparent way by Fornero.

    Our issues with the current school board and administration are not just based on Forsythe’s experience. We feel current practices have the effect & potential of being extremely damaging for everyone. View our outcry a “wake up” call to the administration. They should be glad that we have brought some important issues to their attention.
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jul. 7 '05 - 10:05AM    #
  31. Rhumer—You said:

    The way I heard it, Mr. Madison jumped at the chance to run the Open School for a year to polish his resume while he prepares for a major career advance and departure from the district the following year.

    Where did you hear this?

    Thanks
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jul. 7 '05 - 10:07AM    #
  32. Here’s another way to look at it: The Forsythe community is not the first in AAPS to have a principal moved. There are always the same hysterics when a good principal is moved. But if my read on the district is correct, it operates with a sort of share-the-wealth mentality. That is, great principals get moved to places that need great principals. So if you’re a principal who demonstrates that you do well, you are sent to other schools to spread your good works, rather than allowing one small segment of the community benefit and the rest struggle.

    It is actually quite equitable, in that sense.

    The other thing is that good research on school administration shows that principals left in place for seven or more years begin to lose their effectiveness. It is smart to move principals around, even if it upsets parents.

    My elementary school has had three principals since I’ve had kids in school. EAch change was, well, a change. The quality of education did not diminish, although different groups of parents complained mightily over each change. Fortunately I no longer have children in elementary school….
       —JennyD    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:27AM    #
  33. I had not thought to comment further on this thread, in the vain hope that our district administrators would, at last night’s school board meeting, render the discussion moot.

    Unfortunately, Superintendent Fornero’s half-hearted mea culpa did little to address the pointed concerns of the Forsythe community or to resolve the public debate. He conceded that his office had “missed the mark” in apprising affected communities of leadership changes. He indicated that he had conducted a thorough review of the principal reassignment process, and of particular principal placements, without even hinting at the parameters of that review. He reasserted his office’s untrammeled right to make and remake staff assignments, unencumbered by anything but his own, particular “vision.” All of Ann Arbor, it seems to me, should be concerned about finding such insularity in its district officials. This year Forsythe was the affected community; next year it could just as easily be somewhere else.

    I, for one, am indebted to Anne for her reporting on this issue. I think it incumbent on all of us to be as informed as we can possibly be before venturing a public opinion, and attending school board meetings where the matter is being discussed seems like a reasonable place to start. Partisanship does not always lead to dispassionate discourse, but it can (and should) motivate us to learn more.

    Speculation comes in all shapes and sizes, but it should never be merely a semantic exercise. Aside from wishful thinking, what evidence do we have that Michael Madison is being “warehoused”? There is certainly nothing in the public record that would support such an interpretation, nor any indication from the Superintendent’s office that such a move is being considered. In fact, every indication we do have (whether from Trustee Griswold’s straightforward assertion at the June 22nd school board meeting that a small group of interested parties had “bragged about” what they were going to do and that Madison’s move was part of their plan, or from Trustee Friedman’s rather cryptic comment at the same meeting that principals needed to be “obedient” to center directives) suggests that Michael Madison’s transient reassignment to Ann Arbor Open was, at best, a lateral move. Is it impossible that he will end up as principal of the new high school? Not at all, but, if he is being “warehoused,” it would be an incredible waste of precious, administrative talent. Why not just leave him at Forsythe while the new high school is being built?

    As to the business of Madison’s reticence in making public comment, I would suggest an alternate interpretation. I do not think that he is any “freer to discuss” his employment situation than are his district managers. Their constraints are legal ones, his are purely practical: his job depends upon it. I do not think that it is beyond the realm of possibility (and here I’m the one that’s speculating) that Mr. Madison has been asked to refrain from public comment, though he has, apparently, communicated his opposition to the move in private. Mike is held in high enough esteem by the Forsythe community that, were he to indicate a desire to leave, we would all willingly wish him Godspeed.

    Engaging the community on publicly relevant issues is a mark of leadership strength, just as keeping narrowly to one’s own counsels is a sign of weakness. No one that I’m aware of is suggesting that local school communities should have veto power over staff appointments, but there must surely be room for a consultative role. If the Superintendent is not listening to the communities he serves, to whom, precisely, is he listening?
       —Steve    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:55PM    #
  34. Happy to report—good or bad news. Thanks Steve.

    As Andrew Carnegie said, “It marks a big step in your development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you can do alone.”

    This just flew my way on e-mail and even though it came in a message talking about teamwork, involved parents and students can help the Board and Dr. Fornero do a better job than their doing right now. For everyone in the district.

    It would be helpful at some point to get past the point of feeling like enemies. That’s what it still feels like. But, maybe things will evolve as time goes on.

    Boy, am I optimistic or what? At this moment I am, but things can change quickly. I am also tempered now by the ugly realities of terrorists and how sick and twisted they are. I’m sure all are feeling this right now.

    But, that doesn’t mean give up on your goals, no matter how small. Never give up…take a look at your goals…maybe change them to fit the circumstances…but never give up!
       —Anne L. Jackson    Jul. 7 '05 - 08:45PM    #
  35. As a scholar in education, I just want to pose this in a different light:

    Every time I hear parents claim to know what’s best for the education of children, it occurs to me how little lay people value the work of educators. It’s as though all the people who have been in the business or studied it or something are complete knuckleheads, and the only people who know what’s best are the parents. It surprises me that people who claim to support educators so easily trample on their expertise in the course of making a case for the “children.”

    I try to imagine whether parents behave similarly when a local pediatric surgeon decides to switch hospitals. I doubt it. But there’s something about teaching and learning that seems so obvious to parents that they think they could do it, judge it, supervise it.

    I certainly believed it strongly when I started in the ed school. I was sure the profession was populated with people who knew less than I did. I have learned a lot since then, and come to see that many educators are absolutely terrible, and there are many political pressures on education that prevent it from both getting rid of incompetents and improving the work of teaching and learning.

    I am far less sure of what goes on in schools now that I know more about it. I need a lot more evidence one way or the other before I would take sides.
       —JennyD    Jul. 7 '05 - 10:25PM    #
  36. JennyD,

    Please go to the website that’s been set up, http://www.bringbackmike.org/Briefhistory.htm,
    and review the FOIA summary of the reasons for transferring Mr. Madison. It is more useful to speak to the facts of a particular case than to color the world in our own paradigms.
       —Don    Sep. 21 '05 - 12:57PM    #
  37. I would encourage everyone to go there and then come back here to discuss. The analysis was done very carefully and only with the intention of discovering as much of the truth as possible from the documentation that was kept by the administration.

    Sadly, a very very weak case indeed, as you will see.
       —AJ    Oct. 6 '05 - 03:47PM    #
  38. Just as an aside…the parents that put together this website DO support the new principal at Forsythe, and KNOW that Mike Madison will not return to Forsythe.

    What has been left behind to work on is 1) the need to continue to insist that the administration act responsiblity and carefully when making disruptive, damaging changes to our schools and 2) the need to put the good word out about Mike Madison. After all of his hard work, this is the least that should be done.
       —AJ    Oct. 6 '05 - 03:51PM    #