Last Friday (Dec. 3, 2016) In Greenville, Mississippi, the superintendent was fired. The problems began with how he managed communication regarding a teacher who was accused of abusing a student. Because of a lack of trust and effective leadership habits, the poor relationship between the board and the superintendent has created a mess!
The school board produced a statement that was published by the Sun Herald: "Recent events and publicity surrounding an incident where a district teacher dragged a student by the hair have raised concerns among the public about the district's ability to properly safeguard students."
But a statement by the School Board President reveals the bigger issue that triggered the termination decision:
“There are questions. Did he report it in time?” she said, noting the board found out “when everyone else in the world did.”
That last line is the crux of it all--when the boss finds out when everybody else does bad things usually happen. Email and social media is efficient for getting the message out, but both can quickly undermine the trust that is so valuable to your leadership.
First Law of the Grapevine
I sincerely wish this superintendent had been given the opportunity to learn and apply the first Law of the Grapevine: Sequence. With that training he would have known that communication is critical to sustaining trust and confidence, and that the order in which information is shared is a major factor in achieving that level of relationship.
Instead of embarrassing the board by putting them in the unfortunate situation of learning about such a flagrant instance of student abuse "when everyone else in the world did," he would have known to sequence the messaging around this issue by first sharing the facts and response plan with the board. After receiving their feedback and wisdom, he would have then proceeded through the rest of his sequence protocol until the appropriate points were publicly available.
Instead, the board reacted emotionally to being informed through the media rather then from their direct employee. When a superintendent/school head creates such an environment of secrets and surprises, this is usually the result. Over the last few weeks in Greenville, the adults have been distracted with the failure of their relationships rather than on providing the best learning environment for their faculty and families.
This situation could have been avoided with the right professional development, but now the quality of education in Greenville will languish through the public debate about the "fairness" of firing the superintendent and then the search for a new superintendent will commence. That's more money and time invested in activities that add very little value to faculty quality and student growth. Another generation mired in educational mediocrity.