One of the hallmarks of effective leadership is the ability to know when you are wrong, admit it, and work to find a solution. Unfortunately, we do not have an administration or school board that seems to understand this fundamental concept.

Owning mistakes is usually a fait accompli, too, because everyone else involved knows who is to blame and why. With each passing day without a confession, the reputation  of the culprit suffers.

In the pile of documents received by N-MUSD parent Erica Roberts – months after she requested them – there are clear indications that the decision-makers in the district were trying to salvage a controversial math program as late as last summer, long after numerous flaws had been exposed. Instead of someone, say, for example, the superintendent, raising his and saying, “Houston, we have a problem and I may have caused it,” he distanced himself from the controversy, allowing lieutenants to scramble to find solutions for a program too wrecked to salvage

In one e-mail dated August 23, 2016, an elementary school teacher expressed concern about the flow of information regarding the math program and wrote:

“Speaking of hearing feedback, I am concerned that there has been a breakdown in communication with regards to SWUN Math, as evidenced posed tonight by Honorable Board Member Snell. She asked (and I thanked her for doing so) if there were errors in the curriculum prior to its conversion to [Common Core] alignment.

“The question reveals to me that teacher feedback has not been getting to the right place (superintendent and board members) for a very long time. I am including below a portion of the e-mails I wrote – many prior to school-wide adoption of the program and prior to [Common Core] conversion – to illuminate specific and significant problems with pedagogy as well as editing errors of which you so often hear. Please note the dates of the e-mails.”

Ah, yes… the dates.

Here’s a sample e-mail from a teacher to a person employed by the math program vendor:

“I will now keep a log of my questions as they are many. I seem to find ‘errors’ on every page of the past lessons I’ve done, which my students are finding confusing and distracting to the lessons. I am starting to wonder whether they are truly errors or somehow our misreadings.”

And the reply:

“Thank you for previewing the lessons and Instructional Strategies so closely before teaching them. You found some errors that our editors and other teachers did not!”

That exchange is from January. That would be January, 2013.

I’ve asked it here before and I’ll ask it again: How many elementary school students in the district have been turned off by math or otherwise suffered because of the adoption of a flawed program?

When all is said and done, this may be the greatest school district tragedy in the 31 years I have been living here. Bigger than the Wagner embezzlement, bigger than the Hubbard trial, bigger than anything. Bigger even than the fiscal mismanagement that led to hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-supported bonds. Why? Because the district failed to perform its most important mission, which is to provide an excellent curriculum that will teach and inspire students.

How many teachers, and parents, too, suffered as a result of the foot-dragging, head-in-the-sand response to teacher complaints?

And yet, as late as last June, some were still trying to prop up the program by contemplating a dog and pony show to combat negative reactions.

So what did the board do in response to this tragedy? The recently gave the guy in charge – the superintendent – a raise and a performance rating of “exceptional.”

In the private sector, a mistake of this magnitude would be grounds for dismissal, but in the N-MUSD, you get a reward.

Steve Smith
N-MUSD taxpayer