Hello, I Must Be Going

A note on the churning of staff at the NJ Department Of Education:

Penny MacCormack, the NJDOE's assistant commissioner, is leaving to run Montclair's schools. She was supposed to be overseeing the big Regional Achievement Center initiative at the heart of Commissioner Chris Cerf's grand plans. She had only been on the job for a year.

The Deputy Commissioner, Andy Smarick, is also leaving for the bright lights of Washington. He was always more comfortable on the wingnut welfare gravy train anyway; in fact, he never really gave up advocacy, even when it was a conflict of interest. He was here about two years.

And David Hespe, Cerf's Chief of Staff, is leaving to run a county college. He had been in his job for only a year.

Given their track records, I wonder if MacCormack's and Smarick's and Hespe's new employers ever stopped to wonder how long each of them plans on staying in their new jobs. Two years? Three? One? Then on to the next one...

Because that's how these people think. Cerf and MacCormack are graduates of the Broad Superintendents "Academy," the unaccredited program of billionaire Eli Broad that trains school leaders to bring corporate values into education. Broad's acolytes call this philosophy "disruptive force" - they believe that personnel churn, continual reorganization, and experiments without previous research to ensure a high chance of success are beneficial for both business and schools.

Of course, any educator worth her salt will tell you that instability is the last thing a child needs (and I don't see how it's been so great for American business either). The idea that closing schools, whether they are charters or publics, is worth the disruption in the lives of small children is an idea that has not been proven. In fact, there's evidence that school closings may harm children more than help.

In the same way, I don't see any evidence that churn in the governance and oversight of schools is helping much either. What happens when the next crew comes in and decides they want to "disrupt" the systems that are being put into place right now? Does everyone in the state have to readjust their policies - again - based on what the new folks want?

You know, we used to live in a country where people valued loyalty and tenacity. People thought it was good when you stayed on the job for years. Businesses and government agencies looked within their organizations first to promote people to higher positions, because we valued experience, knowledge, and substance over flash and consultancy values.

How... quaint.

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