Hey Governor, Balance The Budget By Slashing The Administration!


By Dr. John Trotter


Dear Governor Perdue:  Let's see now.  Something is not making sense.  Public school systems have about five or six (or more) times the per capita "Central Office" employees as do the private schools (be they well-established schools like Marist, Woodward, Westminster, or Lovett or fairly new Christian or other religious academies) and yet the public school systems operate much less efficiently than do the private schools.  I know that the public schools have to take whomever the parents send our way -- and I want to make it clear that I am a product of public schools from kindergarten through a doctorate at UGA over 25 years ago, although I did graduate later from law school at Mercer University which is private.  Public schools just aren't what they used to be.  You had discipline in the old days, and that was the FIRST order of business BEFORE you could focus on any curriculum and learning.  (Think back about your experiences at Warner Robins High School in Houston County.  In your heart, you know that I am speaking the truth.)  I was reading Tim Russert's best selling book this week about his relationship with his father, Big Russ & Me, which is about his relationship with his father and about growing up Catholic in a working class Buffalo neighborhood.  Russert was regaling in the stories of Father John Sturm, the Prefect of Discipline at Canisius High School where he attended.  Russert joyfully remembered that all day Father Sturm barked orders:  "Stand up straight"; "Fix your tie"; "Close your mouth"; "Stay in line"; "Why aren't your shoes shined?"; and others.  (Today, Father Sturm would be immediately fired for talking like this.  He would be told that he was not "sensitive.")

   When you have strong discipline in place and the superintendents and school boards support good discipline, you don't need multiple layers of bureaucratic paper-pushers (trying to find ways to blame the woes of education on the teachers and creating more inane things for teachers to do).  The teachers just need support in discipline, by and large.  It is really so simple that the educrats and policy wonks can't see it.  They need to teach just one day at Coan Middle School or Therrell High School in Atlanta or Forest Park High School or Forest Park Middle School in Clayton or Lithonia Middle School or Clarkston High School or Flat Rock Elementary School in DeKalb or Lindley Middle School or Bryant Elementary School or Russell Elementary School in Cobb or Liberty Elementary School or Banneker High School in Fulton or Lilburn Middle School in Gwinnett or just about any school in Georgia.  Teachers don't need all of the "Insultants" (as my father always called the Central Office "Consultants" when he was a Georgia principal); the teachers need support.  Today, the focus is on having a zillion educrats to condescendingly tell teachers how to teach instead of supporting teachers so that they can teach!  Nearly 30 years ago, I was the sole administrator in charge of discipline at a large high school in Georgia (with some very rowdy students).  I became the assistant principal in charge of discipline at age 27.  I was coming down from the University of Georgia, and the teachers later recalled how they were predicting how long it would take before the students had me under control.  It didn't work that way.  By October/November, I was bored because the discipline was so under control.  You could hear a pin drop in the halls, and the teachers loved it because they now could teach without having to focus on discipline all day.  The students, deep down, actually love the strong discipline, and this is the point of my mentioning the book by the late Tim Russert of Meet the Press.  Only the thugs do not like strong discipline, but if you do not get the thugs in line or get rid of the thugs (and that's what the superintendents and principals today refuse to do -- and especially since No Child Left Behind penalizes suspensions and expulsions), then there will be chaos in the schools, resulting in hiring more Central Office personnel (snoopervisors, if you will) to push more paper and blame onto the teachers.  (By the way, in that one year, I had to take 13 "thugs" before the school board, and the school board expelled all 13 "thugs" for either the rest of the quarter or for the rest of the school year.  This got everyone's attention.) 


   So, what is my point?  How does this relate to the State's budget woes (and they are real)?  Well, I think that the answer that you, Governor, should be seeking is how much money a 25% to 35% slash in administrators would save the State.  Do you really need four or five or even six administrators who "share" disciplinary responsibilities but who really shuffle their responsibilities to each other or simply bury theirs heads in the sand, resulting in essentially nothing being done?  Get rid of most of the "Insultants"/Snoopervisors at the Central Offices.  The fat is in the administrative ranks, not in the teaching ranks.  This, Governor, is where you should be cutting.  The teachers have already borne the blunt of this so-called "reform movement" which has been a colossal failure.  How about thinking outside of the box?  How about showing teachers your utmost respect and save the money by reducing the ridiculous and gargantuan size of the administrative ranks?  How about becoming the Georgia governor who began restoring discipline in our schools?  This would be quite refreshing.  Governor, I don't envy your budgetary responsibilities, but when it comes to the schools of Georgia, please do the right thing.  At MACE, we often state that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.  Respectfully, John Trotter, EdD, JD. (c) MACE, July 23, 2009.

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