Effective Education Leaders are Transparent
There are no more secrets today; everything worth knowing is on the internet. That is why transparency is the best way to go for educational leaders. People respect those who share and react calmly to positive and negative news and act accordingly. We operate in a transparent world, and we must use it to our advantage.
Unfortunately, I have worked for several school districts and universities that did not believe in total transparency. If the information could be potentially damaging to senior-level administration, it would be buried or delayed until a time deemed more fortuitous.
What a lack of transparency looks like in higher education
For instance, delaying data that shows that the university’s graduation rate has fallen 5 percent over the last 5 years, and releasing this information after the football team finishes their season with a bowl win and the school experiences record-setting numbers in alumni and corporate giving. Then blaming the graduation rate on area high schools who graduate students who are not ready for college and subsequently drop out because they can’t handle the rigor.
The alumni buy the story, and the university and area school districts form a coalition aimed at helping high school students enter college prepared to tackle college-level work. The university’s administration ends up being praised for being proactive on the matter and helping to clean up the big mess that K-12 made.
What a lack of transparency looks like in K-12
Let me give you an example from the K-12 arena. My hometown school district was in dire financial straits. Things where so bad that the district’s bank accounts where constantly overdrawn. People in the town knew that money was tight, but they did not know that the district was bankrupt. This would have gone on for several more months, but a central office employee became a whistleblower and informed the state department of education. Of course, this was the right thing to do.
The truth of the matter is, the school board and the superintendent knew exactly how bad things were, but they did nothing. They were too concerned about their positions and reputations, and their arrogance led them to think that they could turn things around before things fell apart. They should have been transparent about the situation and informed the state department of education, their employees, and the citizens. Things were bad, but their lack of transparency made things untenable.
At the end of the day, the kids suffered. The quality of the education that they received was inadequate before, during, and after this crisis. At the end of the day, the state took over the school and stabilized its finances. There were minor increases in academic performance, but the state did not understand the economic, social, and cultural complexities of the district. After about 10 years of being led by a state team, the district is now under local control. Just one of the many nightmarish scenarios that can happen when education leaders are not transparent and put their needs before those of children.