Dr. Joel Boyd has been the Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools for about 100 days. During those 100 days, he visited every school and brought in a team of nationally recognized experts — some of whom did the work for free — to delve into every corner of the district and report back to him and the Board of Education. That forty-page report was presented to the Board on Monday, October 29, with a follow-up discussion this past Wednesday. The team was led by Dr. Robert Peterkin, professor emeritus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It would be hard to read the report, as I urge everyone to do, and not come away with the clear picture that — although many good people are working hard every day — the district as a whole was in a shambles when Joel found it: disorganized, incoherent, people working in silos — the word silos was used more times than I can count — high absenteeism across the board, no culture of urgency, no standards for evaluation of performance of teachers, principals or administrators, no reliable data collection and analysis, and, as we all know, a tremendous amount of student failure. I sat down with Joel to talk about the report‘s findings and the state of the Santa Fe Public Schools.
Listen to the show: (28 min)
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Here’s the thing that’s really troubling. In the almost two weeks since the transition team’s report, there has been quite a bit of piling on on two small points in a 40-page report. The first is a ridiculous flap over the phrase “culture of mañana,” a phrase which employees of the district used — apparently repeatedly — in speaking to the consultants about what was going on in the district. I have a special comment on that flap at the end of today’s show. The second issue that has caused piling on is the fact that the report identified a very high rate of absenteeism among instructional staff — more than twice the national average. This is worth talking about further — and you’ll hear Joel talk about it on the show today — but the bottom line is that the initial report was just that, an initial report. That point could not have been emphasized more.
So today’s show is about the other things the report found about the state of our schools that seem to have been forgotten and missed in the midst of all the shouting. Let’s not get distracted from the main point — our schools are failing and have been for some time. Feathers must be ruffled for anything real to happen. Let’s hear what the report found and face it honestly.