Starting at the Beginning

In conversation on October 6, our Superintendent remarked that fixing the Richmond public schools will be disruptive and, in the short term, the disruption will look very much like failure.

Said otherwise, things will have to get worse before they can get better.

He shared with me a document that supports his argument.

Superintendent Bedden started here in January, 2014.  That November, at his request, the Council of the Great City Schools sent a “Strategic Support Team” to audit the RPS Human Resources Dep’t. 

(First things first: If you don’t have good people, you can’t have an effective organization.)

The six-member team visited Richmond in November and issued its report in December, 2014. 

The report takes a third of a page to make four “Commendations” (e.g., HR staff are “hard working and dedicated to their assigned tasks”). 

Then it spends just over five pages listing the problems the team found.  The first two items set the tone:

The leadership of the HR Department has not established a vision or direction for the organization and there is a general lack of foresight and planning.

The department appears to suffer from a culture of complacency, stifles new ideas, and protects the status quo, all of which is compounded by a defeatist attitude that suggests that RPS is the “employer of last resort,” as one interviewee put it.

The recommendations then go on for another two+ pages.  Some samples:

1. Re-structure the HR Department to reflect the employment life cycle of on-boarding (recruitment, selection, hiring, and placement), retention (servicing, development, and promotion), and discharging (retirement, termination, and out-placement).

6. Ensure that HR functions have qualified people, with applicable skill sets, in the appropriate positions.  [Ouch!]

7. Require and hold HR leadership accountable for establishing a vision and direction for the organization and changing the departmental culture to one focused on the successful achievement of goals and objectives.

The entire report is a dispassionate and detailed memorial to the awful leadership of the previous superintendent(s). 

To the point here, it also testifies to the Brobdingnagian task facing our current Superintendent.  I’m beginning to think that he’ll need more than the three years he’s had to clean up the mess that is RPS.