DISD's Department of Uselessness

Drunk teacher_opt.jpg
Via.
An effective HR team would make sure teachers have the proper equipment to do their jobs, starting with straws.
In the ever-lasting debate over whether and how and how well our teachers are living up to their charge -- that charge, of course, being simply to save their country from a slow, seamless descent into collective idiocy -- a lot of buzzwords get buzzed: evaluations, testing, metrics, merit pay, longevity, Teach for America and No Child Left Behind and Why is Mrs. Bannister Always Sipping From That Shiny Thermos In Her Desk?

But as Robert noted earlier, these days the Dallas Independent School District and its board are wondering whether something simpler, something basic to most private enterprises its size, might be at the root of the personnel problems touched on in a Dallas Morning News editorial on Sunday: its human resources department.

Often dismissed as a useless branch on the org chart, it's easy to see how a smart, efficient HR unit can have an acute and lasting impact on the education students receive. It can help recruit the best teachers and administrators and support staff, smooth their transition into employment and, perhaps as importantly, smooth the lousy ones' transition into unemployment.

But as the board learned two weeks ago, in advance of a Thursday-night vote, DISD's HR department has been doing virtually none of that.

This highly depressing discovery is brought to you by a commission of private-sector HR gurus, tapped by Trustees Nancy Bingham and Edwin Flores and including Container Store founder Garrett Boone, whose company has been ranked among the nation's best for workers. With one HR staffer for every 800 employees -- the Houston school district has twice that many -- "there's not an adequate structure" in place, Boone said. It would be "impossible for any organization on earth" to effectively hire, train and manage a workforce the size of DISD's -- 20,000 employees, among the most of any employer in Dallas -- with its current HR department.

It starts at the top, where the commission recommended hiring an HR executive who reports directly to the superintendent and who's paid private-sector loot: around $300,000, says trustee Mike Morath, more than interim Superintendent Alan King pulls in now.

What a fun job that will be. Among the problems the new HR chief will have to fix, according to the report: The department doesn't screen all candidates, which it should. Principals have carte blanche to hire whoever they want, which they shouldn't. There's no defined process for finding good candidates. The hiring process takes too long -- sometimes two months. There's no succession planning for administrators. There's no uniform interview process. And so on and so on and so on, until $13,000 a year for private school starts to sound like a damn steal.

"It paints a picture of a department that's totally dysfunctional" Morath told us a day after hearing the commission's findings. He added: "It's a huge problem, but for whatever reason the previous administration didn't deal with it."

One reason: It ain't cheap. The commission didn't put a price tag on its recommendations, but they would easily run into the millions. Those dollars won't be easy to find at a time when state lawmakers seem eager to defund public schools, like bullies lurking outside a Physics Club meeting. And it'll take some political will, since teachers, watching their ranks dwindle, won't look kindly on the board dumping more money into administration.

The commission's report "comes at a very inopportune time," says Rena Honea, president of Alliance-AFT, which represents DISD teachers. "The amount of money and resources that's going to have to be put into this project are going to be a very large sum. ... We have to be realistic."

But that's thing: The Container Store guy and his HR-guru friends? They come from reality, and they seem to think that the dysfunction of the district HR apparatus is as real a problem as it gets. The board seems to think so too -- even if budget and bureaucratic realities stopped them from acting on the recommendations last week. And King? He's all-in.

"I plan to take this list and implement everything that doesn't have budget implications or require board approval," he said at the meeting, without prompting. It was the kind of assertiveness an HR pro would have loved.

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human resources management
human resources management

 The function of HR department in an organization is not limited to hiring and managing a large work force but research has shown that progressive and highly effective Human capital Management Practices have a major impact on corporate bottom-line and middle-line performance. Researchers have documented the positive impact of good HR practices on productivity; product and service quality; financial performance; and cost control. Researchers have documented the positive impact of good HR practices on productivity; product and service quality; financial performance; and cost control.

biscuit98
biscuit98

Wait a minute. HR for the Container Store and HR for what are supposed to be professionals are two different functions. HR doesn't need to be training anyone in a public school system. Teachers need to get their professional training from experts in the field, not some HR hack.

Let's imagine Edwin Flores the lawyer assuming HR at a law firm needs to choose new attorneys. That's laughable. Let's also assume HR is in control of training new attorneys for the firm instead of attorneys getting their professional training through experts in their field. That's also laughable. So why are teachers being compared to retail store employees while the thought of HR choosing new partners to the firm is a joke? (It take an excellent attorney to judge another attorney, but it takes an HR flunkie to choose teachers????)

Now imagine a different world where DISD principals were chosen for their instructional and management expertise instead of being kin to previous administrators or the flavor of the month for another central administrator. OF COURSE the principal should be choosing their teachers.

The problem is that DISD administrators are some of the most incompetent crooks on the planet and they didn't get their jobs by demonstrating instructional expertise or managment skills. They are chosen through cronyism and nepotism as are teachers.

So the problem is not in redefining the HR function. That's like trying to set the MAFIA on a straight course by giving them appropriate training in HR. The problem is a lack of honesty and total corruption involving the entire food chain.

By the way--what is the value proposition to anyone crazy enough to apply for a job in DallasISD? They have an annual blowup over finances that puts everyone's job at risk except for the filth downtown. They hire total incompetents for leadership and the board is so far out of their league that decision making is a disaster. Until that is fixed, nix the idea that HR is the problem.

Remember that Edwin Flores thought Hinojosa was underpaid and deserved a million a year!! Why is anyone taking advice from that clown?

Anon
Anon

They need competent principals to help make final hiring decisions, but HR departments still serve as filters even in professional fields. That oversight is intended to balance the power between principals who may be inclined to fill a school with cronies (or others who will get in line with whatever the principal wants) and someone with a reasonable degree of insight into who might make a promising teacher.

RTGolden
RTGolden

first off, congrats to Mr Tone, who has actually written something and not just posted a link to content generated by someone else.

I really don't think anything much will come of this.  The board isn't going to hire an effective HR manager, because the first thing an effective HR manager will do is put the board into their proper place.  Then that manager is going to take an Alaska-sized snow shovel and start shoveling the ash and trash crony hires out of HR, followed by other admin depts.  This is more canine and equestrian extravaganza stuff so board members can trot out a bunch of facts and figures that show how much they care about the district and the kids' educations.

The only heartening thing in the whole episode is King's reaction.  At least he wants to try and get something done, even with both hands tied, feet in cement, and purse strings out of reach.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

If anyone has ever wondered about a half ass way to get things started this is a great example .

"I plan to take this list and implement everything that doesn't have budget implications or require board approval,"

I am not saying everything has to be perfect to start a project . I have found Having the MONEY and the AUTHORITY to make things happen makes things happen .

It sure takes the "WE" don't have the "MONEY" and "YOU" don't have the "AUTHORITY" out of the EXCEPTION GENERATORS  Vocabulary.

baghdadis4lovers
baghdadis4lovers

DISD needs to implement a needle exchange program and in doing so, I believe, the morale and professionalism of our too far strung(out,maybe???) teachers shall then rise like the phoenixes, they are, from the burning embers and ashes of our dilapidated system! 

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Better living through chemistry.  I like it.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I've been a long term skeptic of DISD, but it's encouraging that they've identified and are seriously focusing on a very real problem here.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Well, I think the jury is still out on how "seriously" they're focusing on it.  The Board is great at gnashing their teeth and rending their garments over a problem - show me concrete action.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I'm trying to be positive, today--- please don't harsh my mellow.

Anon
Anon

No successful enterprise has EVER dismissed HR as a "useless branch on the org chart"

Good teachers should support money spent on effective administration but may not. Lots of bad teachers right now are crony hires, they won't like it. Don't confuse good teachers skeptical that the right person will be put in a very highly paid position with the bad teachers who are worried the gravy train is over.

ELH
ELH

Good teachers most likely will not support this. Generally because more money spent on another level of ineffective administration means fewer teachers and resources. Could it possibly mean a more effective district, yes. But if the state continues to strip public education of both funding and the ability to teach content that will serve students in the future then all the administration in the world won't change a thing.

Anon
Anon

Good teachers are realistic. The absolute amount of pay in administration doesn't seem to be their gripe, as best I can tell. It's the needless layers of administration that suck up money AND waste everyone's time because the useless and incompetent administrators need to prove they are needed. You could shrink the absolute dollars spent on administration, reduce the number of administrators, and pay the remaining ones a market salary, thereby eliminating the need to funnel money from classrooms to administration. My point was that anyone teaching in DISD who is smart knows that probably won't happen.But if good teachers see that the new head of HR is trying to keep out the dummy crony hires, they will begin to believe that they actually are valued, which is more important than money to most of them. 

JM
JM

Teacher morale is as low as it gets. An effective HR would raise confidence in the administration, give hope that your fellow teachers were as committed and professional as you or they would be gone; in general, light at the end of the tunnel.  Many prospective hires, competent and eager, are so turned off by the hiring process at DISD, they go elsewhere. Only the ones with no place to go stay for the insults and mismanagement the current HR hands out.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

What ever happened to the highly paid cracker jack HR Head that DISD hired from the private sector, with no background and experience in public education a few years ago?

Explains the quality of the Superintendents that have been hired over the past decade.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

You mean The Colonel?  She was so crackerjack she got demoted, then left.

To your second point, HR doesn't hire the super, the Board does.

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