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  • Saturday, April 08, 2006



    An original investigative news analysis series by /Orange/Net/News/

    In this exclusive Orange Net News investigative news series THE Hedgehog Digest, ONN examines the Jim Collins “Good to Great” framework for both business and the social sector. Since both the slogan and book have been embraced by Orange Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Godley, THE Hedgehog Digest will focus on how OUSD fits into the Collins’ model. Is Good to Great a formula to once again make OUSD the premier district in Orange County as it once was in the 1950’s and 1960’s? Or is Good to Great just another slogan printed on a pen in the education “fad”- industry were “one day you’re in, the next day you’re out”? Will Good to Great be a feasible educational framework, or another distraction that will side-track OUSD administrators from the very real work at hand? Orange Net News’ special series, THE Hedgehog Digest, will explore slogan to framework of Godley’s attempt of Taking OUSD from Good to Great.

    OUSD and Good to Great Choices

    In the initial buzz about the Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t (Harper-Business, 2001), the book climbed to best-seller status and became the latest boardroom fad. Soon, some social sector (non-business) leaders looked to the Collins’ book for greatness too. However, because the book’s “greatness” criteria are based on economic performance, its concepts did not transfer neatly to social sector organizations (like school districts). To address this, in 2005 Collins came out with a 35 page monograph called “Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer: Good to Great and the Social Sectors” (Collins, 2005) to accompany his best selling book. In the monograph Collin’s writes “I do not consider myself to be an expert on social sectors…” but characterizes himself an eager student. While Collin’s writes in the monograph that his good-to-great principles “do indeed apply to the social sectors”, he concedes he lacks hard evidence. He writes that all his work on the social sectors is based on “critical feedback, structured interviews and laboratory work with more than 100 social sector leaders”. Collins writes that research “done right” in applying good-to-great to social sectors for the hard evidence will “require up to a decade to complete”. In the meantime, he is offering the monogram “as a small step” (Collins, Good to Great Monograph, pg. 3).

    In his Social Sectors Monogram, Collins synthesized his original framework into five corresponding social sector issues, the first being: Defining “Great” – Calibrating Success without Business Metrics. In his book, Collins defines his “good to great” companies (i.e. tobacco giant Phillip Morris and accounting scandal plagued Fannie Mae-plus others) based on their economic success, a model that does not work in the social sector. In his social sector monograph, Collins writes “In the social sectors, money is only an input, and not a measure of greatness” and that “performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns” (Collins, pg 5). Collins states that in the social sector (which includes public education) that the critical question in calibrating success without profit is “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?”. While citing the examples of a collegiate sports winning record and the Cleveland Orchestra tripling its endowment, Collins contends that measuring greatness in the social sector is “not finding the perfect indicator, but settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results, then tracking your trajectory with rigor” (Collins, pg 8).

    The question then is what will be the “consistent and intelligent method of assessing” if OUSD Superintendent Thomas Godley is able to meet his goal of moving OUSD from “Good to Great”? The current OUSD Mission Statement* is clearly useless as an instrument for this measurement. The same can be said for any type of measurement using the Godley inspired OUSD Top Ten Core Values (see link below). Clearly, for public education in California, the state’s yearly standardized test scores are currently the most “consistent and intelligent” assessment of public education, plus OUSD already tracks the scores “trajectory with rigor”. However, when looking at Collins’ critical question, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?”, other measurement criteria might also be considered. Taking the Top Ten Core Values together with the OUSD Mission Statement* as “our mission” in the Collins’ critical question, and the “distinctive impact” being the state standardized test scores, the phase “relative to our resources”, for the school district appears to be the variable. How OUSD chooses to spend the resources (educational taxes) to accomplish its “mission” to make a “distinctive impact” continues to be controversial throughout the greater Orange community.

    Those resource choices in the past have caused widespread controversy, and under Godley, that has not changed. Orange Unified ranks fourth highest in Orange County unified school districts in budget percentage of administrative costs. Perhaps going from “good to great” would involve cuts to administrative costs to free scarce resources to accomplish the “mission” to make a “distinctive impact”. However, community watchdogs point out that when Superintendent Godley refers to school board members by their first names during Board meetings, and those same Trustees never vote against Administrative spending schemes, it is unlikely the community will see an OUSD agenda item to bring OUSD administrative costs in line with similar Orange County districts.

    Attorney fees continue to take a huge bite out of the OUSD budget. From the Santiago Charter Revocation debacle, to having an outside lawyer sit in on all employee contract negotiations that drag on and on, yet always seem to be resolved (meanwhile the attorney fees are being racked up). Critics ask since when is the district’s legal counsel a “budget” or “labor” expert? OUSD has two well paid Assistant Superintendents who are suppose to be experts in those fields. Just imagine the resources that can be applied to the “mission” to make a “distinctive impact” by having the attorney only sign-off on the legal implications of the final negotiated agreement instead of sitting in on all the labor negotiation meetings and racking up fees (even more when negotiations are stalled). Some in the community have called on the Trustees to request an administration report on how other school districts conduct negotiations without an attorney present.

    Stopping the continued reliance of OUSD Administrators on “consultants” to perform tasks that the administrators were hired to do is another way to free “resources” to meet the “mission” to make a “distinctive impact”. The continued use of the unproven OUSD Focus on Results program with even OUSD Trustees and Administrators not knowing what the program is or does continues to be a community embarrassment. In her report on the program at an OUSD Board Meeting, OUSD Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen likened Focus on Results to “marriage counseling” and revealed she had her own consultant from the program. OUSD Trustee Wes Poutsma has praised Focus on Results and called it a “reading program” and stated he was for any program that “taught kids to read”. Poutsma went on to declare about the overall $2.5 million dollar cost of the Focus on Results program to district taxpayers: “We’re a $220 million dollar business; we’re going to spend the money somewhere.” Then add to all that: reports of a top district administrator telling OUSD Principals at a meeting that Focus on Results will end “over my dead body”; at OUSD Focus on Results meetings, copyrighted articles were being used without the authors permission; during last year’s state budget crisis, the OUSD Administration “cut” Focus on Results only to later move it to tax funds reserved for “teacher training” that OUSD receives from the federal government. With all this, the program becomes more than an embarrassment; it becomes a tragedy and a true road block in moving OUSD from “good to great”. Continuing the consultants on parade, the most recently approved consultant who uses a team building technique called “method teaming” will cost the taxpayers $3333 a day in educational tax funds. Community members question why OUSD’s top paid administrator (who has been a school superintendent three times) is not expected to be a great (or at least a “good”) team builder on his own (without a consultant) as part of his six-figure job?

    The idea that the highest paid educational experts are to be more than people who outsource to others at enormous fees duties (i.e. team building) seems to be beyond the current OUSD Administrators. Some community leaders assert that many of the tasks (i.e. team building) should be part of the taxpayer paid positions the well-paid administrators hold. If the OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services needs a personal consultant that works like a marriage counselor, then why are taxpayers paying her? If the OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Personnel can’t negotiate directly with rank and file employees trained by their labor associations, then why are taxpayers paying him? If the OUSD Superintendent of Schools needs a $3333 a day consultant to teach him how to “team build” with his administration team, then why are taxpayers paying him?

    Recently, the OUSD Administration recommended cutting $400,000 from the elementary music program to save money. It appears for the music issue that OUSD Superintendent Thomas Godley did not look to his mentor Jim Collins’ critical question for social sectors: “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?” . Luckily for OUSD’s children, many in the community did (without realizing it) address that critical “good to great” question as they mobilized to save the music program.

    It appears that for many in the community there is more to moving OUSD from “good to great” than just putting the slogan on pens and handing them out at staff meetings. In the social sector it is more about level five leadership and getting the right people on the bus, the school bus, than the present OUSD Administration may understand in its quest to go from “Good to Great”.

    END of Part 3

    * Orange Unified Mission Statement:
    “The Orange Unified School District, being committed to continual improvement, will offer a learning environment of excellence, with high expectations, to provide each student with the opportunity to be able to compete in the global community”.

    The Top Ten Core Values of Orange Unified:
    “Method Teaming” Team Building:

    TO READ PART ONE: Good to Great: Good Slogan or Great Framework CLICK ON



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