You were vacationing in Santa Cruz Tuesday when you got the text from a friend. He wanted to know what you think about Superintendent Carlomagno because a friend of his in Hillsborough is curious. You wonder why somebody in Hillsborough wants this information but you don’t think too much about it, you have to get to dinner on the wharf. You text back: “Like her, super energy and student centered. Could be a little more assertive with bad employees but she is a problem solver, not creator. Overall A-.”
Wednesday evening you return to Sonoma and realize what the text meant. The superintendent is leaving for a new job in Hillsborough. This is not good news, you have always respected Louann (always Louann or Lou Lou, or Lou Car: nicknames tell a lot about people), she is student centered like you, and no matter who else in the district tries to put barriers in the way of your teaching, you always felt like you had an ally at the top.
Thursday morning you grab a bottle of champagne and write a note of thanks hoping to catch Louann in her office. She is out for the day so you pop in on Nikarre Redcoff, ask what happened, talk about your kids and how in the world will we find anyone to fill Louann’s shoes?
Apparently, Louann is tired. Tired of fighting, tired of swimming in the excrement pool of conflicting personalities trying to make decisions, tired of not feeling effective. And there are conflicts, with administrators, with certain board members, with certain parents, with other employees. See, Louann cares about everyone and that makes the job really tough.
She does not make decisions then shut the door to her office. She is at her best when she is visiting classrooms, interacting with students, talking with teachers. There is no bravado or intimidation in these visits, she has opinions, sure, but the goal is the same as what it should be for all teachers. “What is the best for the student?” That’s the bottom line, that’s why she works 18-hour days, that’s why students know her and greet her and are happy to see her. She walks the walk. And now she’s walking away.
You read your email which she titled, “farewell my friends…” in it she explains, “I have concluded that a different superintendent may be better able to address these issues and to re-unify the governance team” Really!?! there’s somebody else out there who works harder, has more experience, cares more about everyone, and loves this district more than you? Not possible.
In your 17 years teaching in the district you have had great advice, good advice, and maybe a little bad advice, but Louann’s door has always been open whenever you had a question. You will never forget the first day of summer school when you completely flubbed the student schedules and she immediately jumped right in to help. You liked her sitting in on discussions in your class because she participates, shares her opinions and is not the quiet-administrator-with-the-clipboard-sitting-in-the-back-of-the-class type.
And its not just classroom stuff, when you were upset about your daughter’s lack of stellar performance (actually, grades) after her first semester in college, Louann encouraged you to let her figure it out. When you were getting no response with changing your son’s high school schedule, you talked with Louann who didn’t override the decision but convinced you to wait and see how it would play out (it worked out just fine).
You know that small town politics is tough but welcome to the funhouse. People disagree, have different opinions and try to convince you that their bubble is the right bubble. Sure, civility is at an all-time low thanks to the current administration, but the reaction should be to stand up to the bullies, not take your ball and leave the playground. Yes, things can look bleak but what about all the good, what about all the happy kids who just graduated from a district which might not look all that great on paper but has some pretty amazing experiences overall. Perspective is important.
And what, you just pack up and go because some overzealous board member called you a poo-poo head (I’m making that up)? You know most of the board members will happily back you on most issues. And so will most teachers, and students, and parents. You have built that respect through many years of walking the walk, of having your door open, of being an excellent leader.
But change is good and maybe the next chapter will “re-unify the governance team”. Who knows? Life is unpredictable.
You leave the champagne and note of thanks on Louann’s desk.