Last year, College and Career Center specialist Susan Gertman retired, leaving a vacancy that was filled at the start of the 2014-15 school year. Less than two weeks into this year, however, Principal Julie Synyard sent an email to parents announcing that the position was once again vacant. As of press time, the Tam administration is still working to fill the position with a qualified candidate, and students lack a crucial resource in the middle of college application season. This vacancy has led to a lack of organization and the responsibilities of a College and Career Center specialist have been divided among various personel, adding confusion and potential redundancies to an already complicated application process.
While this personnel change is certainly stressful, especially for Tam’s senior class, it calls attention to a larger underlying issue: the frequent turnover of administrative staff on the Tam campus.
Of the four site administrators at Tam, not one of them was present when this year’s seniors were freshmen. Principal Julie Synyard started at Tam in September of last year, and Assistant Principal Brian Lynch the year before that. Assistant Principals Wendy Stratton and Leah Herrera are both new this year, after Stratton moved from teaching at Redwood and Herrera from Oakland, and neither have prior administrative experience. This lack of experience in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does demonstrate an unsettling lack of continuity in the key personnel that determine the everyday functions and long-term direction.
Although administrative turnover may seem similar to frequent hirings and firings of other staff, especially teachers, administrators need time to see their visions to fruition. A teacher’s job traditionally has a one year cycle because they get new students every year.
Plans set in place by administrators, however, are often multi-year projects that can take a lot of time to develop fully, and require the continuing presence of the leading administrator in order to see them to completion. This is not to say that cultivating a staff of experienced, long-term teachers isn’t important, but continuity within the administration can have a deep, long-lasting impact on the school as a whole.
A strong administrative team that is familiar with the student body and teaching staff leads to clear and consistent policies, which are the backbone of a healthy, functioning school environment.
Of course, change can be positive. If a system doesn’t work, changes need to be implemented in order to make improvements. We are in no way suggesting that effectiveness should be sacrificed in favor of continuity.
However, it is difficult for students, parents, and even teachers to become invested in administrators and their plans if any one administrative team doesn’t last very long.
On the other side of the equation, it is hard for administrators to implement plans in a way that works for the school community if it is their first year. Administrators with more experience with the particular school are better able to craft multi-year plans tailored to the school.
We ask that the district make an effort to maintain the current administration at Tam for long enough to see if they work for our school.