In the Aug. 6 Roundup article, “Laid-off principals led top performing schools,” Mr. O’Brien is quoted as saying, “I don’t want to say that leadership doesn’t matter; but it’s the work of the teachers in the classroom that make a school excel.”
Certainly no one can disagree with the latter portion of Mr. O’Brien’s statement. However, research would negate the implications behind the first half. In fact, the preponderance of research places building principal leadership as the number one component in creating a climate and culture of high academic performance. As well, I have attended many administrative meetings where Mr. O’Brien has emphasized this very clearly.
While other schools in the Payson district have earned a “highly performing” or even an “excelling” label, Payson High School is the only school in the district to achieve “highly performing” for four consecutive years. How shall we interpret Mr. O’Brien’s statement in light of some others? For example, JRE which has gone from “excelling” down to “highly performing” down to “performing-plus.” Or, Payson Center for Success which is now on a state School Improvement Plan. Leadership doesn’t matter so it must be ... who?
I would submit that downplaying the significance of school leadership with regard to his previously stated beliefs along with credible research places Mr. O’Brien in one of three positions: 1) He believed a short time ago that school leadership was important, but has now changed his mind. 2) He feels comfortable communicating research accurately to administrators, but feels latitude to massage information to fit circumstances when speaking publically. 3) He fabricated a statement in an attempt to account for his and the board’s questionable decisions and actions in letting administrators of highly performing schools go while retaining or even promoting administrators of lower performing or under performing schools.
None of the three should inspire much confidence for parents or constituents.