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   DataBus - Vol 41 No. 3: April-May, 2001
President's Column

It's Time To Identify Our Priorities

The public education IT business affords little time for contemplation. Schools present a series of deadlines that can not slip. They must be met. The State of California and the U.S. Government are reluctant to extend reporting deadlines. CBEDS and the J200 series must be filed on time or calls and letters indicating past due performance are sent to principals and superintendents. Miss a class size reduction report and thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost; and there is no way to consolidate requirements to mitigate these pressures.
Modern technology, computers, the WEB, and databases, have exacerbated the problem. The demand for information by parents, administrators, teachers, students and the community grows exponentially. The efficient IT professional who consistently stretches resources to meet increased demands, sows the seeds of tension, stress, work related injury, illness and poor performance for support personnel. Perhaps my memory is failing, but I seem to recall a time when we were only occasionally overworked. Things have changed. I cannot now identify a segment of the school community that is not consistently overworked. National statistics point to extended workweeks for everyone. I find it common to talk to fellow managers who put in 50 and 60 hour work-weeks. Who has not had to work a Saturday every now and then just to catch up?
I present this discussion not to complain, but rather to suggest that we are all part of a collective problem that only together we can solve. The two recent tragedies in my district have caused me to think seriously about what we are doing to ourselves and to our children. To suggest that we shouldn’t build a world class education in California would be ludicrous, but how we do it deserves considerable attention. Can the subtle message of constant pressure to perform be inducing dysfunction in our students and our staffs. Can work overload be creating an environment that provokes symptoms of stress?
I cannot say, other than I suspect until we begin to find ways to work more intelligently, we will continue to see an increase in problems of adjustment. We need to begin to reflect on what is essential for attaining our goals and what is superfluous. We must pay attention to our kids and inquire about their struggles. We should meet with our staff frequently and check on job satisfaction and their ability to accomplish what is set before them. I think it is important that we attend to all of those working around us and find ways to make their work as pleasant and doable as possible, and to consistently keep it within a 40 hour timeframe.