Pali Administration Review

By Dexter O'Connell (Former Managing Editor, Former Columnist) [?]

Published: April 28, 2009 and Updated: May 4, 2009
Original LA News Desk Content
Arch and BuildingCaption: The Palisades High School entrance. Source: Wikipedia

In the Palisades Administrative Structure, there are four high-level administrators directly responsible for overseeing the educational operation of the school. These are the Principal, the Director of Counseling, the Director of Instruction, and the Director of Student Services. Over the course of the last four years, only one of these positions has been continuously occupied. Director of Counseling Ms. Davenport has been a paragon of stability in the hallway of the A-building, calmly guiding the counseling office with competence and experience.

Part of the problem of the revolving door of administration on campus is the fact that administrative restructuring continues, and the responsibilities of the different administrators overlap, to the point where the Principal is tasked with almost no responsibilities at all, or at least none that are readily apparent. The principal’s position, currently filled by Mr. Martin Griffin, is, in theory, the most important position on the campus of a school. On Pali’s campus, because of our mini-district structure, the position of Principal is the second-most important after the Executive director. Mr. Griffin’s contract will not be renewed when it expires this summer. I have heard vast swaths of the faculty suggest that Mr. Griffin does little work and makes little effort. Among his nicknames are “The Phantom,” and “Martin InAction.” These names refer to his perceived lack of effort as principal. In fact, Mr. Griffin had no responsibilities to oversee, and his perceived lack of effort is a fallacy, devised by those who restructured the administrative structure to take authority from the principal. In the Pali administrative structure, the principal does not directly oversee curriculum development. That falls under the Director of Instruction. He does not directly oversee discipline. That apparently falls under the Director of Student Services. He does not directly oversee the creation of campus-wide policies on items permissible on campus. That also apparently falls under the Director of Student Services. He does not directly oversee counseling; this is obviously the purview of the Director of Counseling Services. He also does not directly oversee the community service program, though perhaps this would be a good place to trim during the current budget crisis by combining the responsibilities of the Director of Community Service with the principal. It would make both jobs worthwhile. Palisades has been combining jobs recently, and this would be another great opportunity to make a new combination that saves money and stress. The Principal will have important responsibilities, which will be clear and defined, and Pali will save money with the removal of the Director of Community Service position. The chain of command in the Community Service system will finally be clear. The principal is answerable to the Board of Directors, directly. It’s not Mr. Griffin’s problem, it’s a systemic one. It begins with the hiring process, and ends in unfortunate failure far too often.

The problems in other administrative offices are not as simple. Some of the issues in the community service office are well known. Others are not. Ms. Miller recently described me as “full of rhetoric” and “bullshit” and said that my life had no value. I have no further comment on her fitness for continued work with impressionable youth. Ms. Lategola, the Director of Instruction, has had a low profile this year, despite having actual responsibilities. It is unclear whether she would have been retained. Nonetheless, I wish her the best in her PhD endeavor.

Though I have had significant personal differences with Ms. Iannessa this year, and I still believe that many of her decisions have been poorly considered, she has at least been competent in her position, and in the position of several other administrators. She is also fair. This competence and fairness has overshadowed some of her failings this year. Hopefully, she can straighten it out in the future.

Director of Counseling Ms. Davenport has been a paragon of competence in her position. Though there are occasional complaints about the counseling office, in general, the counselors successfully complete an unenviable task with great accuracy, and the office staff is friendly and competent as well.

On the non-educational side, Executive Director Amy Held has not been the subject of the same level of complaining this year as she was last year. The pool is under construction, and the school’s finances seem to be weathering the depression relatively in tact, as far as can be seen easily. Further, Ms. Held has handled complaints about Pali amicably, and stayed mostly on the business side of things as opposed to the curricular side. Chief Business Officer Greg Wood is to be commended for his handling of Pali’s finances in the current crisis.

I wish Pali only the best of luck in choosing next year’s administrators. Choose carefully, or someone else will be writing this same article next year.

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