Just doing a news scan and was reminded of an item that is a hot topic of conversation around here–the school that fired its teachers because it was doing so poorly. Now, I know nothing of the internal situation in that school, but I have some experience.

At about my third year on the local school board, we would have executive sessions on personnel and it would be brought up that certain teachers were not competent–or at least not doing well. Some of us on the board had business backgrounds, so we asked why they didn’t non-renew (fire) them. Well, came the reply, they have had consistently good reviews even though they haven’t been doing well. This happened quite a few times.

We had to counsel school administrators to begin following rigorous personnel policies. They needed to identify the failing teachers. Meet with them, let them know that they were not meeting expectations, let them know clearly what the expectations were, lay out a plan to help them improve, and then let them go if they didn’t.

This is not as heartless as it may sound. You’ve hired these people. At one time, anyway, someone thought they could do the job. If they don’t, you give them a fair chance. It’s like I told a couple of engineers in my life as a manager, “It’s really better for both of us. You can go find a situation in which you can succeed. I can get someone who can do this job.” It also took them out of a situation where they were foundering. Everyone could see they were lost.

Good leaders will turn around many, if not most, people. But sometimes you just have to give them the proverbial kick in the pants to wake them up to make decisions to find a better situation. I’ve had that decision several times–and it never got easy. I’d lose sleep for a week. On the other hand, once I tangled with my boss (and his boss) and was asked to leave. I think I sang in the car on the way home,, I was so happy to leave that place. (I never applied for a quality manger job again, either.)

So, did the school system do the right thing? If they fired the principal, too, then perhaps they did. Giving everyone a fresh start is sometimes a good thing.

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