The reality, however, is quite different. While shaking things up is often quite enjoyed by the small minority who tend to be anti-admin and are quite happy to oppose for its own sake, for the vast, and mostly silent, majority of staff members, parents, students, and often Board members, this kind of disequilibrium is unsettling. To begin with, it undercuts what have been commonly held beliefs, namely that things have been going along pretty well. Not to say that there isn't always room for improvement, but most people like to see change that is reasoned, based upon a clear vision, and enacted in a well-organized and logical fashion. As a parent, I know that when school leadership changes and I am told how bad things were and how great they are about to become, I get a little resentful. To begin with, the underlying message is that I can't trust the school because what I have been told are great programmes, dedicated and productive teachers, and a visionary and effective administration team is not actually true. Apparently, in spite of the fact that my children and I have been quite happy with the quality of teaching and learning in the school, the new revealed "truth" is that things have been going to hell in a hand-basket! The more that this message is reinforced, the more that the confidence that parents have in the school declines, and the more likely they are to vote with their feet to find a better learning environment for their child.
In this case, rather than a change of leadership being a breath of fresh air to take an already good school to the next level, it becomes more of a bull in a china shop, smashing the fine china along with the cheap knock-offs. You see, no new leader can understand the complexities and strengths of a school in their first few months. As Donald Trump would say "it turns out that schools are complicated! Who knew?!"
So what do you do if you are a new leader who has started off on this downward path? Stop. Learn. Rethink. It might be a little ego bruising to back away from a series of bad decisions, but the time to do it is before the real damage has been done. Pressing the reset button is sometimes the only way to get the train back on the tracks. The alternative is for everything to crash and burn - and, as in every train wreck, nobody blames the passengers!
Next post, how to back down strategically.