Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gallon: Plan Will Create "Dashboard"

More than 40 new administrative posts were filled Tuesday as part of new Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III’s vision for the district. Click here for Plaintalker's prior article (and 21 comments from readers) on the new assignments.

Gallon is also consolidating administrative staff at 1200 Myrtle Avenue, the former Jefferson School, vacating the historic building at 504 Madison Avenue. He has launched a shift to a K-8 grade configuration at two schools and reassigned principals. Last week he held a retreat with administrators to develop a strategic plan for the district.

But even though he has a four-year contract to lead the district, Gallon said Tuesday it’s not about him. Gallon said he is aiming to create a “dashboard” for the district “regardless of who is in this seat.”

At next month’s meeting, he said, he will provide a comprehensive update “with metrics.” Gallon’s watchwords for change are that it must be “tangible and measurable.”

About 60 people attended Gallon’s first business meeting Tuesday at Washington Community School. Only five people had questions, though some were extensive. Gallon answered all, although resident Laura Shoemaker was not satisfied. Among her questions, she asked when job descriptions would be released for the new titles and Gallon said that had been done in March. He also said a use would be found for the building at 504 Madison Avenue.Gallon assured Alma Cruz that a program for teen mothers and other students at risk would continue with qualified leadership. In answer to teacher Molly Banta’s question about vice principal vacancies for Social Studies and English content areas, Gallon said they will be filled.

In naming his five goals for the district, Gallon called “learning outcomes” the core mission. Meeting state measures for student performance has remained one of the district’s prime challenges. Gallon also listed Human Resources, business practices, a safe learning environment and community and family engagement as key areas for improvement.

His aim for students is to become “the best human beings they can possibly be,” he said.

“As we move forward, our product will be second to none,” Gallon said.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone commented on the July 12 blog that Dr. Gallon did not answer any questions with any specificity. If you watched any of the video of his interview by the people of Madison, Wisconsin (where he was a candidate for the superintendent's job), he did the same thing. A politician approaches questions and answers in the same way. In the future, questions for the superintendent should be phrased to require a simple "yes" or "no" answer or require a specific fact in evidence. Questions which can be answered in an ambiguous or subjective manner should be avoided.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly right! And, Bernice, although you state that he answered all questions, Dr. Gallon actually did not answer one of Ms. Shoemaker's questions. In fact, he did not answer it four different ways! She questioned the content certification of the new Vice Principals (content areas). The closest he came to answering that question was to say that they are "qualified" for their positions, and that answer came only after Ms. Shoemaker pushed the issue. She never did get a straight answer since she was warned that there can be "no back and forth" discussion during public comment.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blind allegiance is fundamental in the success of any military planning. Soldiers are trained to act without question upon command. The unit must act as one if it is to complete its objective. Anyone who disagrees or questions the plan or actions is court martialed or disciplined.

I am afraid that there is a "well-meaning" group of Plainfielders who have chosen this military-type philosophy in chosing to follow the new superintendent. While the cause is very noble, I have to question the wisdom of their subserviance.

Many soldiers have been needlessly killed or wounded because they blindly followed the directions of their leaders. Shall I remind everyone of the blind approval of the U.S. Senate in the plan to invade Iraq?

There is a large group within the city who will have us blindly march on and not question why or where or how. Those that ask questions are considered "traitors" who should retire or move since they are not a part of the solution.

Don't be blinded by your dreams. There are many roads to the same destination. Answer the questions and question the answers. Just because someone has a differing opinion or reservations about a plan, does not make them a heretic.

The most important question to ask Dr. Gallon is "Will the students' state test scores increase by more than twenty percent over the next two years because of all of the administrative changes"? Without a concrete standard to use as an evaluation, all of the rhetoric by all of the administrators is not worth a dime. The improvement of test scores will be the true yardstick to measure Dr. Gallon's success and Plainfield's dream.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous LauraS said...

Actually, Dr. Gallon did not answer more than 1 question that I asked of him. I asked what will happen to 504 Madison..."It will be discussed with the Board." Why didn't they have a plan for 504 BEFORE the move?

How many administration positions have been abolished? "We have saved $1 Million"

Why did you move the principals? To that question, I received an answer.

And of course, the content question regarding the VP's. He danced around that issue so much, I thought he was doing a jig.

There is no transparency in Plainfield, and if anyone thinks that Gallon is bringing transparency should've been at last night's meeting.

As for Ms. Rivers, I believe she is the rudest woman I have ever met. At least when Ms. Barksdale was President, she was professional and courteous. Ms. Rivers should be ashamed of herself, and remember that there are children in that room also. The first thing my son asked my was why she was so nasty to me. Out of the mouthes of babes....

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with both of you. Gallon answered all questions. In fact, he went above and beyond the questions that were being asked. I did not see that is being a politician,I saw it as him being thorough. Is he smooth? Absolutely. Articulate? No doubt. Intelligent. Without question. I saw him as answering questions with an exclamation point---driving the point home. The man did not back down or look to staff for answers. I am in disbelief at the idea that you two would say he did not answer questions. Maybe he did not give the answers you wanted. Good for him.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Gallon. I like what I see from him. His whole idea of measurable and tangible works for me. I asked him after his first meeting at the Work and Study to explain what he meant with those two ideas. He was receptive and engaging. Real down to earth person after such an itellectually strong presentation on strategic planning. What he said was when it is said and done can he measure the impact of his time and work in Plainfield. He seems to be approaching his work to make an impact in different ways. K-8, consolidation of administrative offices, retreats involving staff and board, and an open challenge to private and charter schools. In two weeks, he seems to have come to Plainfield with a game plan. Anyon who talk with him will clearly see that he is nobody's fool, is very smart and has a strong confident presence about him. I will take that in a leader anyday. I agree though with Laura, but I felt that Gallon was well prepared and open to answering questions. He seem to welcome the debate and was prepared for dialogue and clarification even coming back to a question that he realized was not answered. Bridgett Rivers stopped the line of questions. I don't blame Gallon for that. She is the president, albeit heavy handed.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura Shoemaker, your reference to doing a jig sound racist. You have been on a campaign against Gallon well before he touched NJ soil. I am going to officially dismiss anything you say about the man because you are the one that is blinded and not opened to giving him a chance. Do you thing you could run the district? This man did not just land in Plainfield from outerspace. He is a career administrator and has worked with urban educational settings his whole career.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous LauraS said...

First off...the mention of "doing a jig" relates back to MY heratige, being Irish, but of course it has to be a racist remark, right? Give me a breat.

I never said that I could run the district, but I also believe that if we do not ask questions and demand accountability, then nothing will ever change.

Regarding Gallon being a career educator...well, you are right, he has been an educator in an urban setting. Does that make him qualified? he, I don't know yet, but I refuse to be one who follows blindly just because it is easier for you if I do.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am done with it Laura. But speaking of asking questions, what makes you more qualified to judge Gallon's qualifications than a national search firm, NJ DOE,colleges and universities that awarded him advanced degrees, and the Board, albeit not super qualified? They showed wisdom and strength though in their national search which brought Gallon here. They took the local politics out and handed the process to the experts. Oh, the experts got it wrong, too. They are not nearly as qualified as you Laura. You are the authority in determining Gallon's qualifications as a super. They should have just hired you. Again, I am done with it. Goodnight.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Do me a favor...if you are going to insult me, don't do it behind the name "anonymous." You know my name, and you make a point of using it constantly.

If you read my post, it said that he doesn't have the proper superintendent's certification, but he is in the process of receiving one. That is a fact.

I also said that I have reserved judgement on him. I do not know if he is going to be a good super, simply because he has no track record.

Do I believe I am better qualified than a search firm? Never said I was...but when other districts are looking for a new super, they involve the public. Just look at the Q&A Gallon did at another district when he applied there. I watched the video, did you?

Lastly, you are apparently someone who is already on the payroll, and you would prefer that feathers are not ruffled.

How is it that we can lose 51 teachers, but still not know how many administrators we lost. I clearly remember Dr. Bailey saying they needed to cut 9 administrators because of the budget. But hey...we have the money to renovate the new Super's offices.

When there are 25 kids in a classroom, let's see if the parents are still chanting his name.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought from reading one of your posts somewhere that you were moving out of Plainfield? I wish you well wherever it is that you are going. It would seem to me that you would be gearing up for that town to talk about what all is wrong with it. On another note, too many times people want to focus on what is wrong. That is easy to do. To come up with what is right takes far more time and energy. Since you find so many wrongs here in Plainfield and I have not seen any suggestions for what would be better, then go in peace to your new town. We need to work towards making Plainfield better and stop all of this fingerpointing. Remember for the one finger pointing, how many point back at you? I am looking for positive energy to make a difference. Your negative energy is really taking a toll on things.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Yes, I'm moving...but that doesn't mean I don't have a stake in PPS system since I own a home here and continue to pay taxes.

Second, there were many times when people expressed concerns to me, but were afraid to ask questions for fear of retaliation. I simply did what others couldn't do.

If you have an issue with me, please feel free to e-mail me at lshoemaker9 at I've never made my e-mail address secret, nor have I hidden behind a screen name.

Feel free to do the same

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way Laura, there WERE 9 administrators cut--give that a rest. If that's the number sent to the state, than you can be sure the state is making sure that's the number that were cut. There's not as much cover up going on as you would like to think. There are obviously many things which need to be changed and a great deal of things that make no sense but don't beat a dead horse.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay! Let's deal with the positive accomplishments that have taken place in the Plainfield Schools. Let's start with the number of students who went on to post-secondary education. How well did our schools do on the state report card?

Those of you who are very close to changes in the district should not feel threatened by those who are not. You are entitled to your dreams but you have to face reality as well. The reality we all have to face now, is that Plainfield is a failing district. We can't hide that no matter how much we talk about change and the future. We have to deal with it. If we ignore the sad facts then we have not learned from them and we will never avoid their reoccurance. By pointing out the deficiencies of the district and the concerns with the changes a more comprehensive plan can be developed.

I don't think it's negative to ask questions. It's healthy, but is often misinterpreted and considered to be adversarial. There will always be those who doubt if changes will work and will resist changes. Those with the positive energy must be able to consider the opposing views and work with a positive attitude toward promoting their views.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Nathan Parker was recently hired by the Summit Board of Ed to be their new superintendent. He had previously been the superintendent in Orange, N.J. He was one of seven finalists out of sixty who applied to a national search. There are qualified individuals with experience in New Jersey, but for some reason, they were not chosen or did not apply to the Plainfield district. Summit is one of the premier districts in the state and was able to find someone in-state to head their schools. I'll bet he never applied to Plainfield. The negative energy that someone wrote about extends far outside the boundaries of the city. Plainfield does have a bad "rap" and until the infection is under control, there will not be a long list of applicants waiting in the wings. Ms. Mayor and Mr. Superintendent, your work is cut out for you. Start with bringing confidence to your workers and start by doing the public relations that are necessary now.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious ( I am not Laura) which 9 admins got cut?

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, who were the 9 admin cuts? What about the new hires in admin? Does anyone have a honest answer on that one? When the top 3 admin spots are making alomsit 1/2 million we have a right to question things. It's not about agruing, but rather honest, direct answers. I would like to know which admin. were cut and which ones were added. If there is nothing to hide then simply let us know.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is beginning to sound like NJ.COM. Let's not water down Bernice's blog with the back and forth. The Plaintalker is a respected resource in this community. Let's keep it that way with our comments.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...


My apologies. The previous poster is absolutely correct in that this is beginning to sound like I should not have responded to personal attacks, especially on your blog.

Again, please accept my apologies.



1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When my kids were beginning school in Plainfield back in the early 70's, there were no more than about 12 central administrative positions. Look at how many we have now! Are the new people less capable of doing the job? Look at how many high-priced people we have now to "help" our children. I think we're being hustled! Believe it or not, kids can still learn and they don't need the glut of support services we have now.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tbink someone missed something and has misinterpreted the actions of the BOE and district. The "administrative" positions appointed on Tuesday represent the entire administrative staff in the district. These are people that range from payroll to purchasing and not simply high priced educators as someone described. The entire administrative staff had to be reappointed. The point needs to be made that these are not all new administrative positions to Plainfield above what was in place. The fact of the matter is that there are less administrative positions now than last year.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really, lets see I never saw Coordinator of Community Involvement and Support Services before. Nor did I ever see 2 assistant supers and a educational director. We are not stupid we know they ALL were not admin positions. And we also know what we had. Yes I know what was eliminated, content supervisors (4 I believe Math, Science, Literacy and business technology) and at HS and SS super (which Gallon said WOULD BE filled even though it was never is the new titles list) and now I can see they eliminated coordinator of tech services (RD) . Still can't get 9 can anyone else?

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the 4 content areas weren't really eliminated since we did not have a math supervisor last year and this year we have a VP of math-same thing. Also, last year we did not have a testing coordinator, but this year we do. These positions are needed and important, but the point is where where are the cuts? Since there is no union voice (E. Jones has resigned his post after 1 year as union presidnet) who is taking his place as the voice of reason between the admin. and the teachers? Who is insuring a fair balance? Teachers should call the county superintendent and demand to know who is fighting for them on a school district level.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy Cardona is the "voice" now. Not that you would have known that because there was absolutely no communication of this important information. County super will do nothing for teachers. County Union president would be a better bet. But don't be fooled Bailey is a very smart lady who is making sure everything is in line with the law and the state guidelines. They got away with abolishing tenure for administrators by following the law..there ain't no stopping them now!

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The teachers have a union and a contract. The contract is to protect their rights and ensure appropriate wages. Yes, Eric Jones will surely be missed. However, I heard that Gallon has already reached out to the teachers and met with Cardona. The idea of "fighting for us on a district level" is interesting. Whose fighting who and about what? I am a teacher and as long as I am respected and supported in doing my job of teaching students, I am not going to spend my time or energy worrying about what the administration is doing. As long as it does not interfere with my job. Congratulations Eric. I appreciate the work that you did on behalf of all of us. I am sure that Kathy will continue to move PEA forward.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't count on Kathy Cardona doing anything substantive as union president. I was optimistic until I heard her speak at a recent board meeting. I hope folks understand what they are in for!

11:34 PM  

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