Tag Archive: leadership

Questions Real Leaders Answer

promoted by Rosi

Christie is no leader 

Executives, whether Mayor, Governor, President, or CEO, are selected in the hopes that their vision and leadership can move things forward. In the case of elected officials in particular, it is this leadership ability citizens demand and are allowed to voice their opinion on at the ballot box each November.

During Governor Christie's reëlection campaign, the notion of Christie's leadership was little attacked despite, what I believe are a plethora of immense leadership flaws that undermine his ability to effectively perform his executive duties and seriously inhibit policy successes.

Leadership mean many things to many people, so to even hold a conversation about Christie's lack of leadership savvy, it's probably necessary to establish a baseline for good leadership. What it specifically is not, is political savvy. While Christie may be one of the most politically savvy politicians ever, it should not stand in for his lacking leadership skills, and frankly, often times impairs his ability to lead. Christie knows how to turn over a news cycle, knows how to avoid statements that may impede his political aspirations, understands the power of scapegoating others possessing populist distrust (such as teacher unions, or government employee pensions), and controls media access to avoid facing difficult questions on legitimate failures during his tenure.

Follow me below the fold for more on Christie and his lack of leadership ability…

A “Welcome Back” Manifesto to South Brunswick’s Administrators

As South Brunswick kicks off a new school year, you can feel the excitement in the air. The aisles of Staples and its competitors are buzzing with parents and students eager to fulfill supply lists emailed and/or posted by their new teachers. Additionally, parents like myself are busy buying our kids new clothes, better technology and providing pep talks on the value of academic achievement and study.

Our students and teachers form the core of the vibrant community that we parents work extremely hard to sustain and support. Every class, every athletic contest, every school dance, every after-school event – we couldn’t do it without them. The community and its vitality just wouldn’t exist in their absence. It takes good students and passionate, diligent educators to make learning and creativity happen.  

All of this being said, you might have noticed that I did not add the term “administrator.” Administrators are part of the school community, to be sure, but they’re in a unique position that makes them very different than everyone else around them. Through the process of hiring, disciplining, managing and firing teachers they set the day-to-day tone for the entire school community. It takes years – even decades for a school district to build a working group of caring, effective, experienced and knowledgeable teachers, coaches, volunteers, etc. But what a school district can build in a decade, one or two administrators can wreck in six months. I’ve seen it happen.

While I am not speaking specifically about South Brunswick, from my perspective as an educator, parent and citizen, I’ve become wary of administrators. In my experience I have seen formerly superb, nurturing, achieving schools thrown into chaos at the hands of an ambitious, destructive administrator (or a set of them). I’ve seen good teachers silenced, intimidated and shown the door for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it was simply because an administrator didn’t like them, or that an administrator wanted to please another higher-up. Sometimes it was because an administrator considered an outspoken teacher a threat or a potential critic (typically, these are the most innovative educators as well). And while we all need to get along in any workplace, our schools are not typical workplaces. They are places where merit must win the day, because if it doesn’t, our entire educational investment will be squandered. And personally, we parents pay a lot of money for that investment.

For those parents and other residents who may not know, there is a lot of change going on in the administrative sector of education, and most of it is not good. Teachers are now held to new evaluation tools that, while originally intended to help them improve their practice, now provide administrators with greater leverage in getting rid of them, in increasing their misery, in making the professional atmosphere of our schools ‘toxic.’ Meanwhile, there’s been a titanic shift in paperwork in many districts that have led to an almost second job, albeit an uncompensated one, whereby teachers create, submit and correct endless unit plans, nonsensical “student outcome reports” and the like. None of these elements, not a single one, has contributed in my opinion to any improvement in classroom instruction.

So, with all of this in mind, I’d like to make a few short points to the educational administrators of South Brunswick, those leaders who command salaries that are frequently double that of our teachers:

1. You Work For Me. Yes, I know that sounds a bit, should I say, defiant, but make no doubt about it. As a town resident, taxpayer, and parent, you’re in my employ. My elected representatives have invested you with significant pay and power over the professionals that interact daily with my child. Even though I am not in the building every day, it is not your building. I pay for the instruction, the physical plant, the maintenance, the snow shoveling – everything. But most importantly, I pay for the community that provides the social, academic and developmental oxygen my child breathes. This community needs to be cared for and nurtured, not stifled, limited or intimidated – ever.

2. You Exist to Empower Our Educators. First and foremost, I am paying you to assist, coach, encourage, and of course, supervise the educators of our district. The fact that you can fire an educator is implied, but what is not frequently implied (and should be) is your core mission to empower them in their complex mission. I want our teachers to educate our children, to mentor them, to lead them, to challenge them, to help them grow. Teachers cannot do that if they’re in an atmosphere where you’re viewed as unstable, intimidating, sniveling or capricious. And if I found you you’re any of these, you’ll quickly hear from our community via email, letters and at Board of Ed meetings.

3. Avoid Obsessing with State Testing. Our testing culture has not lead to better schools or better educators. In fact, it is damaging the American mission to create the critical thinkers, leaders and innovators that our society was once known for. I understand there are some mandates that you must comply with, but do not let these mandates destroy the fabric of learning and support, as it has already in many of our nation’s schools.

4. I Am Holding You Responsible for Your Hires and Fires. Recruit and retain good people. Sometimes teachers have to be let go, and I understand that. But you hired the faculty, and if you’re going to fire someone, it had better be for a good, explicable, serious reason. I understand that specific personnel matters are usually held as confidential, but I’m not stupid either. If I see any pattern of teachers in their third year being fired, or if an otherwise talented, experienced educator being shown the door, my suspicions will immediately be raised. And frankly, if the statistics reveal that you’re firing something like 1 in 5 of the teachers that you’ve hired, I may ask why you are not being shown the door.

5. You Need to Lead. Administrators are paid to be leaders, and leaders in schools need to engage in community building. You need to reach out to teachers, parents and students, not rule by memo or email. You have to mingle and network. You need to cultivate a culture of inquiry, tolerance, calmness, collaboration, innovation and teamwork. If you operate like a tyrant, running our schools in an intimidating fashion, we’re going to find out.

6. Wow Me. I pay you a lot of money (did I mention that?). I want to see superb things going on in our schools. I want to see teachers fully supported in their instruction and professional development. I want to see theatrical productions, progressive social events, fundraisers and the like. I want to see you reaching out and forging relationships and creating programs with local hospitals, museums, businesses and universities. I want to see guest speakers and experts being brought into our schools and classes, sometimes directly, sometimes through teleconferencing tools like Skype. And I want you to provide regular updates, either via our website or through newsletters, on how you’re seeing this vision through.

7. Be Present. I want to see you at our events. You’re not a teacher. Teachers have papers to check and lessons to plan for. You’re an educational leader. Administrative team members should be present at events to encourage the community and cheer on students.

On Tuesday, I’ll be sure to carefully pack my son’s backpack with his supplies before sending him off to your capable care. To South Brunswick’s educational leaders/administrators I say: take good care of him, because I have my eyes on him…and you, too.  

QoTD: Gov. Kean on his political son vs. his actual son

A couple of pullout quotes from a couple of illuminating interviews with former Gov. Tom Kean by Charles Stile of The Record and Matt Friedman at the Ledger – a rare one-two punch from competing newspapers.

First from Friedman’s:

“You assume that if the governor wins by 20 points or more you’d have coattails,” Kean said. “No governor I know in any state has won by 20 points and not had coattails.”

Uh, yeah, I’m thinking Christie doesn’t much care about the no-coattails thing, Governor. Christie’s political rise has always been about Christie, and less about bringing along fellow Republicans who might share his worldview of how things should be run. GOP donors considering 2016, take note.

Kean Sr. seems pretty pissed in chats with both reporters, though he’s too much of a gentleman (or so I suppose) to suggest his disaffection is permanent against his political protege who first came to him as a fresh-scrubbed 14-year-old. I should add, he’d probably not choose my word, “pissed”. Though I imagine even gentlemen get that way when they realize NJ politics has devolved to the point where your political son actually tries to take out your actual son. Had Christie’s failed move against Kean Jr. succeeded, Stile suggests, it might have ended Junior’s political career.

Christie’s skulduggery against his own party’s legislative leader was almost certainly political payback on behalf of his political ally, Steve Sweeney. It was Junior who financed the GOP effort to take Sweeney out November 5th, recruiting attorney Niki Trunk to run against him. I’ve had my issues with Sweeney’s leadership – he’s made some good moves and some awful ones – but I’m glad he beat Trunk, and by a healthy margin.

But just the same way it’s doubtful Christie cares about his lack of coattails, I doubt he’s losing sleep over the disappointment Gov. Kean now feels for him. But this quote, from Stile’s piece shows Christie’s self-serving schtick is getting old for even the most loyal in Christie’s circle:

“He’ll have a microscope on him and we’ll find out … if he’s qualified,” he told The Record.


Ouch. But yeah. Bring on the microscope.  

QOTD: “A Scared Child” – Unless It’s In His Best Interest

Tom Kean Jr. is taking a beating publicly following Tuesday’s election results. Even though he seems to have survived as Senate Minority Leader for the Republicans, Senate Majority Leader and Blue Jersey friend Loretta Weinberg questioned where the fight he showed to keep his GOP title was when more important issues were on the table. Weinberg:

“Tom Kean was willing to stand up to the governor when it was in his personal best interest, but when it came to women’s health, abused children, background checks for guns and tax relief for seniors he hid like a scared child,” Weinberg said. “This only proves why New Jersey voters returned all 24 Democratic Senators to ensure Democratic control of the upper house.”

It’s a good point the Senator makes. Kean should be pushed to show the same spine and stand up to the Governor on many issues this coming cycle to see whether he’s really concerned about the people of New Jersey or his own legacy.

Remembering Ella Filippone

“…the river is a toxic disgrace that needs to be cleaned up. ‘It’s government at its worst,’ she said.”New York Times, July 12, 2009

I’m going to get right to the point here. That’s how Ella would have wanted it.

Ella Filippone was one tough broad, not afraid to take on anyone. You either loved her, or hated her. It’s that simple. And Ella honestly didn’t care.

Love her or hate her, there are few people who would argue the fact that New Jersey’s environmental community lost a bold, brash, and tireless advocate with her death on Friday, June 21, 2013.

Ella was a friend and a mentor to me, as she was for so many others during her 43 years as the Passaic River Coalition’s Executive Director.

My relationship with Ella didn’t start that way. We’re both very headstrong and opinionated people, and when we first met, I’m not sure she knew what to think of me. But over time, as we worked side by side on Highlands issues and projects and she cautiously assessed my character and motives, Ella took a liking to me. If you gained acceptance into her circle of trusted associates, you had no greater friend than Ella.

The Biggest Day in NJ Politics

Update: Vin won his election – congrats Chairman! – JG

Today, the Tuesday after Primary Day, is the least talked about, most important day of the year in New Jersey politics. It’s the day when duly elected county committee members meet to choose their party leadership. Different counties have leadership elections in different years, according to their own bylaws, so not every county has a contested race for leadership this year. But Monmouth County does – and the results matter.

Tonight, the Monmouth County Democratic Committee will be electing a new Chair for the first time in 23 years. And one of the candidates – Vin Gopal – has a real chance to win, with your help. Vin is a young, smart, progressive voice who has been there to support countless good democrats throughout Monmouth County and indeed across the entire state. His own race for the Assembly last year showed the energy, excitement and class that he would bring to the role as Monmouth County Chair. His election would be a watershed moment for progressives throughout the state, and a sign of great things to come in Monmouth County.

So, for anyone who has ever complained about those “mean old bosses” or “that corrupt machine” or whatever other label gets placed on our elected party leadership – there are only two places you should possibly be tonight: your own county reorganization meeting, or Monmouth County’s reorganization meeting at:

The Shore Casino, 1 Simon Lake Dr, Atlantic Highlands NJ.

* Registration begins at 6pm * Voting times from 7pm – 9pm

If you are a Monmouth County Committee Member, I urge you to vote for Vin Gopal for Chair tonight. But, you don’t need to live in Monmouth to help – Vin’s campaign needs phonebankers, drivers, challengers, organizers and more for what will be a hard-fought election tonight. Please do what you can to help a rising star among New Jersey’s progressive democrats, and a good friend of (and occasional contributor to) Blue Jersey.

Broken Glass and Leadership


“If you don’t know where you’re going,

you’ll wind up somewhere else.”

                                        – Yogi Berra of Montclair, New Jersey

I’ve written and deleted six versions of this diary about the maneuvers that discarded two people who distinguished themselves this year by exhibiting core Democratic values, when it wasn’t always simple to do so. Frankly, it’s hard to think about this without wanting to pick the broken glass out of my teeth; Even with solid Democratic wins, this has been an awful week. A tense week for some people we admire greatly.

It was easier, and perhaps more profitable this year to bind with the Christie collaborationists. To fall in line. To hear Tea Party activists screaming in one ear about the cost of government, and New Jersey’s unelected power brokers whispering soft directions in the other ear. Plenty of our Democrats fell in line. On more than one issue. Barbara Buono and Joe Cryan did not.

More after the fold.

“A Cleaner New Jersey” and an Upcoming Event

Over recent weeks, Governor Christie has set to cut back on his campaign promises of a more energy efficient New Jersey by working toward scaling back the state goals of becoming more energy efficient. This issue is not something that only affects this great state, but also the other citizens of the US, and in the future, these actions will also affect the citizens of the world. The Governor’s move to use inefficient practices in order to “save money” needs to stop in order to save our planet, and it is our duty as citizens to come together and work to promote better energy practices. We need to stand up and take action in some way. BUT, what if you want to do more than just pick up the phone to call your state legislators, how can you take your own action steps? The way that I learned how to create my campaign was by attending an Activist Workshop in Massachusetts where I learned a lot, not only about how to get a campaign like this started, but also how to engage more people. Not only this, I also learned a lot about myself, and that even though I was alone- I really wasn’t because there were more people out there that also wanted to help, but just didn’t know how. I know from experience that by learning how to create a great campaign, you can ultimately produce better results, have fun doing it, and make a major impact in your community. I urge you all to go to the Activist Workshop, sponsored by Environment New Jersey, in conjunction with New Jersey PIRG and The Public Interest Network, this Saturday because this is an opportunity of a lifetime, and you shouldn’t pass it up! This is also a great way to meet people who are interested and excited about the same issues as you! Please come and learn how we can all work together to better the state of New Jersey in more ways than one. The information for the workshop is below, and I hope you all will attend. I promise- you won’t be disappointed!!

Who: YOU!! Along with your other fellow activists and leaders.

What: An Activist Workshop. Learn how to create and work your own issues campaign.

When: THIS SATURDAY!! September 17th, 2011

Time: 11am – 2pm

Where: Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Douglass Campus

RSVP: https://secure3.convio.net/eng…

I hope that each of you reading this will find your voice within and come join Environment New Jersey to learn how to be better activists and leaders!