Change of Leadership

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El e c t r on i c Ha llw a y ® Case Teaching Resources FROM THE EVANS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS T he Box 353060 · University of Washington · Seattle WA 98195- 3060 A CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP AT THE LOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITY After hanging up the phone receiver, Ales Rakovich, the new Local Education Authority (LEA) head in the town of Rubensk, sat back to collect his thoughts. The call from Zenon Gvozd, the head of the Regional Education Authority, was very disturbing. The convers
    Case Teaching Resources   FROM THE EVANS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS T   h   e   E   l   e   c   t   r   o   n   i   c   H   a   l   l   w   a   y   ®   Box 353060 · University of Washington · Seattle WA 98195-3060 This case study was made possible through the generous contributions of the Institute for Local Government andPublic Service in Budapest, Hungary. Its distribution through the Electronic Hallway system is made possible throughthe Pew Charitable Trusts’ generous support of the Public Service Curriculum Exchange. The case was prepared byVassily Selishchev, Professor at the Belarus Educational Center for Leadership Development in Minsk, Belarus.Professor Selishchev was a participant in the Cascade Center for Public Service’s 1994-95 Case Project for Centraland Eastern Europe.The Electronic Hallway is administered by the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. Thismaterial may not be altered or copied without written permission from The Electronic Hallway. For permission,, or phone (206) 616-8777. Electronic Hallway members are granted copy permission foreducational purposes per the Member’s Agreement ( 2000 The Electronic Hallway A CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP AT THELOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITY After hanging up the phone receiver, Ales Rakovich, the new Local Education Authority (LEA)head in the town of Rubensk, sat back to collect his thoughts. The call from Zenon Gvozd, thehead of the Regional Education Authority, was very disturbing. The conversation revealedGvozd’s extreme dissatisfaction with the work of the Rubensk LEA staff. Rakovich knew thathe had to act immediately to address the situation.Among the issues brought to Rakovich’s attention were problems laid at the feet of OlgaVasyuk, the LEA secretary, which were interfering with the effectiveness of the LEA operation.Even though Rakovich had spoken with Olga about her performance several times, nothing hadever changed for the better. Besides the phone call from the REA, he had also received recentcomplaints about Olga from the heads of the LEA departments. Background Lyubenski was a small, remote rural district in southern Belarus. There were about 35,000people living in the area, working mostly in agriculture. Most residents had lived in this place fora long time and knew each other relatively well. The school district was not big--about eightschools (including one vocational school for agriculture and one music school)--with betweensixty to two-hundred children attending each school.Very few newcomers came to settle in the area, which had been severely polluted during theChernobyl nuclear plant explosion. There were thus many vacancies in the local schools. Inaddition, there were problems with hiring virtually every kind of teacher or school administrator.It was also quite difficult to find employees for office work, as salaries were very modest.  A Change of Leadership at the Local Education Authority (A)2   The Belarus Educational Administration System The system of educational administration in the Republic of Belarus was highly centralized. Alldecisions were made at the top and imposed on mid-level administrators, who did notparticipate in the decision-making process. This system bred administrators who were notwilling to make decisions on their own, as independent decision-making was accompanied bystress and greater responsibility which the administrators tried to avoid. They considered it tobe much safer to monitor the accomplishment of tasks and execution of decisions made by topadministrators. Thus they considered the control function, or maintaining the status quo, to bethe most important aspect of their work.The heads of the local Authorities were thus subject to long-term pressure of varying degrees.Very often they were valued not for their professional skills, but for their ability to conform tothe policies and procedures dictated by top administrators. Even experienced administratorshad no idea what educational leadership was or how the organization should be managed.Many them managed their educational or administrative support organizations intuitively, basingtheir decisions only on their own previous experience. Most had received no formal training inmanagement, leadership or administration. The Local Educational Authority (LEA) in Rubensk The Local Education Authority office was situated in Rubensk, which was located in theLyubenski district. There were fourteen people working in the office. Before Ales Rakovich’sarrival, the head of the LEA office had been Adam Lozinsky. He was an experiencedadministrator and had served for five years in this position.The role of the Lyubenski LEA was very important, as it served the rural population in adisadvantaged area of the country. The LEA was involved in such activities as: allocating anddistributing educational resources, hiring teaching staff, organizing staff development programs,designing and implementing assessment and evaluation procedures, and overseeing curriculumdevelopment.As part of the centralized system of educational administration, the LEA monitored andcontrolled the implementation of the policies and decisions of the Regional Education Authorities(REA), which in turn received decisions and policy directives ready-made from the nationalMinistry of Education and Science.This period of education development in Belarus was characterized by the transition toliberalism, which proceeded rather slowly given the unpredictable political environment. Thistransition was accompanied by uncertainties in the division of rights and responsibilities betweenthe national authorities (Ministry of Education and Science) and the Educational Authorities inthe regions and localities. For LEA administrators, the situation meant constant change,  A Change of Leadership at the Local Education Authority (A)3  adapting to new conditions, varied student needs, new economic demands and developmentimperatives.The Rubensk LEA consisted of three departments: primary education, secondary education,and vocational education (Attachment 1). Each department was comprised of the head of thedepartment and three administrative employees. The heads of the individual departmentsreported to the head of the LEA. The LEA head was responsible for hiring and supervising alldepartmental employees, although to undertake disciplinary actions and/or to fire theemployees, the LEA head had to consult with the head of the Regional Educational Authority.The Rubensk LEA had one secretary, Olga Vasyuk, who had been hired by Adam Lozinskyabout three years before Ales Rakovich’s arrival. Olga was the sole clerical employee in theoffice. (See Attachments 2 and 3 for LEA employee job descriptions.) Organizational Culture Under the stewardship of former LEA head Adam Lozinsky, there had been a tradition in theorganization of following the working habits of the head administrator. Thus, there were noformal policies defining when staff had to arrive at the office and when they could leave work each day. The national Ministry of Education regulations defined the length of the working day(eight hours), but did not decree specific work schedules.Because Lozinsky had typically arrived in the office at nine in the morning and left at five in theafternoon, everybody in the office followed this pattern. This tradition became a part of LEAoffice culture--an informal, but common working norm which was followed by most LEAemployees. It lent predictability to the operation and to the work of LEA employees. The Secretary Olga was the only secretary in the LEA office. Her responsibilities included working for theLEA head and for the three department heads. Olga did a lot of computer work, since she wasresponsible for sending letters and reports to the district and regional Education Authorities.She enjoyed her work; she liked to type and to meet people. Olga didn't mind when employeesfrom the departments asked her to do some small tasks (e.g. looking for documents, answeringphone calls) for them.From the time she was hired, Olga considered Adam Lozinsky (and later Ales Rakovich) to beher real supervisor, though there were no official regulations defining to whom she formallyreported. Olga was a very good worker in many ways. She knew the answers to practicallyeverything and she had good communication skills. Local principals, kindergarten directors,teachers, and parents had often commented to Lozinsky about how much they appreciatedOlga's helpfulness and friendliness.But Olga had some negative qualities. She was not particularly orderly. First and foremost, thisbecame apparent through her work with LEA documents and files. Over the course of a typical  A Change of Leadership at the Local Education Authority (A)4  day, Olga had to prepare documents, answer telephone calls, and take messages for the headof the LEA and for the heads of the departments. Her desk would inevitably become a mess.It was usually piled high with letters, messages, and pages from files she had pulled whileanswering calls or preparing documents or messages. Olga sometimes forgot to put documentsback in their proper files and she never threw away papers she didn't need anymore.Once or twice a month, when her desk became a complete mess, Olga would spend the wholeday cleaning it. After such episodes, her desk was a model of organization. But this was atemporary state and her desk soon became covered with papers again, as Olga continued to dothings in her own disorderly fashion.Olga’s second major shortcoming was that her arrival at the office each morning was veryunpredictable. When she worked for Adam Lozinsky, she would arrive at work from fiveminutes to a half- hour after her boss every day. However, she usually stayed at work later thanmost other LEA employees. Olga was typically in the office until 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. waiting forher husband to pick her up. During that time, she answered phone calls and assisted visitorswho dropped in after-hours. Many of these people worked in small schools or farms far fromthe central office, and could only visit the LEA office after their working day was over. SinceLozinsky and LEA department heads often scheduled meetings after official working hours, theyfound having Olga in the office to be very convenient.From time to time, Adam Lozinsky would speak to Olga about her tardiness in the mornings,and about how critical it was to return LEA documents to the files so that others could accessthem when they needed to. The files were organized into several key groups: the first containedinformation about teaching evaluations; the second group included educational institutions’ work plans and data on student test scores and achievements. The third file-group contained financialinformation, including the detailed budgets of local schools, special program funds (e.g.additional funding for the Chernobyl zone), salary data, etc. Many of these documents wereclassified “confidential” and were not intended for general use.Within each file-group, folders were arranged according to their importance and frequency of use. Often, after Olga had used the files, certain documents were missing one or more pages,or were missing altogether.During her periodic conversations with Lozinsky, Olga would always promise to improve, butwithin several days she would have resumed her usual practice. A New Regime at the LEA After Adam Lozinsky retired, Ales Rakovich was appointed to direct the LEA office. Rakovichhad previously worked in a neighboring region. His work habits were different from those of Lozinsky. Rakovich spent a lot of time in the field, getting acquainted with the facilities and
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