Scandal For School and School For Scandal

The Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles has, at least temporarily, been purged.

Two teachers in as many weeks have been accused of sexual abuse of students, and, in a move drawing national attention, Superintendent John Deasy has transferred every single teacher in the school while investigators look into who else might have done or known something.

Clearly, the circumstances here are especially troubling. But the question remains: Is a mass action like this ever the right thing to do from a managerial standpoint?

In one sense, the decision to take everyone off the job is less of an overreaction than it might seem. If Deasy were to remove just some teachers (apart from the two alleged offenders), while leaving others in place, it could violate Peter Drucker’s dictum that organizations attain “equity and impersonal fairness in its personnel decisions.”

Photo credit: Pink Sherbert Photography

Drucker also would have appreciated the difficulty that any school administrator, like Deasy, has in balancing competing interests. He or she “has to satisfy teachers, the school board, the taxpayers, parents and, in a high school, the students themselves, Drucker observed. “Five constituencies, each of which sees the school differently.”

At the same time, if Deasy’s move were not simply a near-term measure—but, rather, a permanent clean sweep, as the teachers’ union originally feared—the calculation might change. Drucker, after all, believed in making the best of an existing workforce and not painting with too broad a brush.

A particularly dramatic example could be found in postwar Germany. “When Konrad Adenauer became Germany’s chancellor in 1949, he inherited a discredited, demoralized civil service deeply tainted by its subservience to the Nazis,” Drucker recalled in Managing in the Next Society. “He had himself been twice imprisoned by the Nazis, but despite heavy pressure, especially from the British and Americans, he shielded the civil service from de-Nazification. He restored its job security and the privileges the Nazis had abolished and gave it unprecedented freedom from interference by local politicians.”

What do you think? Is a top-to-bottom dismissal of existing staff ever the best policy?