A great divide

The author, a Magalia resident, is a retired community college instructor.

The Sacramento Bee recently ran a front page story about how administrative salaries have outpaced teacher salaries throughout California’s public schools. That hardly seemed like news to me. I spent four decades as a community college teacher. Throughout that time, I witnessed a systematic transfer of resources from classrooms to administrative offices.

Increasingly, academic administrators came from the ranks of people who got post-grad degrees in management. They were good at memos and meetings, PowerPoint presentations and paper shuffling, but I can’t think of much they did that made my job as a teacher any easier, or helped make me better at it.

They concocted time-wasting nonsense that served to justify their jobs and salaries, but mostly drew faculty energies away from the classroom. Many administrators came from the ranks of retired military officers. They brought commonly shared “wisdom” from the profit-driven business community to their new jobs in the nonprofit public sector, including the idea that big salaries were absolutely essential to attracting good bosses, but utterly irrelevant to attracting good teachers. That was an easy sell to school boards, mostly made up of local business people with a yen for political careers launched by service on those boards. Increases in administrative staff and pay were offset by ever greater reliance on more easily managed, poorly paid, and powerless “adjunct” staff.

Each new administrative fiefdom sucked funding out of classrooms, and those fiefdoms always grew because managerial jobs had a lot to do with thinking up stuff that needed to be done by bigger staffs that enhanced the prestige, clout and pay of administrative overseers.

So administrative budgets grew like Topsy, as did the gulf between management and the people they “supervised,” mostly from ever more remote physical and philosophical distances.

In the dozen years since I retired from teaching, I’ve often missed students and the classroom. No day has yet arrived, however, when I have missed the bullshit visited upon me and my colleagues by the people who were so much better paid to oversee and explain to us the work we did.