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Models miss the mark

Gov. Lingle has downplayed
the downside of using corporate
rules for managing schools

Gov. Linda Lingle publicly announced this month that she will invest much of her still significant political capital in an "all out, no-holds-barred" push for education reform in the next legislative session.

The bible Gov. Lingle will likely be using when proselytizing for this reformation from her gubernatorial bully pulpit is William Ouchi's new book, "Making Schools Work: A Revolutionary Plan to Get Your Children the Education They Need." (If you want your own copy, Randy Roth, Lingle's former policy czar and now her point-person on education reform, will soon be peddling 1,000 copies statewide at 50 percent off the retail price. To reserve your copy now, call Roth at 586-5330.)

On Oct. 1, Ouchi, a professor of corporate renewal at UCLA, moderated a forum on school decentralization at the state capital that included, as panelists, some of the star reformers featured in "Making Schools Work." These panelists were Mike Strembitsky, former superintendent of the Edmonton public schools; Donald McAdams, a former Houston Board of Education member; and Joseph Olchefske, the former Seattle Public Schools superintendent. The school districts of Edmonton, Houston and Seattle are held up in Ouchi's book as shinning examples to be emulated.

Key secrets to their success, according to Ouchi, include turning principals into entrepreneurs by giving them control of their school's budget and holding them accountable for student achievement. It sounds great on paper, but it turns out that in practice there may be unintended consequences.

In explaining the "failure of our schools" in Making Schools Work, Ouchi rejects the theories of "education experts, school officials and the press" and instead offers his management theory. "Consider this: when a business is failing, the owners don't blame the customers, the front-line employees, or the budget -- they go after the management and shake them up."

A shakeup is exactly what happened in Seattle this past April to one of Ouchi's stars, Superintendent Olchefske, after he announced that he had overspent the education budget by $33 million. The school district's citizen "owners" and front-line school employees went after management demanding accountability. The majority of Seattle's principals and 85 percent of its teachers supported a no confidence resolution and Olchefske resigned.

Seattle's public schools are now at a critical crossroads. The deficit left by Olchefske forced the district to make painful cuts, critical gaps in classroom achievement still exist and problems of race and class continue to fester. To top it all off, an investigation into a grade-changing scandal is intensifying.

The Houston school district, touted as a model for the nation not only by Ouchi, but also by President Bush -- who picked its former superintendent, Rod Paige, as his Secretary of Education, also has come under scrutiny recently. State auditors found that more than half of the students who left during the 2000-01 school year should have been classified as dropouts, but were not. A July editorial in the New York Times summarized the scandal succinctly: "It turns out the Houston schools have not lived up to their billing. Their amazingly low high school dropout rate was literally unbelievable -- the educational equivalent of Enron's accounting results."

The reference to Houston's most infamous corporation speaks volumes. Fudging dropout rate numbers is a strong temptation for principals who are held accountable for their students' test scores. There is tremendous pressure to move underperforming students "off the balance sheet" so that their school's quarterly and annual results look more impressive. Enron did the same thing with its underperforming assets.

In an interview last year with CFO magazine, the lawyer representing Enron's major stockholders was asked what caused the deliberate falsification of financial results. His answer: "Misaligning incentives and interests caused corporate managers to become completely focused on short-term results and to do whatever was necessary to meet expectations."

If "corporate managers" in the above sentence is replaced with "school principals" the result is a concise description of the Achilles heel of Ouchi's education revolution and a good explanation for much of what has gone wrong in Seattle and Houston.

Gov. Lingle's Oct. 1 forum on school decentralization made scant mention of the ongoing problems experienced by the Seattle and Houston school districts. That would have been bad public relations. And as the state's leading public servant, Lingle makes PR a top priority.

Also not surprisingly, a basic premise of Lingle's education reform drive seems to be that what works for business should work just as well for schools.

This is a faulty premise for two reasons:

First, schools are not businesses and children are not products.

Second, when applied to business, many of Ouchi's prescriptions for school success have led to financial disaster. Another book that should be required reading alongside Ouchi's is "The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America." The author, New York Times financial reporter Alex Berenson, describes how "Wall Street became utterly focused on 'the number,' companies' quarterly earnings. Along the way, the market lost track of what companies are really supposed to do -- build profitable businesses with sustainable futures."

A similar consequence, however unintended, may result if Gov. Lingle succeeds in browbeating the Legislature into reconstituting Hawaii's public schools according Ouchi's "revolutionary" formula. By giving principals CEO-like power and requiring them to enforce a "monomaniacal commitment" (Ouchi's wording) to standardized achievement, we are likely to loose track of what our schools are really supposed to do -- teach our children to become contributing citizens and caring adults in a future that is sustainable.

Admittedly, the ultimate impact of any type of educational reform is difficult to predict. However, one thing is almost certain: Gov. Lingle's political stock as a Republican is sure to rise on the national stage if she succeeds. The GOP has its own high stakes litmus test and Lingle's score would increase dramatically if her educational reform agenda is fully implemented.

Ian Chan Hodges is a principal of Responsible Markets LLC. He is a graduate of Kalani High School and his two sons attend a public elementary school on Maui. Reach him at


Anti-virus programs
protect your digital assets

A few months ago, all anyone with a computer could do was scan their systems daily for the Blaster and SoBig worms and pray that this scourge would be over quickly. Now that we've recovered from this blight and the FBI has arrested at least one of the culprits, we're all back to "normal."

How long will this normalcy last? Until the next troublemaker decides to put a fly in the ointment. At that point, I can assure you that the next cycle of shut-downs and media alerts from Symantec and McAfee will start again. I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't see an end to this in the near future.

I'm in good company.

According to Randy Terbush one of the inventors of the Apache web server and currently chief technology officer at payroll giant ADP, headquartered in New Jersey, coping with viruses and worms are costing IT organizations "a significant amount of resources."

Said Terbush, "Many organizations are fighting a never-ending battle against malicious code. A battle that is sapping valuable time, money and energy from strained IT budgets. I don't see things getting better any time soon. In fact, I believe the virus situation is likely to get much worse before it gets better."

Terbush speculates that corporate IT organizations are going to see a continuation of the current battle between virus writers and software and security companies. If guarding against viruses and worms is such a major issue with big mainland companies, where does that leave the average Hawaii company?

Terbush agrees that the main defense against malicious code is current virus scanning software. Said Terbush, "If you don't have something like Norton anti-virus software or a similar product from McAfee and you're running Windows, youâd better get it soon or you're putting your data at risk."

For businesses small and large, using a managed service is another weapon in the anti-virus arsenal. Last week, we looked at companies that provide anti-spam managed services. Basically, these services get your mail before you do, check if it's spam, and forward anything to you that it thinks is OK. Some of these companies, including FrontBridge, Postini, and Brightmail, as well as Hawaii-based Tiki Technologies, can also check if the e-mail message contains a virus.

Unlike spam, however, viruses, get into your network through more than just the corporate e-mail server. Files transferred from employee's home PC, for example, either via floppy (people still use these!) or through the company VPN, can be infected. We once had a client whose employee was dialing into his personal ISP to retrieve e-mail. Boom, virus on the network! So even if you opt for a managed service, you still need virus scanning software on every PC in your organization.

Testing Norton AV

One of the better known anti virus offerings is Symantec's Norton Anti Virus, which is either available as part of System Works or sold separately.

We looked at the latest product, Norton Anti Virus (NAV) 2003, which is easy enough for rank amateurs and feature-laden enough for hard core geeks. Essentially, it scans and cleans attachments both from e-mail and instant messengers. It also blocks worms and other malicious code and repairs and/or quarantines files that may have been infected.

Installation is easy. Symantec provides a "wizard" that guides you through the process and gets you registered. The only reported hassle I've heard of is that MSN instant messenger users need to reboot their systems after setup, otherwise NAV won't automatically scan IM attachments.

I've used Symantec products through the years and they have stood the test of time. They are not perfect, though. There can be compatibility problems with older versions of Windows or NT. (See for details.)

One good thing is that it's pretty much a plug-and-play system that doesn't entail a lot of tweaking for the average user. The only thing you have to do is set up a regular scan time for your system. Scanning, which really sucks up a CPU's bandwidth, can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, so it's good to do this when you don't plan on being online.

NAV's default settings provide a good defense against worms, e-mail viruses, and Trojan horses by scanning incoming and outgoing e-mail. NAV will then automatically repair infected files and scan file downloads in AOL, MSN, and Yahoo IM applications.

NAV has a built-in help section that includes links to Symantec's tech support site. There are more wizards to help you get through problems, but unfortunately phone support is not free. Youâll have to pay $2.95 a minute or $29.95 a call. The price of the product is $49.95. All in all, you're going to need this technology. Not having virus protection is like playing Russian roulette.

John Agsalud is the President of ISDI, a Honolulu-based IT outsourcing, systems integration, and consulting firm. He can be reached at or by calling 944 8742.

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