School of Education dean takes leave mid-semester for professional development

Dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education Anjoo Sikka has taken leave, active immediately. SUNY Distinguished Service Professor of Education Dennis Showers will serve as interim dean (Josie Kwan/ Assoc. photo editor).

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Stacey Robertson informed the campus via email on Feb. 25 that dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education Anjoo Sikka is taking a Title F leave beginning immediately. Sikka will return in August 2019 as a professor in the School of Education but will not return to the dean position. 

Academic and professional employees can apply for Title F leave to the college’s Chief Administrative Officer, President Denise Battles, for the purpose of “professional development, acceptance of assignments of limited duration with other universities and colleges ... or for other appropriate purposes consistent with the needs and interests of the University,” according to the college’s Title F Leave Policy. 

The various application forms consist of explaining the reason the applicant is leaving and for how long, as well as salary information.

In an email statement, Robertson explained that Sikka was granted the leave “in order to retool her return to the classroom.” Robertson also said that Sikka will help the college during the process of leadership transition. 

Sikka did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the subject over the past week. 

Faculty Fellow and SUNY Distinguished Service professor of education Dennis Showers will be stepping in as interim Dean while the search and hiring process is carried out to find a new dean, according to the email.

Showers previously served as the director of the School of Education from March 1999 to September 2003. He has worked as a faculty fellow with the Provost’s Office since fall 2017 to assess the different opportunities to improve and reform Geneseo’s curriculum. While he is in the interim position, Showers said he will run the day-to-day duties and will also guide conversations surrounding the process to find a permanent dean. 

“The plan is for the School of Education to get ourselves organized so that we can begin a search process for a dean probably again in the fall,” Showers said. “The first step is kind of organizing ourselves around figuring out who we would want that person to be.” 

Showers explained that this was timely for him because he was previously serving as a faculty fellow, so he was only teaching one class this semester. This experience allowed him to shift his responsibilities to the dean position without disrupting his classes.

Students seem pleased that Showers was selected as interim dean, as opposed to someone from outside the department. 

“I would think that’d be a good move because he might not be an administrator, but he has insight into the School of Education,” childhood and special education major junior Ryan Peace said. “So, it’s probably a challenging move for him to move into a position like that, but I think that he already knows what goes on in the department. So, if they moved someone in who maybe has a background in administration but doesn’t have knowledge of that department that might have [caused] clashes or miscommunication.” 

Student reaction seemed to be either surprised or somewhat indifferent. For some students this emphasized ongoing communication problems in the School of Education. 

Peace explained that he was unaware of who the dean was before this but was curious as to the details of them stepping down. He said he would like to see more connections between the administration and students in the future. 

English and adolescent education major junior Richard Noel said he was initially frustrated because it continued the School of Education’s status as an “opaque  kind of organization.” 

“There’s not a lot of transparency and I feel like fellow education people have expressed similar thoughts,” Noel said. “Things just sort of drop on us with little warning and it changes drastically.” 

The Lamron tried to speak to seven faculty members in the School of Education, but all declined to comment either due to a lack of understanding of what’s next or on the basis that they were asked not to speak about the situation. 

Showers emphasized that this time would reflect changes for the department as a whole. 

“This is an interim phase and that’s always a time of change and reexamination,” Showers said. “So, we’re going to take that opportunity and try [to plan] how we go find our next team.”

Some students have expressed the desire for many changes to be made in the department and thus, are hoping that comes with the period of change. 

“I would be interested just to know more, like finding out more about what the kind of criteria is [that] they’re selecting people on and where the decisions are being made,” Noel said. “Because a lot of times it just kind of feels like you hear something at the top happens and then it’s like, all right, well I don’t know what that means.”