Be Patient – Real Change Takes Time
Be Patient – Real Change Takes Time

POSTED: April 15th, 2012

CATEGORIES: Article, Budget, Charter School, Edu Business, Education, Leadership, Superintendent,

TOPICS: , , , , ,

DISCUSSED: 8 Comments, (Join the conversation)

As we close out spring break and head into the last stretch of the school year, teachers are putting on the final push to get students ready for testing, students are counting the days and parents are putting the final touches on figuring out what to do with their children all summer., for my leadership team, and me it’s time to start getting ready for next year.  Budgets are due.  Summer maintenance needs to be planned and most of all deciding on next steps for next year have to be made.

Personally, as I head into my fifth year in this role, I’m beginning to see the change of culture we started out to make four years ago.  It hasn’t been easy and we still have a ways to go.  But, I can see it coming and it’s an exciting time to be where we are.

When I first started here, things were not good.  Teachers referred to our students as ‘these kids’.  Fifteen percent of our parents choose to drive their students over 20 miles each way to get their kids out of our schools and the community thought we were doing a poor job.  It would have been simply to come in and simply start demanding changes and bringing in programs – letting everyone know there was a new sheriff in town and that things needed to change.  However, experience had taught me something else; keep strong to my vision and most of all – to be patient.

I know some of you may be a little aghast that I have waited four years to really dig into some issues that I feel are important to us. But, honestly, it’s taken that long to get people believing in what we are trying to sell. It has, and I’m glad we took our time. (Did I forget to mention that I am now the longest serving superintendent this district has had in the past thirty years? So, I am sure the thought of “This too shall pass” was not too far from their minds when I took over.)

In the past, I have seen districts do things like hire a superintendent who then hires an outside consultants and proceeds to tell all the teachers that the reason students’ don’t perform is because of their incompetence, or bring in expensive scripted programs that basically tell teachers they have no value.  Five years later, the Superintendent’s successor is long gone and the teachers have learned to just tune it all out and move on – And, nothing has changed.

However, I did it a little different.  Instead of accentuating what they already felt, I flipped the script and looked for what was good.  I didn’t dwell on what we didn’t have and talked a lot about what we did. We didn’t bring in any programs or consultants.  We found the good in ourselves and built on that.

It took time to see the change.  Getting people to start believing in themselves often does – especially when you hear a constant drumbeat of negativity.  The only cure is to keep to what you believe and work toward building success one person at a time.   We worked hard.  We started showing visible signs of success. – Schools earned statewide honors, teachers and administrators garnered county and statewide recognition and even the football team began winning games.  We spent a little money are fixing up the appearance of our schools.  We gave out logo-wear so everyone could look and feel like part of the team.  And, we have become one – A team.

Now we are ready to move forward.  Our teachers have some great ideas on how to make things better and most importantly they are seeing what they can be.  Last year alone, our test scores increased higher than any of the over 60 other districts in our region.  We are getting better and learning just how good we can be.  Our culture has changed and we are changing the community we serve.

And, all it took was a little patience.

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by The Ed Buzz
  1. “The only cure is to keep to what you believe and work toward building success one person at a time”

    Inspiring post…

  2. Your approach is very much in line with Seth Grodin’s book Tribes. In it a leader is one who helps people find your passion for change and join in to reach the goals. Keep up the great work.

  3. I think the hard part is waiting. I’ve got a short time to do good work, but good work takes time.

  4. [...] you Ed Buzz for “Real Change Takes Time.” Ed (his pen name) is a superintendent of a school district in California.  Want to taste real [...]

  5. Subhabb says:

    Ah! Wise words — “It took time to see the change. Getting people to start believing in themselves often does…”
    I’m adding your words to my collection of quotes! Change is not easy and it is tempting to rush it especially when it feels so right. Yet rushing it might create change, but perhaps, not the positive kind that can be sustained over time. I like the way in which you focused on the notion of getting your team to look inward and see what they were were capable of. The best advice a fellow principal gave me some years back was, “Lift them up!” and I’ve learned that in good and especially tough times, championing people creates room for them to grow. And it sounds like you did just that. One of my favorite quotes is by Kurt Hahn, where he says, “You are crew, not passengers.” I believe when leaders become part of the crew they can influence their organizations (and others) by what they model (and share). I look forward to learning from you, from afar. :) Good luck in all that you do!

  6. [...] local policy, pedagogy, self-determination theory |Leave a comment » was the theme of this entry on The Ed Buzz by a current public school superintendent: It would have been simply [sic] to come [...]

  7. taso100 says:

    Building on what you are good at and good for is the very premise of Appreciative Inquiry. This is heartening to see.

  8. B says:

    You must change behaviors before you change beliefs, and it looks as though you are doing that!

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