POSTED: April 15th, 2012
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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