"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 31, 2010

Conversations with Principals

I had been working as a Project Manager for a couple of years when our team received a new boss. He was full of ideas and wanted to change everything before evaluating what worked and what didn't. The upside of a new person is that they don't have any loyalty to how things have always been done. The downside is that they don't have any loyalty to how things have always been done.

I want to make sure that I don't take what is good and dismiss it. So in that vein, I have been discussing the issues with some of the principals in the district. These are incredibly talented indviduals who really know what works and what does not. I have enjoyed our conversations. Overall, the theme is we have a good district. They are pleased with the support and respect they receive from the district. They feel the district is being run efficiently, and they appreciate the collaboration that takes place.

A number of the principals referenced "The Four Questions". I wanted to learn more about this concept and I think you will also find it interesting. In all things, the schools are to ask: 1) What do the kids know? 2) How do we know that they know it? 3) What do we do if they don't know it? 4) What do we do if they DO know it? I like the emphasis on both extremes: those that don't know and those that have it mastered. Therein is the trick in any classroom, how to meet the needs of those who are struggling, while providing the next step for those who have mastered the concept.

Another thing that was mentioned were the Areas of Focus that were put together with a lot of community involvement. To view this, click here. Also, a couple of them mentioned the Moral Dimensions of Teaching. These are principles adopted by BYU's College of Education and used to train teachers. To view these, click here.

One principal mentioned how the teachers were finding creative ways to use materials and supplies so as to reduce the amount needed during difficult times.

Finally, one of the schools has 'gifted' programs for all of their core subjects. After seeing how many children came to test for the pilot 3rd-grade A.L.L. program a few years ago, it is apparent to me that this is something parents want. A little more of a 'push' on the students is something I have heard repeatedly. It's nice to see some of this desire coming to fruition in our schools.

I congratulate these principals in their achievements and their endeavors. We have a good district. My goal, which I invite you to share, is to make a good district a great district. How do we do that? By changing the culture so we all take part and contribute what we have to offer. There are many things that can be done. Every principal, teacher, parent and student knows ways we can improve. Some are small improvements, some are major improvements.

To have the absolute best district possible, we must all do everything necessary to contribute to success. What does that mean for a school board member? I believe it is necessary for the school board to reclaim its position in preserving the balance between the interests of the district administrators and the interests of the families which they serve.

Our district has tremendous assets in its students, families, teachers, principals, and district administrators. Obviously, everyone has a vested interest in wanting the best education possible for the students. How that is actually accomplished is where people begin to differ. It is only natural for people to come at a problem with varying solutions. The role of the school board is to fairly evaluate the interests of all parties and make the best decision. The "best decision" should be defined as the decision that most effectively educates the students at the highest level possible.

Too often, leaders become insulated against the real world of those they seek to serve. It is a natural process where, left alone, decision makers begin to rely on their own set way of doing business. That is why we have elections with the wonderful opportunity to infuse our bureaucracies with new people, renewed passion, and those who more accurately represent the ideas and ideals of the common person.

My candidacy is about bringing the voice of the everyday family to the school district. We must keep what is working well. We must change what is not working. The only way to reach a higher level is to acknowledge we can do better and be willing to accept better ideas when we find them. To find them, we must be willing to listen. We can make our district better by opening up the system to greater communication, accountability, and representation. There are great ideas out there. The school board needs to return to a culture that embraces the views of the people they serve. By doing so, we tap into what truly makes our district great: the families and individuals who make up our communities.

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