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Monday, June 20, 2011

Looking Back

Today marked the beginning of the end. The first day of the last week of school. It's time to reflect on the year.

A great deal has happened since I started work in Green Island on July 1, 2010. The map I had created to guide me on the journey did not use the typical compass points of North, East, South, and West but rather Look, Listen, Learn, and Lead. I had examined all of the publicly available data (attendance figures, test scores, survey results, budget...) on the school district before I expressed an interest in the position so I was acquainted with enough of what needed to be done to have some platform for action. However, I resisted, as much as possible, the urge to jump in and initiate wholesale changes. I believed it would be more beneficial in the long run if I waited patiently and gained a better perspective on people, programs, and practices before trying to "fix" things.  That stance certainly did not prevent me from responding to issues that warranted immediate attention. I did precipitate changes when and where I felt it was necessary to intervene. But, by and large, I collected information and opinions by observing and the organizational culture and experiencing the school environment. Leadership could be wielded more effectively once I earned political capital, established credibility, and demonstrated integrity. That would take time and require looking, listening, and learning.

If there was one focal point within my personal vision for the school district that distinguished itself from other issues and needs, it was the perception that the school community was under-performing due to a lack of clarity, common goals, and shared meanings among the staff and learners. This is to say, I suspected that the human resources necessary for success were already present within the school, but that these resources were not developed to their capacity. I accepted responsibility for maximizing our collective potential through efforts to empower others - not by giving them anything in particular, but by not taking anything from them. Perhaps  better explanation of this concept and belief can be found by the following story of a famous Italian artist...

When asked how he could so miraculously carve warm, emotion laden human forms from cold, lifeless marble, Micheangelo Buonarroti responded that he never carved anything "in" marble. Rather, he revealed, his technique was to merely "chip away" the excess marble from the form already within the marble, so it could be free. His task was to liberate the form "from" the marble, not to carve his abstract concepts into it.

Time will tell what impact, if any, I've made on the school district this first year as superintendent. But I will measure my progress relative to advances in liberating the potential from the people on staff instead of gauging success by means of confining mandates and imposing constrictions. Once we reach a point where staff members can confidently exercise their professional development, skills, and training, we will encounter expanded opportunities for achievement and increased possibilities for success.

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