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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cultivating a Culture for Change

Cultivating a Culture for Change 

     Shortly after that first six week marking period there was a district wide staff development day set-aside for the eight junior high schools. The objective of that day was to become involved in a plan to convert to middle schools. I had planned something in preparation for the first opportunity for our staff to interact with their colleagues following the announcement of academic improvement. 
     I took the staff roster and went to a local printing company. Letterhead and business cards were made up for each staff member. These items were practical because our staff, be they teachers who meet with parents,… or custodians who meet with supply salesmen,… have a need to exchange information via personalized school stationery. Another benefit was promoting a sense of pride in who we are. 
     It worked! During that staff development day our teachers proudly distributed business cards to their colleagues as a means of encouraging communication within the district. The looks on the faces of those handing out the cards and those receiving the cards spoke volumes. Teachers appeared unashamed to show they taught at Mann. The recipients appeared both puzzled and envious. Before the day was concluded two junior high principals who wanted to know where I got the business cards printed contacted me. 
     To meet with success we realized that we had to take an alternative road. We had been stuck behind all the other schools like a car stuck behind slow moving tractor trailers on winding, hilly country roads lacking a passing lane. We were so far behind that we would never get ahead by doing what everyone else was doing. 
     On the evening of Open House something happened that would not have been better if it had been purposely orchestrated. Not only did the school enjoy a greater turn out of parents than it had in memory, but the parents assembled in the auditorium reacted with a standing ovation after the introduction of the staff. This remains one of the most memorable moments in my leadership career. 
     Copies of encouraging news articles on the school began cropping up everywhere in the school, around the staff lounge, the copy machine, bulletin boards, and the main foyer. It was like a snowball gathering mass as it descended a hill. 
     I spoke at local, regional, state, and national venues and shared with pride the work at Horace Mann. We had regular visits by contingents representing schools in and out of Texas who had heard of Mann and desired more information. 
     Before the end of the first year we were receiving inquiries from parents of children in other schools who wanted information on transferring to Mann. Teachers no longer requested transfers out of Mann. Instead, as the district approached the move toward middle schools that would change from a grades 7, 8, 9 configuration to a 6, 7, 8 format we had transfer requests from 6th grade teachers who wanted to come to Mann.  

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