A long time ago a Vice President of a company I worked for told me a story. This guy was a “my way or the highway” type of guy. He ruled his domain with an iron fist. He told me that he had become involved in local government and it had really opened his eyes. He said he couldn’t just force his will on people like he could at work. He actually had to listen to others and work to build a consensus. It certainly had an effect on him and he became much more of a collaborative leader.
We have a new superintendent in District 109 and I can proudly say that this was a choice that was made by an entire community. It all started over a year ago as residents made their voices heard at board meetings during the teacher contract negotiations. It opened the eyes of many people to the practices of the board of education and superintendent. Some of you spoke up. Some of you took another step and engaged board members. And finally, some of you took the ultimate step and are on the ballot for the April BOE election. You should all be proud of yourselves.
You may ask what actions were taken as a direct result of community involvement.
- Overwhelming community support for the teachers helped to avert a strike and brought an end to the stalemate. Several important contract terms that had community support were included in the contract.
- A petition which described the community’s concerns in the Superintendent hiring process garnered 500+ signatures, or about one third of the families in the district. This clearly showed the board that the community meant business, and was not satisfied with the BOE’s standard hiring process.
- The HR consultant selection process was made public. The consultant held community forums and online surveys to determine the desired qualities of the next superintendent. The resulting profile was made public.
- A community committee was adopted to interview the final three candidates and provide input to the board. This committee consisted of parents, teachers, and administrators, including the caucus endorsed board candidates who will be working with the Superintendent over the next several years.
Make no mistake. None of these things would have been accomplished without strong community input. So does that mean that everyone should shake hands and wander off into the sunset? Well, no, there’s still lots of work to be done. The new board members need to put their money where their mouths are and stay connected to the people they represent. The new Superintendent must
rebuild the trust between the district and the teachers and parents. But most of all, the parents of the district (also known as the customers) need to make sure the district maintains that customer focus. We saw what happened when that focus was lost and we don’t want to go there again.