Straight Talk by Baker Kurrus, July 31, 2015

Some schools get a lot of praise and positive attention, and a number of schools are criticized and get negative attention.  As this year unfolds, I am not going to play that game.   I am going to take a different approach.  I will certainly talk about schools by name, but I am also going to talk about students and dedicated colleagues without reference to school affiliation.  There are a lot of stories of success that are not being told, and the stories come from all over our district.  I still have my “Lion Pride,” along with the other schools (some of you Straight Talkers will recall that discussion!), but I want to be sure we lift up our district and support one another.  We need to start taking pride in our district.

I got a text message (Does anyone ever call?) from one of our students who just got back from a leadership conference in Chicago.  She had a great time while learning about how to be a leader.  She said she met students from eleven other countries.  She said the conference was “absolutely amaaazing!!”  I am sure she will have a major positive impact on the culture and climate in her school this year.  We need more of our students to travel to educational summer events.  These things can be life-changing.  Step up, Little Rock.

This week all of the LRSD principals and assistant principals attended a two-day institute.  The institute had a nautical theme. Our communications director Pamela Smith thought it would be appropriate for me to wear a captain’s hat.  I did, and I looked like a cross between the Love Boat captain and “Skipper” from Gilligan’s Island.  I also thought a good ice-breaker would be a song, so I sang “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid.  I tanked, and made everyone seasick.  I think most people appreciated the fact that I was trying.  

We had some fun, but it was a serious institute.  There were informative sessions on a number of important topics.  I took off the hat, and I spoke to the group after lunch on the first day.  I told them that I was not there to give another “rah-rah” speech.  We don’t have time for another “typical year,” whatever that might be.  We are called to urgent work, and we must understand that this is going to be a different year, where we expect the most out of ourselves.  I told them that we were going to be accountable to one another, and support one another.  I also said that we are going to focus on every student. 

I closed my talk by saying that there really is good reason for optimism.  There is “Land Ho!!”  We can get there.  I do feel the weight of our work, but it isn’t heavy, because we have good people and we will share the load. 

The Commissioner of Education, Mr. Johnny Key, gave the keynote address on Day 2.  He challenged us to not only hope for the best, but to expect the best.  He uplifted us all.  The ADE is a great partner, and we are working well together, thanks to his leadership and the strength of his team.  

Now we have to lift our students up, help each other, and find ways to make the system work for everyone.  Sounds good, but this is hard to do.  The first step is to commit to cooperate, collaborate and work together cheerfully and respectfully.  Without that commitment, success will be elusive and inconsistent.   Failure anywhere is failure everywhere.  Failure of one should be painful to all.  We will share our successes, and this will be joyful.  

The water may be a little rough at times, and it will not always be smooth sailing. When I boarded the boat on May 6th I felt a brisk wind in my face.   The wind is with us now.   Let’s set sail, mates.


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