Straight Talk by Baker Kurrus, June 18, 2015

Straight Talk

Last week I spent more time visiting schools, particularly those that are in “academic distress.”  Thursday and Friday I spoke to the staffs at Cloverdale, Henderson, Fair and McClellan.  I had already visited with the staff at Hall, and the Baseline staff is going to be reconstituted.   (This means that most of the current staff, except for some support personnel, will be moved.  Some staff at Baseline who want to return may be rehired, but I expect the majority to be new in the fall.) I think the staffs at Hall, Fair, McClellan, Henderson and Cloverdale expected me to criticize them, or threaten them with some major reconstitution if results did not improve.  Instead of chastising them, I thanked them for hanging in there during a tumultuous year.  I told them that we face some real challenges, but that we will face those challenges together.  Some were relieved that reconstitution was not in the works.  Some of the folks were just plain tired.  I asked them to rest up, get recharged, and get ready for a new and focused school year this fall.  It is only about two months away.  We are going to have a fresh start.

The biggest challenge now for those staffs, including principals, assistant principals, teachers, specialists and support staff, is to work together as a team.  Organizations that are effective pull together and work together.   Effective school personnel spend their time on teaching and learning in the classroom.   Once that focus is lost, there is just not much else that gets done.  We will spend some time before school starts in  goal-setting processes that will let us know if we have the teams in place that can work together.  In schools where we do not, we will struggle.  If we are able to build some committed teams with common goals and with unity of purpose, we will succeed.  It will also be a lot more enjoyable for everyone.

I went by the adult education center on Friday evening and shook hands with some graduates who received their GED.  It was inspiring to see that some students who did not succeed initially in regular classroom settings still reach their goals.  Some students take a different route and even if the road is pretty rough at times.  There is a lesson in that for all of us.  We are not going to give up on our students, even when they are close to giving up on themselves. 

On Saturday morning I went to a job fair for teachers.  I stayed for the entire fair, and I met a large number of applicants for teacher positions.  We are still placing some of our current teachers, but we will need some additional teachers for some special subjects and special circumstances.  Human resources is the gateway to excellence.

After the fair I went to the final A.S.C.E.N.D.  program - a youth mentoring and development program for students from our area.  It is organized and run by Beta Pi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  The students were outstanding, and the program was a lot of fun.  We need more of these types of community opportunities for our students.

This summer is a time to plan, to evaluate, and to recommit.  As I told the staffs at the schools of urgency, this fall needs to be different.  Different can be better, more satisfying professionally, and more fun.  


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