Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I was recently asked to participate in a Quality Assurance Review in Buffalo to help determine if their high school should be accredited and provide suggestions on how to improve. As is often the case when I visit other districts and educational entities, I learned a lot.

One of the things I learned is the importance of stakeholder communication and working together to provide a positive educational experience for students. Embedded throughout the AdvancEd criteria for accreditation, stakeholder input was evident in several of the seven standards, including those in Vision and Purpose; Leadership; Stakeholder Communication and Relationships; and Continuous Improvement. In addition, active involvement of students in the learning process was a part of the Teaching and Learning standard.

While it is sometimes not always easy asking for input when one is certain of neither the volume nor tenor of the response, it is nonetheless important in order to get a more complete picture. Organizations must ask their customers and shareholders what they are thinking or feeling. Only by gathering input from all stakeholders can school districts get a good feel for the wants, needs and issues of a community.

Platte #2 recently put a survey on its website asking for input. We received a fair amount of input on a controversial topic and feel that conversations were started that will lead to improvement. As the district moves forward and plans for the future, I am asking for your input again. On the website is a much more detailed survey, but one that will help the board of trustees and the district determine a direction to continue getting better. If you do not have an Internet connection, we do have a paper survey available. We ask that you take the time to fill out this survey and thank you ahead of time for doing so. Working together, we can continue to reach for excellence while providing an outstanding education for our students.
(also appears in the October 31 Guernsey-Gazette)

Monday, October 15, 2007

The One Thing

A bit of serendipity from the last couple of weeks has me thinking about getting more focused. An on-line newsletter I get from a personal development entrepreneur discussed the movie City Slickers and one of the characters, Curly, played by Jack Palance. The scene from the movie has Billy Crystal’s character asking the grizzled cowboy to tell him the secret to his perceived grasp of life’s secrets. Curly would hold up one finger and say, “One thing.” Eventually Crystal’s character becomes exasperated and asks, “What is the one thing,” followed by Curly’s response along the lines of “You’ll have to figure that out.”

The serendipitous part comes from the fact that a book I’m reading for graduate class called Crucial Conversations had the same story. If find it interesting that this obscure reference came about twice in such a short time. All of which got me thinking about a book I read in the last year by Buckingham, The One Thing You Need to Know. Each of these references was talking about narrowing our focus to the fundamental element for achieving success. In Crucial Conversations the focus was on successful conversations and making sure relevant information was free flowing. Buckingham wrote of three scenarios – managing, leading, and personal success – and had a singular focus for each of the three. James Ray, in his on-line newsletter, wrote of success in life.

As I reflect on the strategic direction of our district – we are currently in the planning stages – I am reminded that a laser-like focus really does help individuals and organizations grow. As we develop our strategic plan, I will be reminded to ask the question, “What is the one thing?” that will drive success for the future. If the previous three authors are correct, we’ll certainly find out if we can answer that question.
(cross posted at http://www.leadertalk.org/)