I want public schools to be great.
Great schools attract high quality business, industry and retail. They make the lives of Realtors easier. They enrich communities and add value to the quality of life.
In "Good to Great," author Jim Collins argues that companies that go from good to great neither rant nor rave about a crisis -- and they don't manufacture one where none exists.
Collins argues that leaders of companies, and I would argue school systems, who go from good to great don't start with the "where;" they start with the "who." They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. First the people, then the direction.
Collins argues that if you begin with "who" you can more easily adapt to a fast-changing world and you don't need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated. If you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. The direction, vision, mission and goals may be right, but you won't achieve greatness. Great vision, says Collins, with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.
Schools need strong leaders. Educational guru Mike Schmoker argues that schools will not improve until the building leader begins to work cooperatively with teachers. Research on best practices ranks strong school principals as one of the greatest influences on student achievement, second only to that of the classroom teacher.
A California study of school administrators found that students succeed best in schools that have strong principals who provide instructional leadership for their teachers. A strong, safe school culture is the basis upon which a strong school is built, and the school leader is critical to achieving this environment.
Chambers of Commerce, voters, senior citizens, those with children and those without all want strong, safe, high functioning schools to develop a local workforce. People buy property and homes based on school quality. They move away from low performing schools, taking their tax dollars, influence and capital with them, and it is nearly impossible to regentrify the wasteland left behind. Many senior citizens, incomes fixed, find themselves caught in the waste.
Newton County Superintendent Gary Mathews gained approval of personnel recommendations this month that put the right people on the bus. Mathews put curriculum and instruction front and center and beefed up school improvement. A visionary with an eye on the daily grind as well, Mathews has positioned NCSS to face the challenges of a single statewide accountability scorecard called the Georgia College & Career Ready Performance Index. He put personnel on the bus with expert knowledge in Common Core State Standards and Georgia Performance Standards.
We have miles to go, yet inch by inch, piece by piece, Mathews is making recommendations to put the right people on the bus and to get them in the right seats.
He knows what Jim Collins knows. It is the "who" that matters.
Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.