A superintendent in a small school district gave a talk at the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Midwinter’s Conference a few years ago. She moved her hands quickly in the air, her hands almost blurring, parallel to each other. “This is the kind of change we need in schools,” she exclaimed. “But this,” and she moved her hands ever so slowly, ” is the change we’re getting. We need this change [moving her hands quickly] because our children can’t wait.”

I was impressed with her talk…and I wasn’t alone. “You know,” I said to the tech director in that district, “I wouldn’t mind working with her to achieve that vision she articulated.” At last, an administrator who gets it. A superintendent who will bring about change.

Less than a year later, she had been ousted from her perch and the community had mobilized against her. Whether she was bought off, resigned, it didn’t matter. Everyone wanted her gone. Riding the coat-tails of her defeat, the very people she cited as the problems rose to power. The balance swung in the opposite direction. What she had hoped to accomplish was laudable, but how she went about it scarred the District, not to mention her career.

When I stub my toe on the “rocks” that block the way to successful change in school districts, I remember the story of the Superintendent mentioned in the story above. Change is necessary. Who we serve, not change itself, requires us to move quickly. As I get older, I notice that I get increasingly impatient with the slow pace of change in K-12 education. Yet, change has occurred. My son, on the way home from school, answered the mobile phone. “We’re on highway 604,” he told her. I was shocked…he had never shown an awareness of where he was by street name or the name of the highway. “He’s growing up,” I said to myself. Then, I heard him say, “No one told me it was 604.” He was acknowledging that he had grown up enough to know where he was. That’s how change occurs.

But, it can also be an auto wreck, like the one that left a Putlitzer Prize writer suddenly, unexpectedly, dead. Which is better? I’ve seen both in education, and been grateful for both. In one district, upper administration was cleaned out as if by a plague. Prayers, some say, were answered and change happened. Other times, change is a dawning realization. Nature allows for both sudden and gradual changes…shouldn’t we?

Note: An oldy but goody blog entry from LeaderTalk days.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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