2018-08-09 / Opinions

Guest VIEWpoint

Sailing the four C’s
By Brian Keim
Laker Superintendent


Brian Keim Brian Keim One of my favorite parts of summer is the opportunity to refocus and reset for the coming year. Many thoughts and questions come to mind: What can we do to improve our schools? How can we better support our students? What is most important to us and how will it be evident to others?

That last question plagues me the most because it involves many people and has many moving parts. It’s about values and it can look very different from one person to another or from school to another, depending on the needs and dynamics within each community. Then once that question has been answered, there is also the challenge of getting everyone on the team united behind it. This is no small task.

The Laker school district’s administrative team identified “4 C’s” that stand at the top of the list, in the following order:

CULTURE

Culture trumps all. Webster defines culture as “the shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an organization.” In simpler terms, culture is what you see when you watch a group of people in action. It is collective and it is visible. When asked by Forbes Magazine to share his top four management tips, Chip Kelly, the former football coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, stated that “culture beats scheme everyday.”

The details are important, but the greater value lies in the overall culture of the organization. Many would say the same is true in building a business, growing a ministry, or even raising a family. It definitely holds true in the realm of education. We want to our school to be warm and inviting, we want to practice great customer service and we want to keep the focus on people rather than on numbers and test scores. These things all combine to make up our culture.

You could say that our culture acts as a compass in guiding us forward.

CHARACTER

Character counts. Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” A few years ago, Laker conducted a staff exercise called “Inside-Out,” which required all of us to identify things in our personal and professional lives that did not reflect the way we wanted to be known. We wrote those things down on paper and sealed them in an envelope. Then over the next year or so, we periodically handed the envelopes back to each person to see how we were doing. It wasn’t a complicated exercise, but it helped us to stay focused on our character so that our “tree” and our “shadow” looked the same.

The idea is that we need to be genuine in who we are before we can expect students to follow our lead.

CURRICULUM

Curriculum is important, in the proper context. Curriculum is often misunderstood. In its basic form, curriculum is neither good nor bad, it is simply a collection of information that has been deemed important. It’s how we choose our curriculum and what we do with it that matters most, and those decisions should be made by a broad group of stakeholders.

Most states tell local districts what to teach, and then conduct high stakes tests to see if they are doing as they are told. While we believe there are many things more important than test scores, we must also acknowledge that students and schools are measured by a set curriculum, so we must choose our priorities within that curriculum and teach them well.

In an ideal world, however, we want the parents, business leaders, students, and staff in our district to also have a voice in what is important for our students to learn. This is a tedious process that we have not yet mastered, but we are working hard in that direction.

COMMUNITY

Community is the lifeblood of a successful school. The value of a strong and supportive community could easily be listed No. 1, but we believe the key to success is focusing on things internally - our culture and character - and trusting that those things will draw our community in.

Once a school and community have a strong and trusting relationship, new partnerships can be formed that add value to both - and then the sky’s the limit!

There are many other things that could be added to a list of what’s important, but the key is identifying your organization’s top values and then building your decisions and priorities around them. Once this has been done, you’ll be in for some much smoother sailing!

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