Journey of a Superintendent: The Real Thing

car for blogI grew up surrounded by brothers who always had loud cars and were NASCAR fans. I am sure their influence is why I love the sound of big engines. My first car didn’t have a big engine, but it had a glass-pack that made it hum. Well, to tell you the truth, my big brother bought my first car. It was a Falcon.

I was so excited that I could not wait until he got home from his part-time job to install a new battery. Instead, I found a way to drag the battery from the garage, and with all the determination I could muster, I installed the battery myself. I learned all about polarity and positive and negative circuits that day. Unfortunately, my learning came at the expense of the electrical system in my Falcon! So I went from a car that had old-school style and a V-6 engine, to a 1974 Vega, a far cry from the muscle car of my dreams. The glass-pack at least provided me a constant reminder that I would have to learn more, and work harder so I could one day drive the real thing.

I imagine each of us has a “real thing” that drives us each and every day. I would like to think I have moved past dreaming of fast cars and getting excited when I hear the roar of an engine, but that would not be 100% true. However, most of my energy is now consumed by my obsession to support our students to create pathways to their dreams.

We can learn a lot from those who drive fast, loud racecars for a living. Success in anything takes preparation and extreme focus. NASCAR drivers like Jennifer Jo Cobb have shared with me that holding your line and never losing sight of your goal is essential to success. When things get challenging, and they will, we must hold our line, never losing sight of our goal (dreams).

Right now in Kansas, there is a lot of talk about school finance. The loudest voices have revved their engines to roar with the message that public schools lack efficiency and are not producing a capable workforce. They remind me of my Vega with a glass-pack that was pretending to be something it wasn’t. These engines twist and turn the facts to distort what is really happening in our schools. Seems to me that before we can decide if schools are efficient with their resources, we might want to be clear about what we are trying to achieve. I wonder if we are all in agreement with what we are trying to accomplish with our education system in 2014 and beyond.  What does it mean to be an educated citizen in Kansas? I suspect we would all agree that an educated citizen today is a whole lot different than when my 1962 Falcon was state of the art.

What outcomes must we achieve in order to prepare our students for their futures? Let’s agree to take off the glass-pack, remove personal and political agendas, and have meaningful conversations about what schools must accomplish to prepare our kids, and improve our economy. Our obligation is to make sure the future taxpayers that are now in our classrooms, are fully prepared to achieve their “real thing.” It’s Up to Us. Are we willing to have the real conversations or will we continue to install glass-packs and pretend we support public schools?

 

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