I have to start with an apology. It has taken me far too long to write this. For that, I am sorry and embarrassed. I like to think of myself as someone who acknowledges positive things and I really meant to write to you after the last Board of Education meeting. Those good intentions were not followed through.
Watching this evening’s governance review presentation I was reminded of the positive things you have done for the DeKalb County School District and the students it serves. While the road to the goal looks longer to me than the learned people at McKenna Long & Aldridge, there is no denying you are leading the way on that road.
I used the word “leading” on purpose because that is what you are doing. You need to show up, set expectations, and communicate to all stakeholders. I have watched you consistently do two out of three which is two more than have been done in a long time.
The list of accomplishments you have already achieved is impressive. From decentralizing decision making, elimination of Success for All, negotiating a huge reduction in legal expenses, putting interpreters back in schools, obtaining grant money to establish a Career Academy, and dramatically improving school bus operations, to admitting the school system is failing some of the students, your time as Interim Superintendent has been transformational. What I am most excited about is your commitment to parent engagement. When you were introducing your Bridge Initiative, I tweeted, “It is hard for me not to like a guy who uses a poem to make a point.” That bold plan is why I was going to write to you on September 10. I believe it is a masterpiece of a roadmap leading to what all stakeholders want, well-educated students. Thank you for being enough of a leader to embrace it. I agree with you that parents are the most important factor to student success. You have my full and enthusiastic support for the Bridge Initiative.
Mr. Mayfield made another astute observation this evening regarding the public’s perception of the competence of the central office administration. We see them as incompetent based on the poor quality of their work. We are not aware of the limitations and impediments they have to work around. I was reminded of W. Deming’s Lesser Category of Obstacle (paraphrased), “the workforce is only responsible for 15% of mistakes where the system designed by management is responsible for 85% of unintended consequences.” I strongly recommend reading some of Deming’s work if you plan to adopt “private sector best practices.” Many private sector practices will not transfer to a public school district well. A good example of what I mean can be found in Jamie Volmer’s “Blueberry Story.” http://www.jamievollmer.com/blueberries.html
In conclusion, I am sorry it has taken me so long to let you know I think you are doing good work and I want to thank you for that work
P.S. I still owe you a root beer.