TPS board must adopt identifiable benchmarksWritten by Darlene Fisher | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The election season has passed and soon the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education will be installing one new member, Lisa Sobecki, and re-installing Jack Ford for a four-year term.
Welcome to the board! The months and years during the term of any school board member can be filled with excitement, deliberation, trepidation and collective success.
Our students and community are counting on us to improve our state ranking, move our lowest-performing schools out of academic watch and academic emergency, and adopt cutting-edge curriculum practices and technology that grab our student’s attention long enough to engage them as the hub of the educational wheel.
What should the community be able to expect from this new board?
Transformational leadership will be necessary. The community should expect from their school leaders four important attributes as appropriately noted in Paul Longnecker’s letter to the editor in the Nov. 11 edition of Toledo Free Press.
Those attributes of transformational leadership are worth repeating: being a role model to emulate, motivating followers to aspire to their maximum potential, connecting with followers on an individual level and stimulating creativity and innovation in others.
Being a role model is difficult, but I have found it much easier to have a code of conduct and a set of principles that guides me as I act on behalf of the entire TPS community. Some of the underlying principles include considering the situation in relation to how it affects the community as a whole; putting students and parents at the hub of the educational wheel; being open and honest in my interactions with the press and community; and, staying free of any conflicts of interest and if one should occur, to be candid about its nature.
A role model has to demonstrate through actions that their words ring true. Such actions are not always appreciated, especially when decisions affect thousands of individuals and a large amount of taxpayer money is involved.
The process of motivating, inspiring and connecting with students, parents, employees and community members is a demanding pursuit. In our current environment, we are beset with challenges. To address these challenges requires problem identification and this process is frequently viewed in a negative context. It really hits home for those directly affected, for they will be required to develop a positive attitude in accepting and implementing the changes. This is not easy for any individual and it is particularly complex in a large public bureaucracy.
I believe that the process of motivation and inspiration starts with a willingness to acknowledge the issue at hand and asking for input from all parties and acting on the information provided. Respect among board members and the community as a whole is paramount. Certainly any dialogue must be conducted in a manner that allows us to address the challenges and concerns and requires those involved to put any personal agendas into a broader framework that allows us to aspire toward a set of common goals.
Imagine if we were able to unleash the opportunity of stimulating creativity and innovation in others across Toledo Public Schools, at the board level, at every school and in every classroom. The question is, who controls the creativity? The answer is very simple: Everyone — our staff, our students, parents, business leaders and citizens. We can all share in this great opportunity to participate in improving the quality of education at Toledo Public Schools.
Going forward, the decisions the board makes must first focus on our students rather than political wins. The board must set the tone for the district. That tone being one of “Excellence” as a goal throughout the district in every thing we do and say. Excellence must become the very fiber of our work. We also must understand when we’re faced with obstacles to creating excellence and how to stay focused on that path.
The district must be open and forthright to effectively deal with the vast challenges we have in fiscal accountability, improved academics and engaging the public.
The board must complete, agree to and adopt a set of goals and benchmarks for the district, superintendent and treasurer. That discussion was begun under my term as president in early February 2006 when I distributed to all board members a first draft of goals that are still not implemented due to political distractions and delays. Time is of the essence and we must be prepared to move that discussion of goals into an identifiable and quantifiable plan that is sustainable and achievable over a set time period.
Our focus and actions must be directed to bringing up our lowest-performing schools and reporting directly to the community with clear evaluation and measurements of that progress. In every school and every classroom, we need to collectively ensure that the needs of all students are being addressed.
Come along on the road to excellence and progress for TPS. Stay tuned and informed.
Darlene Fisher is a member of the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education. She can be reached at Fishertpsboe@aol.com.