In response to Bob Brezina’s post on finding middle ground, a reader writes:
“One of my mentors has taught me that school focuses are, in this order:
Most schools have very little time or effort left for #3. My rough guess is that somewhere near 80% of what schools do has very little to do with kids and has much more to do with adults.”
I’ll start with a line from my June 25, 2009 post, “the belief that schools are about students is a myth. Schools are really about adult convenience.”
Like it our not, from the perspective of who holds power, the reader’s mentor is not far off. Boards and superintendents are worried more about politics and finance than students. That is the world they live in, the world they crave, and the world that they understand. That does not mean that they don’t care for students. It means that their decisions are made through the lens of political and financial considerations. It means that the big picture is more important that the small picture. This reality is what made Brezina darn near the perfect superintendent to work for and why Brezina and Brown are so philosophically in tune.
Brezina as Superintendent: Brezina was a no-nonsense, intimidating, imposing, hard case. Rules of surviving to work again tomorrow were: Don’t spend a dime when a nickel will do. Don’t just spend a nickel, if you need to spend 7 cents to be successful. Don’t talk to the Board without letting Mr. Brezina know (they are not your Board, they are Brezina’s Board). “Yes,” means start running at full speed right now. “No,” means stop now. But most importantly, if you were a principal, your instructions were,
“If it is right for students, come up with the effective and efficient solution, and implement it. If it is wrong for students, quit doing it. Don’t worry about the politics and lawyers, that is my job.”
So yes, Brezina focused on politics and finance. That was his job. But he also used his power, influence, and reputation to protect and provide for his staff who’s job it was to focus on the students.
That is the system I was “raised” in. Then I meet E. Don Brown who lives by the creed,
“The campus principal is the only pure advocate for students.”
This was a concept that I had never articulated or consciously considered, but one that I instantly understood, because that concept encapsulated my formative professional experience.
So the idea is not to be naive about the ways of the world or holier than thou. The world is about money, power, and adult convenience. The idea is to recognize that when we are in the position of pure student advocacy, we have a moral obligation to engage. If we don’t, who will? We also have to recognize that when the student advocate calls our hand, we have a moral obligation to check ourselves.
Think. Work. Achieve.