In response to the post by Bob Brezina, a reader writes:
“As usual, Brezina puts things into a concrete and understandable context. I often look to Brezina for approval, as I have tremendous respect for him, and I see his post on this issue as approval. I have run the good race and fought the good fight on more than one occasion. I have paid dearly for fighting for students.
In highly dysfunctional districts you will find in almost every case they are extremely adult centered. That is why they have become dysfunctional. I have always kept my eye on the prize, which is student success. My students have thrived, adults have complained, and I have paid the ultimate price (which is leaving the position, packing up the family, and moving to a new district). More than once, I have lost thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process (try selling a house, quickly). And I will do it again in this new position if that’s what it takes!
I recently told a principal who I am trying to mentor that I have always made decisions that favored kids. I have paid dearly, but in the long run my career has prospered as districts tend to seek me out. On the other hand, you can play political games and worry about your contract renewal, the game everyone plays. And when it comes time for you to find a new district, and believe me, that time will come, you will be no different than everyone else out there looking for jobs. Fight the good fight, no matter what. You will pay for it, but you will also be in demand. As Brezina says, doing the right thing, for the right reason is quite rare these days.”
Your post touches on a lot of themes that we discuss here. But what I want to highlight is your lack of fear. What the reader describes is completely factual. What has set him apart from the principals that he succeeded is his utter fearlessness. The principals before him were not bad people. They did not set out to purposely drive their schools into the proverbial ditch. But that is exactly what they did. And each one of them did it because they believed that each compromise they made that sacrificed the needs of students to needs of adults and local “politics” would be the last.
You quickly learned the lesson that I learned (it helps to have the same coaches). When you tackle the hopelessly broken, it is a short term job. If you do it right, you upset enough people to the point that staying isn’t a viable option. If you do it wrong, nothing changes and you get run out of town. The difference is, when you are interviewing for the next job, you can talk about your accomplishments instead of making excuses. What is interesting, is even when people know this, they are still afraid to step up.
Finally, as I have told you before, working for Brezina was such a remarkable experience, that I actually feel sorry for those who never had the chance. He simplified the job of being a principal. When he hired me, he told me, “You do what’s right for my kids, and I’ll take care of the politics.” A little later when I had ventured past my comfort zone for speed and action, I told them that I thought that I might be pushing too hard and too fast. He told me, “I’ll tell you when you’ve gone too far. You do the job I hired you for.”
He remained true to that until the day he retired. Since then I have worked for and with a number of Superintendents, none of which are as resolute. Brezina is the standard.
Think. Work. Achieve.