An old school LYS principal shares the following:
“I had the opportunity to have a conversation with an aspiring administrator this week. He came to me after observing that I don’t talk like most principals and my actions are not like most principals. Inevitably our conversation turned to politics. The aspiring administrator correctly noted that politics are imbedded in schools and are indeed a normal part of society. He asked how I dealt with the political situations that arise. After a second of thought I responded that certainly politics are an aspect of school. As administrators we have to acknowledge that and must be prepared to face political issues in our careers. I shared the two guiding principles that I now live by:
1. From E. Don Brown: The principal is the only person in the entire school system that is in a position to be a pure advocate for kids. At some other point, everyone else in the organization will put some issue ahead of the needs of kids. An excellent principal NEVER compromises on the role of being a pure advocate for kids. I will negotiate many issues, but never this one.
2. From Bob Brezina, a corollary: If it’s not right for kids, it’s wrong.
Every time I face a tough situation, I default back to these basic principles. Any decision I make or any compromise I make must not violate either of these two basic principles. Of course the man agreed that these were important principles. The aspiring principal asked if I was serious about never compromising on these two points. I responded that I in my career I have offered my resignation rather than violate these principles, and I have been taken up on my offer. Every supposed leader out there “talks the talk.” I asked him if he was willing to “walk the walk,” even if he had to leave a campus or district in order to be faithful to these principles. He is still thinking about it.
You and I have had this discussion more than once. As leaders who fallen on our swords because it was the right thing to do, we have agreed that there is nothing more liberating and life affirming. When you are willing to accept the worst case synerio, there is nothing that the opposing side can do that will shake your resolve. Couple that with the fact that the opposing side is generally focused on being comfortable and you have the equation that allows one person to have the impact and influence of 100’s.
Now there is a small caveat that both Brezina and Dr. John Sawyer (at one time, two of the top five school finance minds in the business) ceaselessly hammered into me. You must live well below your means and you must have a rainy day fund. Without that in place, you are a slave to the paycheck. As we both know, it is much easier to die on the hill when you know that your family won’t starve.
Think. Work. Achieve.