Category Archives: Core Values
Last week California celebrated school bus driver day. I have worked with and around school bus drivers for almost my entire career. There is not a day where I don’t pause and appreciate the essential and often thankless job that drivers perform. In fact, during the year I make it a point to meet with each of our drivers. In these meetings I answer questions, solicit ideas, encourage feedback, and make sure the driver knows how I feel about their jobs.
In honor of School Bus Driver Day I share the following story obtained from one of my drivers in one of these meetings. It is not by any means unique. Rather, it is one of dozens (or thousands) of stories which demonstrate the caring, attentive, and supportive role that many, many bus drivers serve.
I too read/heard/watched the media “uproar” about the deplorable behavior of Rutgers’ basketball coach Mike Rice. I also watched and noticed the relatively little bad press the university received about the issue. In a set of circumstances reminiscent of the recent Penn State child abuse scandal, the university appears to have been well aware of the circumstances. However, like Penn State, for a myriad of reasons – not all of which we have heard yet – the university took no appreciable action until the viral video displaying Rice’s truly abusive behavior left them with no choice.
Organizational tendencies like this one are not just prevalent in universities or giant corporations. They permeate the very establishments we work in or do business with every day. In our own organizations how frequently do we deny, ignore, rationalize, or even cover up inappropriate behavior rather than confronting it and addressing it? If you’re in the student transportation business you know that school site or department that is definitely not doing things right. It’s not your job to fix it, but you’re certain that if it were, you’d address the pattern of not taking action on problems. Read the rest of this entry
Maybe it’s the fact that, just last week, I delivered a keynote presentation in Florida about child abuse. Maybe it’s that, just yesterday, a safety officer for a state association told me of his worry that too much attention is on the threat of the “active shooter” in our schools to the exclusion of the continuing threat to students from sexual violence and domestic abuse. Either way, as I read an article in my local newspaper this morning about the firing of Rutgers College basketball coach Mike Rice, I was frightened by the potential parallels to adults who work with students with special needs – including school bus drivers. Read the rest of this entry
Sometimes when you travel it seems like you run into the same person at various points along the way. Last week while traveling back home from the Dominican Republic where my daughter is teaching, I had one of those experiences. I saw the same woman at the ticket kiosk, baggage counter, magazine store, and security check line. It was at this latter point that I really took notice. She was in a very tight embrace with a younger woman (who I later learned was her daughter.) There were more than the usual hugs and goodbye tears.
The parent sat a few rows ahead of me during the flight to the U.S. and I could see that she remained very emotional throughout. As it turns out, she was near me during the 2 mile walk required to get through passport control and U.S. customs in the Atlanta airport. This is where I asked her the first three words: “Are you alright?” Well she wasn’t. During Atlanta’s poor imitation of the Bataan death march, she identified herself as “Sherri,” and revealed the horrible circumstances she was enduring. Her only child was in medical school in Santiago because they couldn’t afford a school in the U.S. She had sold many of her possessions and scraped together all of her savings to afford this one week visit with her daughter because the student was very homesick and was threatening to quit med. school. It was highly unlikely she was going to see her daughter again for at least 3 years.
Upon her return to the U.S., Sherri would face additional difficulties and many unknowns. Her abusive soon-to-be ex-husband was challenging every step of the divorce process. She was certain this would continue because he had been totally non-supportive of their daughter or her for the last few years. Sherri was also uncertain if she would be able to keep her 2 jobs. She had left her jobs abruptly when her daughter’s dreams were at stake. Read the rest of this entry
During my nearly 20 years as in-house counsel with Adams 12 Five Star School District, I worked with five different superintendents, with vastly different leadership styles and personalities. I learned from each, but loved and befriended only one. It was “the little big things” about Jack Knight that endeared me to him and made an impact on me. I supposed it’s not surprising that he’s especially important to me – he’s the man who hired me, with the purpose, he told me, of “doing things better.” A simple idea, but profoundly different than the “highfalutin” (I had no idea until I just checked the Web that highfalutin is a “real” word) cost-saving, education-improving, morale-boosting ideas other superintendents managed to over-complicate, explain to death, and devastate forests with their requirements of report after report.
I learned a couple of weeks ago that Jack is struggling with his health. Actually that’s an understatement – the reports I’m getting are dire indeed. I’m very sad, but thinking about happier times I spent with Jack is buoying me up.
Each Friday, we’d debrief “LA Law” as though we were reviewing a complex calculation involving the district budget, or a critical personnel matter. We took the TV show very seriously indeed, and the week wasn’t complete until we had relived the best parts of the hour we had each spent, glued to the TV, in our own homes. Read the rest of this entry
My son brought to my attention a more than century-old “paean to perseverance” written by publisher Elbert Hubbard. His story “A Message to Garcia” depicts the dilemma of President William McKinley, our 25th President in 1899 during America’s war with Spain. The President needed to deliver an urgent message to General Calixto Garcia, the leader of the insurgents, in order to secure his cooperation. But Garcia was lost somewhere deep inside the mountain vastness of Cuba.
“There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia if anyone can,” someone told the president. So McKinley summoned Colonel Andrew Rowan. Rowan took McKinley’s letter, “sealed it in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia.”
The message was about the need, sometimes, to just “jump,” rather than ask “how high” when we’re required to take immediate and effective action. What do you think about this from the standpoint of school transportation? When are you asked to act rather than analyze? How do you hire staff members who are like Colonel Rowan? Would you want an operation with only Colonel Rowan’s?
I’m especially interested because I’m so aware of the difficulty I have in finding a balance between analysis to paralysis and impulsivity. I read “A Message to Garcia” several weeks ago, and have thought about it often since then.
When Bill Clinton was running for president he famously wrote “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!” on the grease board in his campaign office. As I sit here between sessions at NASDPTS and NAPT I find myself thinking about which sessions that I’ve presented or attended really resonated. The answer in almost every single case involves serving students.
We entered this profession for a variety of reasons, but for most of us, we stay in the profession because we enjoy making a difference in the lives of kids. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that when we’re dealing with an angry customer or a personnel issue. We need to frequently remind ourselves “IT’S THE KIDS, STUPID!”
I once had a boss tell me “You’re not going to tell me about that because if you did I’d have to do something.” It really bothered me at the time because I wanted to discuss something we were doing that was just wrong for kids.
As I read the following headline I couldn’t help thinking about this mindless bureaucrat (who was fired the next year.)
Aurora shooting suspect’s psychiatrist alerted colleagues of threat, but officials never contacted police
Things never “came together” because James Holmes, the shooter, had begun the process of dropping out of school. A few University of Colorado officials took the easy way out. After all, they probably reasoned, this isn’t going to be our problem soon.
When you’re tempted to suspend your integrity let this awful calamity remind you that plausible deniability just isn’t good enough. Maybe then there will be something positive, no matter how small, to be taken from this senseless tragedy.