You are on page 1of 11
Make It Better Improving the Culture, Climate, and Community of Our School By Derrick Brown
Make It Better
Improving the Culture, Climate, and Community of Our School
By
Derrick Brown
Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Derrick Brown
Principal Consultant
BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com
LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown
SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb
TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

Chairperson

Board of Education Our School 123 Your Street, Somewhere, USA 45678

Dear Chairperson,

2

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you as an administrator of Our School for the past seven years. I appreciate the confidence you showed in me.

We assumed leadership of a particularly difficult situation at our fledgling school, but I viewed the challenge as one that would help me to continue to grow as a person, an educator, and a problem solver.

I have indeed experienced such growth, but have now reached a plateau. I no longer have the energy necessary to develop and implement solutions to our myriad problems.

I am still hopeful that these solutions will catalyze lasting change to our status quo, but that hope is tempered by my acknowledgement that it is our consistently haphazard modus operandi that has established our consistently haphazard status quo.

Our School will only become what it wants to be (a school of unquestioned excellence) after it embraces what it is - an ill-conceived concept and resulting operation that lacks principled, decisive leadership and clear direction.

Lasting change always begins with acceptance of truth, reality, and the consequences of not changing. If Our School ultimately fails as a venture, I still hope that it can succeed as a lesson for those who are willing to learn.

To that end, I am writing this letter to you to offer opinions, insights, and conclusions based on the lessons I have learned through my first-hand observations and research of our venture. I hope that the information proves to be useful, and that it leads to honest, fruitful discussion about where we go from here.

I am willing to discuss any and all of the thoughts and recommendations made.

Sincerely,

and all of the thoughts and recommendations made. Sincerely, Derrick Brown Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick

Derrick Brown

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

4

Our School’s Community, Culture, and Climate

Community, Culture, and Climate Definitions 1

During my second year at Our School (when I was elected as a faculty representative on our board of education), I began to study school climate, culture, and community, and began to assess Our School’s …

Term

Definition

Our School’s Description

Community

A

group with relationships based on

Our community is comprised of several stakeholder groups:

common values, belief, goals,

geography, circumstance, etc.

 
"Internal” Stakeholders

"Internal” Stakeholders

 

o

Foundation Board

o

Governing Board

o

Administration

"External" Stakeholders

"External" Stakeholders

 

o

Faculty / Staff

o

Parents

o

Students

Culture

A

community's modus operandi (their

Our culture is currently best described as “consistently haphazard”. Each stakeholder group engages in power struggles with several of the other stakeholder groups.

way of operating). A community's modus operandi shapes the way its participants see themselves and relate to the people and world around them.

Climate

A

community's environment and the

Our climate is currently best described as “mistrusting” and “disrespectful”.

internal & external factors that influence

its members

 
 
  INTERNAL (Stakeholders' temperament, character, personality, attitude) The aforementioned power struggle

INTERNAL (Stakeholders' temperament, character, personality, attitude)

The aforementioned power struggle results primarily because of this mistrust and disrespect.

EXTERNAL (“Mind Molding” institutions (family, church, education, media, government, business, arts/entertainment)

EXTERNAL (“Mind Molding” institutions (family, church, education, media, government, business, arts/entertainment) and the messages they communicate to stakeholders)

The mistrust and disrespect result from the absence of communication and relationship, and the pronounced presence of judgment and familiarity (the kind that breeds contempt).

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

5

Community, Culture, and Climate Areas of Focus 2

During my third year at Our School (my first year as an administrator), I formalized my study of climate, community, and culture to focus on Our School’s key problems …

Area

Problem(s)

Possible Corrective Approach

Recruiting

Our School has lacked a cohesive approach to student recruitment, which has resulted in a seemingly large number of students and families choosing Our School for the wrong reasons.

Adopt and adapt to a more thoughtful approach to recruiting with the understanding that while enrollment may decrease precipitously, student retention and school culture will improve.

These numerous "wrong" reasons have been damaging to administration, faculty / staff, parent and student discipline, which adversely impacts school culture.

Discipline

We have a minority of our students create the majority of our discipline problems, and the majority of those problems are minor in nature.

and the majority of those problems are minor in nature. Continue to develop our staff’s knowledge

Continue to develop our staff’s knowledge regarding the "principles" approaches to discipline.

Reduce the quantity and improve the quality of students through our recruitment approach.

Reduce the quantity and improve the quality of students through our recruitment approach.

Our staff predominately favors the "systems" approach to discipline, which seeks to establish a climate of order through the strict enforcement of rules by a third party.

This approach absolves staff from creating and maintaining the direct student-teacher relationship which facilitates a "principles" approach to discipline. This relationship can help to curb these problems, which can return our collective focus to catalyzing the holistic learning of all students.

 

Fundraising

The Our School Foundation would like to see Our School reach financial sustainability by having a requisite number of students.

Our School must execute its own fundraising campaign by identifying and securing resources for existing curricular and extra-curricular programs.

The aforementioned approaches to correcting Recruitment and Discipline approaches will make it take longer for us to reach this requisite number of students.

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db
Make It Better 9/12/2011 6 Make It Better – Improving the Community, Culture, and Climate
Make It Better
9/12/2011
6
Make It Better – Improving the Community, Culture, and Climate
of Our School 3
At the end of my third year at Our School, I synthesized all of my research into the following
concrete analysis and recommendations …
The Problems
Problems are simply issues in need of resolution through substantive, creative
approaches. Synthesis of proper solution approaches requires thoughtful analysis of the
problems.
With that said, what follows is an objective, honest assessment of what is wrong
presented with an energy that says "let's get this right":
1.
CULTURE / CLIMATE / COMMUNITY (The impact on each caused by the
schisms between our school's "internal" (foundation board, governing board,
administration) and "external" (faculty / staff, parents, students) stakeholder groups)
1. Our School's founders have vastly divergent agendas / modus operandi from
its administration.
2. There is an egregious absence of forthright communication amongst
"internal" stakeholder groups (foundation board, governing board,
administration).
3. Our School is ignorant of (or arrogant about) its reputation and standing in
our local school district. Aside from the normal difficulties that schools face,
Our School seems to endure another layer of difficulty due to public
(mis)perception of its organizational composition.
4. Our School's current operations suffer from a lack of expertise-driven,
realistic long-term planning and short-term execution during the school's
startup phase.
5. These weaknesses have resulted in a fragmented, helter-skelter
organizational culture where these "internal" stakeholder groups often work
in an unsynchronized and disharmonious fashion.
6. This tumult is also exacerbated by numerous personality conflicts, which are
exacerbated by an extreme level of intra-administrative fraternization (the
Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Derrick Brown
Principal Consultant
BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com
LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown
SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb
TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db
Make It Better 9/12/2011 7 "buddy" system), which begats a lack of enforceable organizational accountability,
Make It Better
9/12/2011
7
"buddy" system), which begats a lack of enforceable organizational
accountability, which begats a lack of efficient workflow and production.
7.
This tumult is exacerbated by the customer dissatisfaction that is often
expressed by "external" stakeholder groups (faculty / staff, parents, students).
While most of this dissatisfaction results because of the unrealistic
individualized expectations placed on the administration / faculty / staff of a
startup school, some of it has also manifested because of the aforementioned
turmoil. There is also an extreme level of familiarity (which breeds
contempt) exuded by parents and students.
2. DISCIPLINE
1. (Student) Discipline is misperceived by many as solely a system of rules and
consequences that trains a group to operate in an orderly fashion. This
"systems" approach crumbles when the group to which they are applied are
children who routinely place themselves in extremely adult situations.
2. (Student) Discipline is also misperceived as a system that exists solely to
establish order and accountability for students. Rather, it must be a system
that establishes order and accountability for ALL school stakeholder groups
(students, parents, administration, faculty / staff, boards). It must establish
this order and accountability by creating a system that creates an appropriate
balance between rules / consequences and didactic communication that
equips students to become their own teachers.
3. Struggles with (Student) Discipline (and holistic discipline) arise because we
have a desire to control that arises from different tangible and intangible
motivations. We often lack the self-esteem, confidence, wholeness, humility,
and communication skills necessary to create and to maintain transparent,
affirming, accountable, appropriately bounded relationships within and
between all school stakeholder groups (students, parents, administration,
faculty / staff, boards). When we lack these interpersonal skills and the
spiritual / emotional maturity they begat, we often seek the protection of the
aforementioned system of rules and consequences in an overly dependent
manner.
3. RECRUITING
1.
Our historic recruiting approach of students and teachers has lacked strategy,
wherewithall and forethought. Student recruiting has been driven by the
motivation to achieve arbitrary enrollment projections that will allow the
school to break even financially. Teacher recruiting has been driven by the
Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Derrick Brown
Principal Consultant
BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com
LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown
SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb
TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

8

desire to build a world-class faculty on paper.

2. A closer look at the schools who supply our students reveals that we attract students (and parents) who have been indoctrinated, undereducated, and miseducated by "mind molding" institutions (family, church, education, media, government, business, arts/entertainment). These pre-existing conditions (and the accompanying varied levels of parent / student expectations) magnify and multiply Our School's responsibility to one that must provide a high level and great depth of both content and character education. We currently lack the equipping required to operate at this level.

4.

FUNDRAISING

1. Given Our School's tenuous current existence, its future is largely dependent (perhaps too much so) on its ability to attract students. The dangers of recruiting "by the numbers" have been documented above, so a well-thought internal fundraising strategy (one that can be executed by administrators and students with respect to the loads all are presently required to carry) must be developed and followed to mitigate the risks imposed by the school's financial reality.

The Promise

Having now been made aware of the depth of Our School's issues, it is very likely that the school may wisely choose to cease its ill-conceived, poorly executed operations. These promises, though, represent concrete recommendations that can be tested during the school's remaining days, which have the potential to properly influence and perhaps resolve the issues presented above.

This testing can yield a critical knowledgebase of lessons learned that may benefit future school startup endeavors, and must be conducted as the proper opportunities present themselves.

1. The school's leaders (which include administrators and all teachers) must all be trained and taught to become "triple-threat" educators (content masters, thought leaders, and mentors). This cannot happen until the school's leaders (which includes administrators and all teachers) submit themselves to this teaching and training by acknowledging the need to expand their knowledgebases, and by opening their minds to those who can guide their development.

2. To operate at the required levels of organizational efficiency and depth, the school must be "right-sized" through its recruiting approach:

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

9

1. The size of the school should be determined not by its lofty public relations ambitions, nor by its physical (building) capacity, nor by the desired faculty-staff ratio. Rather, it should be determined by the financial / leadership / pedagogical / mentoring capacity required to effectively serve the existing student population.

One way to accomplish this prudent growth is to take a "nuclear" approach by starting a school with a small set of students (10-20), faculty (1-2), and administrators (1). This conservative approach may allow the school to digest, embrace, and create strategies to effectively serve its students in a way that allows controlled growth that is properly aligned with the school's financial / leadership / pedagogical / mentoring capacity.

2. Students and faculty must be recruited via relational, program-based pipelines to "feeder" middle schools to contribute to the development of students who can then be successful in its academic program. Future faculty can also be identified through the professionals recruited to execute these programs.

3. Discourse skills must be taught and employed throughout both the school's curriculum and its management culture. That is, the school must require key stakeholders (administration, faculty / staff, and students) to produce efficient written and verbal expression, and to learn the appropriate vocabulary and language of the numerous subjects and genres we encounter. Development of these skills is necessary because:

1. It is no coincidence that the intangible realms of culture / community / climate, discipline, recruiting, and fundraising are greatly impacted by the messages communicated about and within each realm.

2. It is also no coincidence that the intangible deficits (identity, spiritual, emotional, leadership, and maturity) that exist among all school stakeholders is largely a function of the lack of communication skills necessary to create and to maintain transparent, affirming, accountable, appropriately bounded relationships.

3. It is also no coincidence that the patterned helter-skelter execution of school operations and program development, and the lack of cohesion between stakeholder groups can be directly attributed to the lack of written plans and strategies to guide the execution, and to the lack of effective written correspondence produced about school activities and issues, respectively.

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

10

4. It is also no coincidence that pronounced verbal and written malaises exist within our students' culture.

4. Project management and execution skills must be taught and employed throughout both the school's curriculum and its management culture. If we define "project" as "planned task execution", then it should be clear that an inextricable link exists between discourse and project management / execution skills. Successful projects are heavily dependent on the written plans and verbal coaching that guide them.

5. The school must execute an internal fundraising program to support academic innovation and student programming.

6. The school must endeavor to become a part of the communities to which it is linked to be aware of the threats and promises presented by those communities.

7. The school must adopt a broader view of discipline (one that applies to all stakeholders) and how to impart it.

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

Conclusion

March 3, 2011

9/12/2011

Chairperson

Board of Education Our School 123 Your Street, Somewhere, USA 45678

Dear Chairperson,

11

I want to thank you for the chance to discuss Our School in some depth on last week. I believe that there

is still much to discuss, which I am willing to do to whatever degree my input is valued and respected as

constructive feedback.

As a scholar, thought leader, and potential donor, I have been sorely disappointed - and remain gravely concerned - by the culture, climate, and community established and maintained by past and present Our School leaders.

To be specific, this group of leaders includes both the foundation and governing boards, as well as administrators, staff, faculty, and parents.

I have witnessed numerous instances of each group trying to overtly chastise and scapegoat the others -

while subtly promoting itself as being beyond reproach. This tactic is unfortunate, and is far too prevalent in our small community to be discarded as mere coincidence.

We have all erred in the process of building this school, and there is much wisdom to be earned through humbly sharing lessons learned. To reach this point of maturity, though, we have to end the arrogant pattern of teaching each other on matters where we have not yet learned our lesson.

The final contribution I attempted to make to the school was a transfer of the body of historical, experiential, corrective, operational, and tactical knowledge that I amassed and created - but never disseminated - during my years with the school.

I hoped that this knowledge transfer would effectively address the significant accountability "leaks" that I have observed for the last seven years. The leaks exist largely because those who tell do not know, and those who know are never asked to tell. Their presence has led to cyclical, systemic personnel and governance mishaps, and a resulting frustration reminiscent of Bill Murray's in the movie "Groundhog Day".

I have realized that my offer has been interpreted by many as an effort that undermines current

administrators - instead of as an attempt for us to all learn, grow, and be accountable to each other. That

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db

Make It Better

9/12/2011

12

makes it instructive for me to withdraw that offer, and to end my association with Our School as an advisor.

I accept that my legacy at Our School is a polarizing one. I am deeply appreciated, conveniently overlooked, or subtly hated. There are many in the community who seem to simultaneously hold two or more of these views.

Perhaps a key reason why I am received and perceived with such disparity is because I stand, speak, and act on my convictions even if I am a lone voice. I speak and act out of sincere concern, even if it annoys and angers those who support the status quo.

In closing, I will share my view of what Our School looks like to objective, careful observers who do not think with their eyes.

Schools are evaluated yearly based on student achievement (knowledge and performance), attendance (presence), and behavior (character).

Even after seven years of supposed growth and evolution, Our School still seems to value activity (image) over achievement, and the views and mindset of a largely absent minority over the concerns, experiences, and treatment of the present majority.

Lastly - and most regrettably - it still seems to value adhering to a hollow message of saving people from themselves, rather than confronting the behaviors that would clean up its own mess, save it from itself, and establish the financial and social capital needed to ably serve its constituents.

These contradictions must be addressed and resolved before they become Our School's permanent image to all outside of its insulated core.

Respectfully,

image to all outside of its insulated core. Respectfully, Derrick Brown Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick

Derrick Brown

Copyright © 2007, 2011 Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Derrick Brown and KnowledgeBase, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Derrick Brown Principal Consultant BLOG:

Derrick Brown Principal Consultant

BLOG: http://reachthenteach.blogspot.com LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dbrowndbrown FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/derrick.s.brown SCRIBD: http://scr.bi/db_kb TpT: http://bitly.com/tpt_db