Schools should be centers for learning par excellence. Most school budget votes and board elections are to be held this year on May 21. This is a time when the voters can and should take an active role in voting on school budgets and the selection of leadership policy makers for their local school district. Touchstones for excellence in our schools require excellence of leadership at all levels.
Today, in many of our schools, we find some of the finest students, creative teachers and caring staff, competent administrators, and responsive school board members. And, there are those who are not, they know they are not, but may find it difficult to admit it. However, most will agree that high quality dynamic leadership is required at all levels of the educational spectrum.
School boards are an important part of that spectrum. The corporate body of trustees of a school district has the major public responsibility doing the business of the people as public trustees. And trustees occupy positions of trust in the performance of their public duties.
Clearly, the performance of members of public boards call for the highest level of prudent policy making based upon the highest of ethical values. This same level of excellence in leadership must be exercised among all personnel within the system.
The best schools we have found consist of high-level learning centers comprised of "hopeful" learning spaces for hopeful learning students. Motivated hope-filled learning begins in the classroom, guided by truly skilled teachers with competent administrators in charge, spearheaded by highly dedicated ethically driven policy making on the part of the board of education. Single-item agenda, ego-centric, vindictively centered personalities on a board are a serious distraction if not a deterrent to academic growth and progress.
The productivity and ingenuity of Americans everywhere is the envy of the world. And much of this ingenuity began and begins in the classrooms across America. A substantial part of the genius of American education is found in our educational institutions. These institutions should contribute to the success of the American enterprise. American innovation and productivity are leading the way in this information age.
Few nations in history have been granted such a singular opportunity to help shape the future of so many people around the world. Principled leadership is desperately needed in all aspects of American life. Much of it begins right where we are ... in the homes and in the classrooms across America.
Today, we see evidence of an American public in a quandary over what in style and substance represents best those underpinnings of authentic leadership. Most Americans cherish an inner desire for competent leaders who display moral authority based upon moral rectitude. This too is the hope of most Americans for our schools today. Creative desires and expectations of excellence on the part of skilled educators and principled school board members serve as the essential building blocks for quality schools. Successful learning is accentuated in an atmosphere where there are conscientiously dedicated hopeful learning spaces, guided by inspiring educators.
Sustained excellence from the board room to the classroom requires adherence to ethical values and determined perseverance. These core values are the touchstones for leading and the ethical lodestars for action.
It is by firmly holding to one's principles, and acting on one's convictions that one earns the right to lead. With this kind of determined "will" within all levels of the school organization, horizontally and vertically, our schools will indeed be hallmarks of excellence. May 21 provides a time and a place towards achieving - if not already achieved - and sustaining this vital realization.
The youth of today and tomorrow deserve no less!
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com