Starting — and Sustaining — Conversations

A few weeks ago, I attended a superintendent professional development conference in Southern California with a small but diverse group of influential educational leaders.  While we had originally planned to focus on community engagement strategies, we decided instead to talk about the current challenges in public education.

The discussion was led by a panel of three highly motivated superintendents from a range of districts located in three different areas of the country — the south-central, southeast and northeast — with topics ranging from vouchers to charter schools to school choice.

One superintendent related her experience of attending a dinner with several high-level Fortune 100 executives.  Upon learning that she’s a superintendent, one of the guests asked, “Who really goes to public school now?”

This highly successful and educated group was so far removed from the public education world — with their children attending parochial and private schools — that they have no idea how it runs.  Just one stark example of how fragmented and misinformed we are at all levels relative to education.

As our panel discussion turned to school choice and charter schools, the conversation steered toward legislation and lobbying efforts by private interests to take control of our schools.  One superintendent shared how he has spent the past eight months conducting monthly “teaching the community” sessions.  These sessions focus on engaging with those less-involved community members, discussing education and what is happening in the background.  This superintendent’s passion for communicating with everyone — particularly those not usually included in these critical conversations — was inspiring. He’s now seeing a significant impact in community support and understanding of the big issues, at both the local and national levels.  Conversations with legislators are beginning and continuing.   One ear at a time, one voice, one conversation.

So, when will you start this conversation?  Hopefully, before it’s too late.  Because once the damage is done, it will change the face of our schools and our children’s future education forever.

Author: Daniel R. Carter

Senior Vice President

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