The Center Holds

2014-11-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-boston-city-street-bus-leeroyAfter a recent work trip, I boarded my return flight from Dallas-Fort Worth on a clear, cloudless day. As the plane ascended, I had an incredible view of the surrounding metro area. Looking at the clusters of neighborhoods, with their rows and rows of houses, I noticed a pattern. Near the center of each cluster was a school.

And it dawned on me that we literally build our communities around schools.

Over the last four years, my husband and I have lived in various places throughout the DC metro area, looking for a neighborhood that feels like home. A friend told us that we’ll experience this connection when our son starts school.

I believe her. Because — as it turns out — we also figuratively build our communities around schools.

A school’s centrifugal force (both literal and figurative) was lost on me as a young teacher. I was confused by how impassioned parents were about a 7th grade basketball game. Or how angry a community member became when the cafeteria was double booked, forcing the local Boy Scout Troop to find another meeting location.

Now I get it. And many of K12 Insight’s partners get it as well. As the center of their communities, these school leaders handle their stakeholders’ trust with seriousness and care. Staff, parents, students and the public aren’t only members of the community; they’re also customers. And school districts that understand this idea are deliberate about providing excellent customer service.

If you work in a school system, you should try to get an “aerial” perspective of your district’s place in the community. Is it near the center? I hope so. Because as many of us have learned, and more are learning, the center will only hold if you’re working to make your school district a grounding and stable force for everyone in your area.

Author: Shelby McIntosh

Vice President of Research at K12 Insight

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