I wrote the below to colleagues in 2012 a few days after being elected to the Alexandria City School Board. Although wiser – and older – this still reflects my attitude toward work, service and leadership:
“My general concern is that as we continue our excitement, plan committee assignments, etc., that we do not fall into a pattern of ‘business as usual.’ Certainly, nearly all of the players will be changing which will add a little different flavor to the mix, but will we truly look to get radical, creative and innovative? Do we want to? If ‘yes,’ in what ways and in what areas? Where do we need the most change? What kinds of things will we plan to ensure that these changes come about? I’m not advocating that anyone stop in their tracks, nor do I think that we need answers, yesterday, to every possible question there is. However, as we continue forward, you can count on me to be the guy who’ll always press for ‘out-of-the-box’ considerations. I warned lots of folks to not vote for me if you’re looking for the status quo. With that, here goes!
“We have to lead. Whether we’re capable or not, we’ve been elected to lead. The superintendent is not the lead for a school district. The community must lead, and this is done via the leaders that they elect. To me, this adage also holds true for the ‘pocket communities’ that we represent. Leaders are often elected or form in these pockets and we need to make connections with these folks, or organizations. Places and associations like Brent Place, The Berg, The Village, The West Street Crew, Chirilagua and civic associations all have leaders that we must connect with in order to develop improved connections with the families in these pocket communities.
“How do we engage and better utilize Tenants & Workers and the NAACP? How do we keep engaged and utilize folks like (names deleted)? If we don’t keep these folks engaged, I think that’ll reflect negatively on our leadership. Additionally, part of being a good leader is establishing expectations. I don’t think ACPS has clearly identified our ‘real and reasonable’ expectations. Sure, we have the vision and mission statements in our strategic plan, but what do these ‘30,000-foot’ words translate to down at ground level? If 20% of the junior high fifth grade passed the math SOL last year, what’s reasonable to expect from these kids in the sixth grade? Should we expect achievement levels similar to Fairfax and Arlington counties? Would achievement levels that approach the Virginia state averages be reasonable?
“We’ve got to get past the ‘God and country’ language such as ‘our goal is to meet and exceed blah, blah, blah.’ I think we owe it to ourselves and our constituents to say, ‘Here’s where we are, here is what we believe is achievable within this timeframe, here is the data/information that we used to establish this measurable expectation and here is what has been put in place to achieve that goal.’ Even though I already fancy myself more of a psychologist versus an engineer, this is an area where my left brain steps up. I need a starting point, an end goal and an ability to measure my progress. Without these things, I not only don’t know where I’m starting from, I don’t know which way to go, how to get there and I’ll have no idea when I’ve arrived!”
The writer is a candidate for City Council in the June 8 Democratic primary.