FROM THE CLASSROOM TO THE BOARD ROOM
July 6, 2008
Excellence in education begins with leadership... from the school classroom, to the front office, to the school board room. District Superintendent of Schools Guiffreda and Superintendent of Schools DiFonzo, along with any number of other fine superintendents in Western New York, are truly outstanding educational leaders. Also, we have in our area some of the most creative and dedicated teachers and support personnel without exception. And there is every reason to be proud; we have of some of the finest students in the land! And fortunately we have several hundred high caliber school board members in the various WNY school districts.
If they have not already, soon boards of education will hold their reorganization meetings and newly elected members of Boards of Education will take their oath of office. There will be new members joining hold over board members and the new board of education for each school district will become a reality. These boards are an important part of our republic. The corporate body of trustees of a school district has major public responsibilities doing the business of the people as pubic trustees. And trustees occupy positions of trust in the performance of their pubic duties. Clearly, the performance of members of public boards calls for the highest level of principled leadership and courage.
Also, this same level of soundness in leadership must be found in the chief executive officer of any school district. Fortunately, we have in many of our local western New York school districts the highest quality of executive leadership in our local superintendents of schools. Recently, we have had conversations, regarding school leadership, with two such outstanding educational leaders in our area... Robert S. Guiffreda, District Superintendent of Schools for Erie #1 BOCES and Paul DiFonzo, Superintendent of Fredonia Central School District. These two leaders, as did other fine superintendents, share with us their vision, hopes, and aspirations for outstanding quality educational opportunity for youth of all ages. It is refreshing to speak with these kinds of school administrators. Not only are they educational leaders, but they are also sensitive to the impact of their actions on the private sector. It is during times like these when such qualities distinguish them as not only educational leaders but community leaders as well.
From our discussions with various school personnel, we discovered that the bottom line is, when schools build "hopeful" learning spaces one will find "hopeful" learners. "Hopeful learning spaces..." what a refreshing outlook for the beneficial future of our schools and our youth. It all begins in the classroom, supported by outstanding quality leadership at the highest levels of administration and, at the same time, dedicated leadership on the part of each local board of education. Ronald Reagan said it well: "America needs principled leaders, not labels. A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets tough."
The productivity and ingenuity of Americans everywhere is the envy of the world. And the genius of American education is our educational institutions. American innovation and productivity is 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. And principled leadership is desperately needed in all aspects of American life. And it begins right where we are... in the classrooms across America.
We see evidence of an American public in a quandary over who represents best those underpinnings of principled leadership. In honest reflection, we cherish an inner desire for competent leaders who display moral rectitude. Creative desires and expectations of excellence on the part of principled educational leaders and school board members serve as the essential building blocks for quality schools.
As we see it, principled leadership is influence guided by core beliefs and virtues that mobilize people to accomplish a mission and a vision. A principled leader does NOT shirk from responsibility. In the words of Winston Churchill: "Someone has to take responsibility, I will." This leadership requires solid character, sound competence, and genuine commitment that is coherent with one's core beliefs and virtues. It is this alignment which gives rise to one's trustworthiness. And core beliefs define what is fundamentally true, important, and right. And virtues are the standards against which ethical behavior is measured. In short, principled leaders concentrate on doing the right thing. It often requires an abundance of courage. And General George Patton Jr. said it well: "A principled leader is one with courage and 'courage' is often 'fear' holding on for just a minute longer." To be sure, principled leadership and courage go hand–in-hand.
Sustained excellence in principled leadership, at all levels, from the classroom to the school board 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. For principled leaders concentrate on doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. A word of "thanks" and "encouragement" to the finest of our school leaders be they from the classroom to the board room. That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.