US academic environments define leadership as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. (Wikipedia).
As taxpayers we expect that the high school we support functions at the highest level possible within the means available. Through elections we select people to serve as members of the School Board to represent the interests of the community to manage both the financial resources but most importantly to utilize and develop the HUMAN resources of our community. Those human resources are our most precious, our sons and daughters. The duty of the elected Board is to provide the best educational opportunity possible to our children to achieve “excellence.” There are many examples we can all point to that demonstrate NCHS as an organization has accomplished this goal.
One need only walk through the halls to see the accomplishments of students in academics, the arts, and sports. The spirit of excellence and pride is evident in all student activities and programs. Look also at the strong support shown by the community to the high school. This is demonstrated in attendance at events and in financial support for sports, the arts and other programs that require funding sources outside the school’s budget to survive and thrive.
This is not the result of the work of any one person or small group of people. To be this successful, the school requires the aid and support of many to accomplish a common task – providing our children with the opportunity to achieve excellence. This culture of excellence requires a team of teachers who recognize and encourage the growth of their students. Any truly successful team requires strong leadership to achieve and maintain excellence. A successful leader must provide an environment in which the work of many is both efficient and effective. That requires communication skills to listen and engage others in a common goal. It requires support to those doing the work to encourage taking risks with innovative ideas and courage to do the right thing, when it is in the best interests of the student. The most effective leaders demonstrate these key skills in everything they do and earn the respect and support of those they lead.
A large majority of the teachers have had the courage to take a public stand to correct what they clearly believe is a risk to the mission of NCHS. Since these are the people who are primarily responsible for the success of the students and are the closest to the work being done, their concerns deserve respect and careful consideration. I don’t understand why the Board has chosen to dismiss these concerns over a mere 24 hour period without interviewing a single teacher to discuss the concerns expressed. Mr. Fowler’s written response demonstrates some of the same concerns the teachers have raised. The tone of the letter does not show any respect for the teachers concerns, it is dismissive, and condescending. An effective leader would at least acknowledge the REALITY of something serious that is not working well and approach the problem with a plan to address the problem and correct it. Since Mr. Fowler failed to present anything in his response to address the concerns, the Board needs to take the responsibility for the leader to address the concerns fairly and completely. I would hope the initial response from the Board is not the final word on the matter, and there will be a concerted effort to resolve the problems, not ignore them or think that saying they don’t exist will make them go away.
A strong leader produces an attitude of support, respect and loyalty in the team he leads. A poor or incompetent leader produces attitudes of divisiveness, dysfunction and disengagement/resignations. I would ask our community to honestly assess what the present leader has produced within our school and community at large. Do you see his response as that of a strong leader who uses social influences (communication) to bring the teachers, the Board, and the community together to accomplish a common goal? Or do you see his response as creating further divisiveness in the community between teachers, the Board, and the community? I believe there is still the opportunity for a leader to emerge from this who will have the courage and skills to address and resolve the concerns raised and heal the divisiveness before they destroy the cohesiveness our school and community has enjoyed for many, many years.
If you agree there is a need to give the teachers’ concerns a fair and honest resolution, please express your concern to a School Board Member, and let him or her know you support a solution that retains our tradition of excellence, not one that begins to tear it apart.