Stopping the Onslaught

I lost my balance. As a leader. The past few weeks, since I returned from Albany where we met as superintendents from across NYS, I have not been myself. With one meeting/email/news article right after the next that’s focused on the new governor’s budget, the cuts to education funding, the projected dismal future for education funding, and the inequity across the districts—-I’m bombarded with it all. And I began to think of little else.

That’s not so good. As the leader of a public school system, we handle a multitude of diverse issues every day. I may be talking to the Head Custodian about our cleaning procedures one minute, to a teacher about a class project the next and to the business official about the budget presentation the next. That diversity of thought and problem solving requires that I approach each with a “fresh screen” ready to give it my full attention. Careful listening, clarity of thought and decisiveness are fundamental requirements of the job.

Instead I’ve found myself reacting more strongly to different problems than I normally would–this hasn’t done anyone any good.

I’ve been a bit crippled by fear these last few weeks. What am I afraid of? That I’m missing something. Despite the 9000 times we’ve gone over our entire financial picture and our budget projections (it’s budget season here, if you haven’t guessed) and evaluated every program and expenditure, I’m still second guessing our planning. We are planning not just next year but several years out. Randolph is in solid financial health and I take it as ultimately my responsibility to make sure we stay there.

I’m done obsessing and worrying. We’ve done a solid job of preparing the budget and there is the rest of the organization to attend to. I’ve let the  noise of the media and the doom and gloom leaders suck me in. That’s not what solid leadership is about, is it? It’s definitely about listening, careful consideration and decisiveness. And that needs to be applied to filtering the incoming noise of panic from outside of our doors too. I know it’s bad and that the State needs to balance it’s budget. I know that education is a significant portion of that budget. I know that there are numerous political games being played. I know I’ve done my due diligence in lobbying in Albany and meeting with faculty and staff about the state of the State. I know local and state activism is a part of our responsibility. But it’s a part, not all and I won’t be stopped in my tracks by it. We’ve got too much good going on at RCS in the way of learning with passion, innovation and leadership to miss.

  1. Agreed Don. Just read this article by Arthur Scott in the Buffalo News, I took a few moments (unsuccessfully–never enough time, is there?) to try to locate him so I could contact him and say, “you’re right, we have to keep our focus on improving education. We know how to do that at Randolph, we’re trusting our teachers to figure it out in their PLCs and on their school level teams analyzing standards and data. We trust our teachers, with time and support, to keep us moving forward.” So much to distract, we need to stay the course.

  2. Take time to smell the roses. Don’t be defined by others. Keep an image of what you value or most want in life firmly on your desk, calendar, refrigerator and remember the words of Thoreau, “go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” There is great power in the universe and we know little about tapping it. Negative thoughts cut us off from that power. Remind yourself every minute if necessary that you are a product of your thoughts. One of the most powerful men in the world and a person who brought the British Empire to its knees once said, “A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.” That was M.K. Gandhi. 🙂

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