Saturday, October 29, 2016

Leadership is About Character; Democracy is About Freedom of Opinion; I Put My Trust in Awesome Every Time

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon for community organizations who support Bridgeport youth in a wide variety of areas: socio-emotional learning, college preparation, boys and girls clubs, tutoring, volunteering, athletics, in-school support, summer program, and many more. The group congregates once a month to pull together as a team that says, "Here's what we are doing to bring relief to a district that has numerous challenges."

It is always a refreshing time, and I am amazed at the number of community leaders who come together, both residents and non-residents of Bridgeport, to best assist young people who are most challenged by American society.

I like to believe in good, hard-working, dedicated, and passionate people. This was true when I was in Kentucky, in Syracuse, and now in Connecticut. In a matter of seconds, I can size up an individual's motives, sincerity, integrity and intentions. I learned from a phenomenal administrator at the Brown that really good leadership is hard to find. When one is good, the darts and daggers come flying at them in all directions.

Such has been the scenario for Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz of Bridgeport Public Schools. This is my sixth year working in the K-12 schools pf the city and when I first arrived I witnessed extreme chaos. This was followed by ridiculous chaos for a couple of years, and then a few years of calming progress. Fran Rabinowitz brought this calm to the district. As I move in an out of Bridgeport schools on a daily basis, I hear over and over again how wonderful it has been having her leadership for the urban district. She's a fighter, she's clever, she's smart, and she doesn't give up.

And then there are others who dedicate their lives to attacking, creating lies, establishing obstinance, debating, turning schools into political platforms, and running campaigns of anger. This work comes from irrational behaviors and the need to cause a tremendous stink. As I've learned from working in three states now, there's nothing that can be done to stop such behaviors.

This seems to be in parallel with national politics. Democracy is wonderful, but when the voice of a few begin to monopolize the healthy conversations of the many, then there's little that can be done. This behavior is criminal, especially for the effect it has on public school kids and teachers. Elected officials are just that, elected, and whether or not their mission is to improve the wellbeing of education is always one for the history books.

I wish I could say that I was optimistic about what I'm learning about the American people, but sadly that is not true. They are scaring me, and I can't believe the ego, insanity, difficulty, and hatred that overpowers the wonderful work of teachers, kids, staff, and administrators. This seems to be where we are in the 21st century and I'm wondering what comes next.

It was wonderful to see happiness from Fran Rabinowitz at yesterday's luncheon and to hear, once again, the optimism she exudes to everyone she meets. I shake my head, however, with my fairy tale beliefs that good always wins. I'm starting to see the counter narratives taking over our nation.

I do know, though, that there's a power when communities come together and unite in support of a child's future. I've seen this over and over and over again in high needs school districts. The united bring about change...the divisive simply irritate an already sore wound.

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