Collaboration is the key

The West Lafayette community school corporation's mission and beliefs statement highlights the importance of parental involvement, saying, "Parenting and family support are fundamental to successful educational outcomes," and "Public education is a shared resource and responsibility that defines and unites our community."

This is absolutely true, and my background on applying systems thinking concepts to the design of educational systems reinforces the concept. Systems theory, applied to social systems, identifies bottom-up, collaborative leadership as a core, underlying principle. If the corporation is indeed living its mission to offer our children a "world-class educational experience," then that community involvement is essential as is an ideal vision for what our schools should be and how they should operate.

I believe that while the corporation has a vision statement, it is a statement that is heavily grounded in the present rather than the future of education. It is reflective of the current system, which even when running at peak efficiency, is designed to meet different needs than the needs of our children. If elected to the school board, I will push for a community generated ideal vision statement that looks beyond what we are currently capable of offering and identifies what we would like to be. This is the first step in moving towards a vision for a personalized approach to learning that meets each child where he or she has come from, currently is, and will be moving towards.

While we have excellent schools, the operation of the school corporation as a learning organization, that identifies the data needed to evaluate itself and operates on the notion of continuous improvement towards that idealized vision is a way to focus on any improvement that is possible and continued excellence into the future. Community engagement and direction is a prerequisite to the sort of sustained bottom-up leadership necessary to maintain excellence and not rely on individual leadership that may come and go, leaving improvement or decline in its wake.

I pledge to ensure that collaboration and communication is a true hallmark of the school corporation. Parents should not wonder how to have their questions answered, and dialogue with stakeholders in the educational process should be the normal and focused way of operating rather than an afterthought. Typical board meetings in the past have allowed for public comment but not true dialogue and direction from the community. I will push the board to change operating procedures to promote dialogue, to adopt processes that will result in an ideal vision and an approach to moving towards that vision that is driven by collaboration, data, and research, and I will personally communicate with parents, teachers, students, and other community members to and bring their concerns, hopes, and recommendations to the decision-making process.

Innovation and change is difficult and giving all stakeholders a voice while working to have as many people as possible pulling in the same direction is key to sustaining success.