There are Many Ways to be a Champion for ALL Children

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By: 
Jeffrey P. Crouse, MSBO President Chief Financial Officer, Charlevoix-Emmet ISD

I started out my presidency by challenging all of us to:

  • “Be a Champion for All Children” when you make decisions.
  • Connect with your colleagues to help deal with a very tough year ahead.
  • Take the opportunity to become a leader in your district and involve yourself in the discussions and decisions being made.

In the early 1980s, the National Commission on Excellence in Education released the report A Nation at Risk. David Gardner, chairman of the commission, stated that, “The Commission deeply believes that the problems we have discerned in American education can be both understood and corrected if the people of our country, together with those who have public responsibility in the matter, care enough and are courageous enough to do what is required.”

One result of the 1983 report has been the explosion in for-profit schools, charters and the use of vouchers. Many debated that opening the doors to other education venues besides traditional public schools would result in higher academic standards. Today, we know that has not been the outcome. One of the greatest battles school districts face in Michigan and across the nation is financial. Yet, we need to maintain a focus on who we serve - that’s Michigan’s children.

As I reflect on the past year as MSBO Board President, I realize that our challenges have been many and it can be a struggle to keep our focus on why we are here and that’s to educate all children. The role MSBO members typically serve in a school district is not in the classroom, yet we also serve as educators. Public education was and continues to be a great experiment, we all have a vested interest as school business officials and as citizens to ensure that education is the top priority.

Connect with Your Colleagues

Through discussion and debate comes clarity. This happens when we connect with our colleagues and talk about the state of education in Michigan. When is the last time you checked out the Governor’s Michigan Education Dashboard? (click here http://www.michigan.gov/midashboard/0,4624,7-256-58084---,00.html) According to the dashboard, the number of districts with ongoing deficits for at least three years has climbed from 17 to 28. I’ll have to agree with the Governor’s assessment of why it matters. Funding allocation and fiscal health is one of our top priorities that’s why MSBO has partnered with Munetrix.

School districts are under the microscope of public scrutiny now more than ever, and have recently seen funding attached to the ability to post and display financial information pertinent to operations.

Munetrix School Edition allows for building long-term financial forecasts and trend analysis including fiscal indicator scores, best-practice benchmarking and peer group comparisons. It measures components of fund balance reserves, student enrollment and fiscal operations to calculate a “fiscal scorecard” which can be calculated for past and future fiscal periods.

Where does connecting with colleagues come in? I’m not saying that if business officials in these districts had connected with their colleagues they wouldn’t be in deficit. I am saying that it’s the connection with colleagues, the discussion and debate concerning school finance and operations that can help each of us do a better job and perhaps, as we learn about the challenges other districts may be facing and how they are over coming them, we can apply some of those solutions in our own districts.

Connections are invaluable. I continue encourage everyone to reach out to your colleagues and to participate in regional and state activities, if for no other reason then to understand you are not alone.

Become a Leader in Your District

Leadership can be elusive for some of us because we haven’t defined what it means to us. Ken Blanchard wrote in his book Leading at a Higher Level that in the past we defined leadership as an influence process. That is, if you influenced others to behave in a certain way you were engaging in leadership. In recent years, we define leadership as, “the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good. We think leadership is a high calling. Leadership should not be done for personal gain or goal accomplishment: it should have a much higher purpose than that.”

This quote turns many people’s concepts of leadership upside down. Yet, it is a definition of leadership that is more than suited for education. One of the most effective ways you can provide leadership in your district is to involve yourself in the discussions and decisions that are being made in your district. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be a leader. One way you can develop these skills is through MSBO’s Leadership Institute. The first cohort will complete the program this July and MSBO will be accepting applications for 2012-13 this summer.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve MSBO. It has been an honor to be your 74th President. I hope to see you in Detroit. Let’s make this an opportunity to celebrate our successes.