Saturday, September 17, 2011

Let's Play Two- Running for Re-Election

That was what Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs legend used to say at the beginning of each baseball game. It reflected his love for the game, his appreciation for being able play baseball for a living.

I'd like to play two- or actually, four. I am running for re-election. If the voters approve, I would be starting my fourth term. When I first joined the School Committee ten years ago, I didn't expect that I would be sticking around. The majority of School Committee members have been "four and out" over the last decade- up until this year, Steve Cole and I have been the only two SC members to seek re-election. That small club has one more member this year, Mr. de Kanter.

In 2000, I ran as a "reformer"- as an advocate for the students, for the staff- for the schools. I believed then that we had a lot of work to do- some of it structural, some of it cultural. Change takes time. Changing institutional culture takes a lot of time. I know that now. When people have asked me how I might characterize my experience on the School Committee, over the years, I've often jokingly said it's been like riding shotgun on a glacier.

However, I remain optimistic about our future. About the quickening pace of change. About the renewed energy I see, the thoughtfulness and intention and commitment I see from the staff at the schools, the growing engagement of parents. I want to continue to be part of what I have called "this conversation about who we are as a city, as a society" that is reflected in the schools we offer to our children.

I think consistency is important, and that continuity has a value. But even though I believe they are good words to describe my experience on the School Committee, those aren't the reasons I am asking people to vote for me. I would like to return to the SC because I still believe there is much to do, and much to accomplish. I believe I have the energy and aptitude to remain part of that process.

In the ten years I've been privileged to serve on the School Committee, I've worked with five principals at the High School. Five Superintendents. Four Mayors. That is no way to cultivate leadership, to encourage innovation, to reward creativity. To my way of thinking, it is a rationale for complacency. Don't like what this principal wants me to do, or what this Superintendent thinks we should prioritize? Let's just wait. There'll be another one here soon enough- this one will be gone, and we'll still be here. You've heard it before, and not just about the schools- you've heard city employees saying it about the two-year Mayors.

But things are changing. The influence of our new Superintendent, Dr. Marc Kerble, is being felt at every level of our schools, and across the community. I was part of negotiating three consecutive one-year contracts with the teachers- within 5 weeks of Dr. Kerble's arrival, the SC and the Teacher's Union had agreed to a reasonable three-year deal. That isn't a coincidence.

Dr. Kerble has helped us to focus on student achievement, and challenged us to find the resources to improve in that area. But he didn't go hat-in hand to the Mayor and City Council during the last budget process. He encouraged our staff to rethink how we do our business, Dr. Kerble was able to find additional savings in the budget as it existed.

A person who encouraged me to run for another term reminded me that if I am re-elected, I will have served long enough to have been part of the renovation at the High School, the Nock-Molin, and the rebuilding of the Bres. They suggested that would be a marvelous legacy.

I don't see that as my "legacy."

My "legacy" includes voting to remove our world language program from the elementary school, and then the middle school- and coincidentally, both votes literally took the program away from own daughter. My legacy is cutting teachers at the High School, it is serving on the Committee that was forced to reorganize and close a building to ensure that the system survived.

Right now, that's the work to be done. I don't want to minimize the importance of the two building projects coming up, but the prize that my eyes are on has to do with moving our schools, teachers, administrators, students, parents and community into the 21st century. That work has just begun.

I ask you to allow me to continue to rebuild what the economy, my own votes, have forced our schools to become- places that offer the best education possible, but have significant challenges ahead keeping up with the demands of the 21st Century.

I'm still motivated. I am still jazzed by the work. I don't see the School Committee as a step towards any other elective office. It is the work I want to do, that I feel best suited for.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing more on this blog- looking at the issues we face, and sharing my own thinking on how to approach them. Those of you who know, understand I will not shy away from taking positions I believe to in the best interest of our students and the schools.

I ask for your vote on election day.

Thanks. It has been an honor, and a privilege to serve.

1 comment:

Marilyn Johnston said...

Hi Bruce,

I have supported you from your very first term on the School Committee. You have done an amazing job for our schools and our city, and I thank you. I look forward to another year with you at the helm.


Marilyn Johnston
Six Gold LA teacher
Nock Middle School