Somebody has to take responsibility for being a leader. – Toni Morrison
Since Aristotle, who founded the Lyceum, a public school in that everyone was welcome, nothing has changed in the fundamental nature of education. It takes two: student and teacher.
From its rudimentary beginning, the American public-school system has evolved. School boards, superintendents, principals, and other administrators play integral roles in successful schools and districts. Wrapping in the critical work support staff provides for day-to-day operations and classroom assistance, modern education has become a complex undertaking.
Nevertheless, the Greek philosophy of education holds true. As Clear Creek Superintendent Karen Quanbeck pointed out, research consistently shows teachers have the number one impact on student learning.
It’s exciting to see the CCSD Board of Education making positive strides to turn around what was becoming an increasingly moribund system. It began with bringing Quanbeck, a visionary and fount of boundless energy, on board to take the helm. Last week, it unanimously voted to recognize the Clear Creek Education Association as the bargaining agent for teachers and support staff. Both are momentous but seating CCEA at the table is a game changer.
With its recognition, the BOE is making a definitive statement about what a successful education operation entails: Employees needing to be considered more than commodities.
By empowering teachers and staff, the BOE’s action did not create an adversarial us-versus-them dichotomy but, instead, a We relationship, an inclusive model that divests power into individuals’ and stakeholder groups’ hands. As Quanbeck noted, every CCSD employee has an impact on students in some capacity.
“We are fortunate,” she said, “to be in a profession that truly matters for kids and our community. How we work together, how well we are willing to go to extremes to support one another with student needs at the center make a huge difference.”
Board member Larry Pyers, who has been playing a significant role in re-imagining CCSD, said, “I am encouraged at this first step, which I hope will deepen the engagement of all educators working in the Clear Creek School District.”
Quanbeck and Pyers hint at something generally not considered when thinking of District-Association relationships. They are usually thought of in context of traditional labor-type issues such as salary and benefits. But there’s far more that is integral to moving the organization to perform better and better.
All parties are now on a different trajectory than they were a week ago. And with it come growing pains. Recognizing CCEA was the first step in the process of building a collaborative model to address and resolve conflicts, which inevitably arise in any what Quanbeck calls “people business.”
With power comes responsibility. The roles of teachers and staff are now dramatically increased. It’s become incumbent on them to work in concert with administrators and the community to grow the District by demonstrating not only top-notch education is available in CCSD but that it is guaranteed, second to none.
While Quanbeck is the leader overall, every employee, whethe a teacher, custodian, secretary, or bus driver, can be a leader in his/her own way. In large districts such as Jeffco, individuals can choose to watch their colleagues do the heavy lifting and sponge off the fruits of their labors and investments. But that is not the case in small districts such as CCSD where the numbers of teachers and support staff are few. It has now become more incumbent for every employee to step up and play a part in the process.
The BOE has empowered CCEA. Excellent. So, what’s next? Everyone needs to take responsibility for being a leader.