Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lead or be Lead

After last weeks State of the State Address by Governor Fallin, Oklahoma educators across the state were shocked and disappointed, and some were downright confused. We hear words like 'support' and 'deserve' when referring to education funding and teacher pay. However, we also hear terms like 'consolidation' and 'Education Savings Accounts' that fly in the face of the aforementioned words of support, and we are seeing hundreds of bills presented that would further damage our public education system in Oklahoma. In light of these challenging times in public education throughout our state and entire nation there are many ways that we could react that range from anger to simply quitting. However, I have but one challenge and one call to action for each and every one of you: Be a Leader.

You can never forget why you got into the serious business of educating the future of Oklahoma and of America. The task you have chosen is not an easy one, never has been and never will be. If you aren't asking yourself in a positive way on a nearly daily basis 'why am I here?', then you can so easily lose focus and be enveloped by the hardships of education and the negativity surrounding it. But, in the face of it all: Be A Leader.

How are you inspiring others? Are you? Right now more than ever, our students need leaders to rise up in their classrooms, in their schools, and in their communities. They need leaders that lead with passion and innovation, never sacrificing an opportunity for them to succeed no matter how shortchanged we may get and always going the extra mile to ensure that every student has the best you can offer. Our students need leaders that inspire others to lead and challenge them to get engaged with those making the rules of the game. Our students need leaders that will create a groundswell of support for their schools and the vital job they do each and every day for our state. Our students need you: Be a Leader.

Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. -John Maxwell

One of the greatest downfalls of any organization or society is poor leadership, as well as citizens simply being content with being led by someone else. I challenge you to not let someone else make your decisions for you because you simply sit idle. We desperately need more engagement and more voices to be heard from every corner of our state. Be a leader.

Be engaged in the process and equip others with the tools to be engaged as well. Be a statesman, someone who is both informed and respectful in the process of spreading the message of why public education is important and a worthwhile investment. Be a voice for the voiceless and unheard, for we have many of those in each and every classroom on every campus throughout our state. Be efficient in what you do and be good stewards of what you entrusted with. Tell your story to anyone that will listen and keep telling your story to those that aren't. Lead your community and school to rise above the fray, and lead others to do the same. Today, not tomorrow, our kids and our future need you. I challenge you today and tomorrow: Be A Leader. We need you.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

SOTS Hopes

Each and every year for many years Oklahoma Governors have gone before members of the Oklahoma State Senate and House of Representatives to give a 'State of the State' address as a symbolic gesture to kick off the current legislative session. This year, as most would surely expect, the address will more than likely be slightly more muted than recent years, when it has been steeped in self-congratulatory tones. Oklahoma is in trouble in many ways and we have many concerned citizens wanting to know where we are going from here and what we are going to do to get ourselves straightened out and back on a common sense path to overall prosperity.

I am personally hoping for feasible solutions to our current budgetary crisis and for proposed solutions to the future physical and mental health of our citizenry. I am hoping that hoping is not all that I do. We do not need to hear more about how oil is the main culprit or how 'off the top' money is killing our budgetary process. We do not need to hear how another tax cut will revive our struggling economy or how education has 'more money than ever'. And we do not need to hear how education would be just fine if they would simply be more more efficient and stop hiring so many 'high-paid' bureaucrats.

I am a parent, an educator, and one of those above mentioned concerned citizens, and I am hoping for  real and detailed plans that will balance the needs of our citizens and our businesses, not elevate one over the other. I want to hear vision, not listen to blame. We need to hear from our Governor and our current leadership not about how cutting programs or people would solve our issues, but how we are going to raise our overall investment in many of our suffering programs. Taking $5 from my right hand and giving it to my left hand does not equal an increased investment. We need solutions and real calls to action, not rhetoric about how much we do for this and that, and how we are really better than what you think or are led to believe by the 'education establishment'.

Governor Fallin has indicated clearly that she will be putting forth a proposal to raise teachers salaries without raising taxes. Will the Governor speak to proposals on cutting Pre-K in our state? Will she speak on cutting teachers health insurance and rolling that funding into salaries? What about consolidating administrative services throughout our state or returning to the county superintendent model? Or how about consolidating school districts that fall under an arbitrary number of students? Or could she make mention of 'revolutionizing' our public education system by allowing vouchers to enter Oklahoma? These are all current proposals out there to somehow improve upon what we have continually cut (we lead the nation in that area since 2008) in our state. This session has plenty of bills trying to divide up what we already invest in hopes of somehow making that more.

I do not want to tune in on Monday afternoon and hear blame, I want to tune in and hear responsibility and an overall tone of leadership. We need bold action and that action cannot be placed on blaming someone else for the job simply not getting done. We patted ourselves on the back during the good times, now it's time to be real with our citizens during the bad times. Leadership can and should shoulder the weight of our crisis, as it wasn't created overnight and was not created because of oil dropping again to cyclical lows. Leadership can and should prepare for times they know will again approach our state, and leadership should build our future state in preparations to soften the blow of poor economic times. Real leadership puts aside ridiculous rhetoric and doesn't drink the kool-aid of divisive partisan politics. Oklahoma needs to be led based on factual information and a cooperative spirit, not finding a way to be half-right simply out of stubbornness and spite.

If I hear feasible plans and responsibility for our current crisis, I will be somewhat encouraged moving forward, albeit cautious. However, if I hear the status-quo party line of cutting our way to prosperity then I will be further disheartened as we move forward into an uncertain future for the great State of Oklahoma. I truly hope and pray for true leadership to surface as I know that my children's prosperity, and my own, depend on its presence.