Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ask Not What Your School Can Do For You...

This year, I finally brought to fruition an idea that My Wife had for me last year: Soup with the Superintendent.  The idea was to highlight one of the skills of our tremendous MPS Kitchen Staff (we have a sous chef with amazing soup making abilities) and go to visit each school.  At each school, I would schedule a time with students, faculty/staff, and parents.

Last week at MHS, Soup with the Superintendent took place with students.  8 MHS students sat with Adam Bunting and me to share feedback, ask questions, and talk about life at the high school.  My goal is to talk less at these events - and to listen more.

However, this group had a great deal of questions.  At that time, we were in the heart of our FY14 Budget conversations and there were concerns about the teachers that were impacted by the proposed reductions.  I did spend a great deal of time explaining some of the nuts and bolts of the budget, how the budget is formed, the priorities of the School Board, and the duties of the Administrative Team as a result.  While I was happy to have the opportunity to explain the process of budgeting, I spoke more than I wanted to.

As our time together was drawing to a close, one of the young people at the lunch spoke up.  "We've been asking a lot of the question here.  We've asked of you what the school can do for us.  I want to know what you expect of us - what do you want from us?"  Both Adam Bunting and I were stunned.  In my sixteen years in education, I have never had that question asked of me; not as a teacher, principal, nor superintendent.

I don't recall my answer to this young man's question.  My mind flashed to John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address.  It was a ground-breaking challenge from the newly elected president then - and it is my hope that this is a ground-breaking challenge from the students at MHS.  The students are our consumers in an era in which education is changing drastically.  Content is no longer confined to the school day, nor is content solely the realm of the teachers.  With a new shared vision of education on the horizon, both adults and students need to ask the question: ask not what your school can do for you - ask what you can do for your school.