Monday, October 31, 2011

Good news, bad news, and a misperception . . .

There is both some good news and bad news as we learn more about the Governor's proposed budget reductions.  The good news is that the levy equalization cut (LEA) would not start until January 2013.  That means that we will not lose the revenue this year, about $930.000.  The bad news is that her proposal also puts in place a new system that results in no LEA revenue in the future for many more districts including ours.  So, potential short term gain and long term loss.  At least we will be able to plan for the change, unlike the potential loss of about $1 million with the Governor's proposed grade 4-12 class size increase that, if enacted by the legislature, would result in a revenue reduction this year.

Somewhat related to the budget concern is an interesting conversation I had this afternoon with two Boeing employees.  They were asking me how the Governor and legislators can cut teacher salaries like they did in this past budget when there are negotiated agreements in place.  They were surprised to learn that the cut was to the district's revenue and not to actual teacher salaries.  They quickly saw that the legislators looked tough in the media, but that they were actually simply shifting the problem to the school districts.  The same thing could happen again in the November special session if they were to use salary cuts or reductions in student days to reduce state expenditures.  We will continue to monitor and share what we learn.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Celebrating GREEN . . .

Last week I attended a ribbon cutting on the Cedar River trail that featured Maple Valley's mayor and council members and our own Glacier Park Green Team led by advisor Cathy Haws.  You can read here about the work on the trail and Glacier Park's adoption of a portion of the trail by their green team.  I am very impressed with their web page and commitment to this work.

On another green note, on the high school web page you can read about our district being one of two in the county that have all schools participating in food waste recycling.  Our students demonstrate their commitment to the environment in multiple ways such as these.  We also have green team advisors at all of our schools who give their time and provide leadership and support to these efforts. THANK YOU!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The first cut . . .

The budgeting process started today when Governor Gregoire released her list of potential budget cuts  and as expected it will create problems for us and for all other districts in this state. Needing to cut in the range of $2 billion, she listed potential cuts of approximately $4 billion. From that list she identified her recommendations for consideration when the legislature convenes in special session on November 28th.

I watched part of the news conference and it was not pleasant to watch. The need and the process to arrive at the proposed cuts have taken their toll on the Governor as she outlined what she calls a budget that I hate. At times she was testy with reporter’s question especially around the point of balancing cuts with raising additional revenue. She stated more than once that she was not ready to talk about raising revenue.

What do the cuts mean for us? Though we are still getting information and analyzing the impact on us, the initial review looks like there are two main areas of concern. The first is levy equalization (LEA) that she is proposing to reduce by 50% or about $500,000 for us. The second is a proposal to increase class sizes in grades 4-12 that would be about a $1 million revenue loss for us. Just these two areas are about equivalent to 50% of our total fund balance, so it would be very, very difficult to operate the remainder of this year without some reduction in our expenditures.

In the next few days we will have a better picture of what the Governor’s proposed budget does to us. Of course, this is her proposal and the legislature must now weigh in. It is her hope that leaders of both parties will use her proposal to identify where they can agree so that they can come in on the 28th and be prepared to take action. That is also our hope.

You can see the proposed education list and cuts here and read about them here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm stepping up . . .

As always, Scott had an informative and thoughtful comment on my last post about the state PTA placing charter schools on their legislative agenda.  He shares information about the process used by the organization to complete their legislative agenda and also a link to a sight showing member priorities.  He also shares his thinking about how it became a priority through special interests at the state assembly even though it did not emerge as such in membership voting.

The thoughtful part of the comment is his personal thoughts about the decline of T in PTA.  He shares how he needs to step up, be more visible, and participate in the conversation. Yes, I agree that we should.  I also know that in our district these groups are very supportive and raise considerable amounts of money that go back into our schools to support teachers and students.  They do this while also giving hundreds of hours of volunteer time and ask nothing in return, yet we don't see large numbers of staff joining the organization.  So, an additional way to to participate would be by signing up and becoming an active PTA member; something that I know they would appreciate.  I am going to take my advice and do just that and encourage you to also consider it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An opening for charters . . .

After many attempts by various groups and legislators charter schools have not become a part of public education in our state.  Since the 2004 vote by the public overturning legislative action there has been very little discussion until Race to the Top.  When the state made the decision to apply for this federal grant, charters once again became a topic of discussion.  Some blame the failure of our state's bid partly on the lack of charters, something that the Obama administration is pushing.  Once again, we can see how federal action, in this case millions of dollars, can have an impact on state actions.

At the recent state PTA conference charters became a topic of conversation and a part of the organization's legislative package. This Seattle Times article from last week provides information about the decision to support charters and if you check out the comments some of the concerns being expressed.

"This is an additional way of looking at schools and what we need to be doing differently," Shelley Kloba, the Washington PTA's state legislative director, said Thursday. She emphasized that the charter school issue was just another tool in a wider PTA agenda.

I'm surprised by the move and find myself wondering if it comes from the ranks or is a move by those supporting charters and also having a position of authority in the PTA hierarchy.  From some of the comments to the article it may be the latter.  I don't know the position of are our PTA officers, but would be interested to hear from them.

You can find the language for the proposal on the PTA site here

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Missed that one . . .

I'm going to share a third post on the Harkin/Enzi Senate reauthorization of ESEA bill. Why so much focus on this? Because when it finally happens, it will drive federal education policy for years and we have learned with the last two administrations that this can have significant impact on our work. Though I believe that some positive changes were ushered in by NCLB, it also pulled us away from our focus on Classroom 10 and had a huge influence on the focus at the state level. Think charter, assessment, teacher evaluation, and common core.

In my previous post I was skeptical about the chances of the Harkin's bill getting out of committee in a short time. Well, on a 15 to 7 vote it moved from committee to the floor.  I agree with Petrilli at Education Next that this is a big deal.

This is a big deal, folks. The ESEA reauthorization process hasn’t gotten this far since–well, ever. In 2007 the House education committee floated a draft bill which then died an ignominious death. The Senate HELP committee has never produced a bill . So to have a comprehensive bill marked up and sent to the floor represents a significant milestone.

I also found this point from the article very interesting and hadn't really thought about it, but now I can see how this could very well be the current reality of the Democrat's position on reauthorization.
Republicans are in the driver’s seat. Yesterday’s unanimous Democratic vote might have been a display of party unity, but it also demonstrated a willingness to vote for almost anything. The Democrats want to send a bill to the President, and they will need Republican votes in order to do that. So expect GOP senators like Lamar Alexander to make their support contingent on key changes to the bill–and to get a lot of what they want. Meanwhile, the House bills (which are being put together in pieces) will surely come out to the right of the Senate. If Democrats want to get something across the finish line, they are going to have to accept something that looks a lot more like Alexander-Burr than Harkin-Enzi.

If you are interested and want to read more, additional articles on the subject are here, here, and here

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not smooth sailing . . .
The Harkin/Enzi bill I shared in my last post not only has detractors in the education community, it is experiencing problems in the committee debating the bill. Though it underwent revisions last weekend it is not being embraced by all senators. Senator Rand Paul used a procedural rule to force a temporary adjournment of the committee’s proceedings. It didn’t cause significant delay because the chair, Senator Harking was going to reconvene the committee and continue discussions this morning. He was, however, not pleased with Senator Paul’s action.

“We had hearings with superintendents, teachers, principals, broad input from across America,” Harkin said. “Does that mean every two years we have to start from scratch every time? The senator from Kentucky had every day since he was sworn in in January to come to me or Senator Enzi and say, ‘Here’s what I’d like to have in the bill.’ Other senators did that. Our doors are open. It was no secret that we were meeting. . . . If the senator filed 74 amendments but is objecting to our meeting to even consider his amendments, can please someone explain the logic of that?”

Senator Paul, who proposed 74 of the 144 amendments to the bill, used the words below to explain his concerns with the bill. I don’t know much about the federal legislation process, but 144 amendments seems like quite a number to process before the bill can even be considered on the Senate floor.

“This process is rotten from the top to the bottom,” said Paul, who was elected last year with support from the tea party. “I would ask that we have a hearing; let’s find out what we think of No Child Left Behind before we rush through a 868-page bill that no one has time to read. This is what’s wrong with Washington.”

This push back to the legislation is another indicator of the unlikelihood of seeing any reauthorization of IDEA emerge from this session. So, once again, the Obama waiver process appears to be the viable options for states as we get closer the 2014 100% at standard deadline. By the way, our state is one that has indicated to the federal education department an interest in seeking a waiver.

Reading deeper into my stack of RSS feeds I found an update at Education Week. It seems that Senator Paul has reached a compromise with Senate leadership.

The markup continued today after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., initially threw up hurdles, filing 74 amendments and using a rare procedural move to limit the time the committee could debate the bill. He and committee leaders reached an agreement that allowed things to move forward while assuring him of a hearing on the bill Nov. 8, before it goes to the Senate floor.

Sen. Paul eventually agreed to scale his amendments back to just a handful, including one to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act. That amendment failed.

Looking more closely at the Republican motivation for this legislation can be found in the bill’s co-sponsor Senator Enzi.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., was more forceful. In fact, he cited the waiver process as a key reason the committee needed to get going on the bill. GOP lawmakers should "keep in mind that if they are concerned about an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy becoming a kind of national school board, they should support the legislation rather than allow the secretary's waivers to dictate the strings that come with state and local flexibility," Enzi said.

The question, however, remains the same. Is there enough bipartisan support to push through this legislation by December? Even if the Senate were successful there is still the divide between the house and senate approaches to removing NCLB as the federal education focus.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Senate shot at reauthorization . . .

Could the Harkin/Enzi bill coming out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee be the second nail in the coffin for NCLB? The first would be the Obama administration’s waiver opportunity unveiled last month that I shared in this blog post. Based upon the reaction by many to the Harkin/Enzi bill, I think the waiver request has a better chance of success. Never the less, Senator Harkin in this New York Times article sees his bill as a partnership and the best that could be done given the current political climate.

“We are moving into a partnership mode with states, rather than telling states you’ve got to do this and this and this,” Senator Harkin said in a call with reporters. The bill is a product of more than 10 months of negotiations with his committee’s ranking Republican, Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Mr. Harkin said.

Others don’t see merit in the bill. In this Education Week post we see that five key education groups are asking the Senator to put the brakes on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA. The groups are the American Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, the National School Board Association, and the National Elementary and Secondary School Principal Associations. In a letter to the Senator they share their concerns with measures of student growth, flexibility in designing school turnaround models, the requirement to revamp teacher and principal evaluation models, and the focus on high stakes summative assessments.

It sounds like this group of key constituencies would rather roll the dice on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's waiver process, and perhaps even a Republican Congress, than deal with Harkin's bill.

In the same Times article, we learn that conservatives and special interest groups see this as rolling back the gains of NCLB but find themselves in a similar position of not supporting the Senate bill. 

By eliminating the law’s central accountability provisions, the bill would represent “a significant step backward,” returning the nation to the years before No Child’s passage, when many states did a slipshod job of promoting student achievement, they said.

Under the Harkin bill, “states would not have to set measurable achievement and progress targets or even graduation rate goals,” six groups including the Education Trust, the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Council of La Raza, said in a letter to Mr. Harkin on Tuesday. “Congress, parents and taxpayers would have no meaningful mechanism by which to hold schools, districts, or states accountable for improving student outcomes.”

Mike Petrilli at FLYPAPER makes this suggestion.

“Anyone one of these would be a poison pill for conservatives. Taken in combination, it makes Republicans’ decision easy. Scrap the bill and start over – with Senator Alexander’s proposal as the jumping-off point. It’s a much stronger bill, closer in many ways to the Administration’s own blueprint, a much more serious about re-calibrating the federal role in education. And if Democrats won’t go for that – well, wait for a more favorable environment in 2013.”

I shared the Alexander proposal in this post.

Finally, here is how Kevin Carey at The Quick and The Ed summarizes the Harkin/Enzi bill.

So now we’re left with (Maybe Standards) + (No Accountability) + (Continued Teacher Injustice). No bill is better than this bill.

All of this criticism and the gap between the Senate and House process probably means there is little chance of a reauthorized ESEA this session.  That leaves states with the waiver process for relief from the accountability requirement of 100% of students at standard in reading and math by 2014.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day . . .

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is food.  Bloggers from around the world have signed up to post today on a topic of world concern and since it is World Food Day the choice of topic was easy.  I love to eat so it is also an easy topic for me, but instead of sharing my eating habits and favorite foods I'll share a link to The Sustainable Food Lab.  I learned about the site from LeAnne Grillo who is doing some work for us at SoL Ed.

The mission of the Sustainable Food Lab is to accelerate the shift of sustainable food from niche to mainstream.

We define a sustainable food and agriculture system as one in which the fertility of our soil is maintained and improved; the availability and quality of water are protected and enhanced; our biodiversity is protected; farmers, farm workers, and all other actors in value chains have livable incomes; the food we eat is affordable and promotes our health; sustainable businesses can thrive; and the flow of energy and the discharge of waste, including greenhouse gas emissions, are within the capacity of the earth to absorb forever.

In our country we don't always think about where our food comes from or the people involved in growing it.  This and other organizations are beginning to change that for us.  They are concerned with not only the quality and safety of the food, but also with the quality of life it provides for those involved in growing it.  Costco is one of the local businesses involved with the organization and this article from their newsletter shows what this means with a focus on egg production. 

The lab's focus on sustainable farming practices is one that we need to embrace as the farmers of the world struggle to produce safe quantities of food necessary to feed a world population that continues to grow.  Doing this while preserving the capacity of the earth to ensure future generations with safe and healthy food is the goal.

Another goof . . .

Yes, I made an error in my last post and to my embarrassment Scott pointed it out to me in his comment to the post.  In his usual way, he sandwiched it with positive feedback.  I identified Steve as a key part of our relationship with TEA and at one time he was.  Steve Pu;lkinnen was Uniserv rep. for many years and assisted in laying the foundation for our collaborative work.  But, for many years now it has been Scott Mitchell who has provided the leadership and vision for what can be achieved with a balance of advocacy for his membership and understanding of a system perspective to problem solving.

Thanks Scott for identifying my error, for the kind words, and for your leadership.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Culture of collaboration . . .

 Earlier this week I had the opportunity to meet with leadership from TEA and PSE, the organizations that represent our teachers and our classified staff. During both meetings, the importance of being open to influence and being aware of one’s mental models and ladders of inference was reinforced for me. At points of time in both meetings, the content of agenda items could have led to polarization and traditional positional responses with the real discussion done in the parking lot after the meeting. For me, it meant I needed to suspend assumptions so that I could continue to hear and consider the expressed needs before jumping to conclusions. I believe that others in the room were doing the same thing.

Why are we able to do what many others seek to reach, but struggle to accomplish? I believe that there are many contributing factors such as our work with building common purpose, our commitment to collaboration, our behavior that manifests in contract language that demonstrates respect, and our openness to the concerns of members in both organizations. I also believe that our leadership training and focus on collaboration and effective communication have laid a foundation for the capacity to engage in skillful conversation.

One of the skills that we teach is what the literature calls left/right and we call public/private. It identifies the importance of saying in the meeting (public) what you would say to your best friend in the parking lot (private) so that you can influence decisions that are made and have those decisions be more likely to deal with the root of the problem and sustain over time. Most of the time, which is more than I observe in some other meeting contexts, this is what happens. I believe that it is the norm for these monthly meetings.

Of course, the people engaged in the conversations also have a great deal of influence on the culture. I have been fortunate to work with two HR people, Mary and Bruce, who have been able to support these conversations and maintain a collaborative culture over time and I’m confident that Mark will continue with this success. I have also been blessed over time with association leaders who are first advocates for their membership, but who also have the capacity to see a bigger picture and value collaboration as a problem solving tool. Believe me when I say that there are many times when I give thanks for people like Steve, Amy, and John for TEA and Barb, Connie Jo, and Karen from PSE. We have the capacity to disagree and problem solve with commitment to our various constituencies and laughter to energize us as we struggle with difficult issues.

Though it will be hard for some to believe, I look forward to these meetings and for the opportunity they give to live our belief in the importance that we each bring to the work of educating our young people. I am very thankful to be able to do this with quality people committed to success and willing to think and act systemically.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We can help . . .

An editorial in today's Seattle Times encourages people to visit one of the county's 318 Starbucks stores.  Why?  Not necessarily for their caffeine fix, though I'm sure that Starbucks would appreciate it.  They are asking readers to visit, an online charity for classrooms.  Through support of the Gates Foundation, $10 vouchers are available at Starbucks stores to be used to support teacher requests.  It is a national organization doing good work so that teachers do not have to use their own money for classroom projects. 

About 1,000 teachers in King County have posted project wish lists on the website. Founded in 2000, the nonprofit website connects public-school teachers in need of resources with donors. Around 118,000 public-school teachers have received funding for $46 million worth of books, art supplies, technology and other resources to help learning.

Interested donors purchase the vouchers, go to the website and then choose the teacher request that they want to support.  In these difficult economic times with budget cuts we need to find additional ways to support teachers and this is one of those opportunities.  Thanks to the Times for sharing this resource and for encouraging us to support our teachers through this action.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Federal education role . . .
The growing role of the federal government in education and the views of G.O.P. candidate's  is the focus of this analysis piece in today's New York Times.  It is certainly something that we must consider as we get closer to the presidential and congressional elections.  If the republican candidate were to be elected president and both the House and Senate were controlled by conservative republicans, we could see a very different Education Department emerge.  Although many would welcome this, the landscape would change and if Michele Bachmann got her way it would be dramatic.

“Over a three-year period,” she explained in August at a rally in South Carolina, “I’d take the money we send to schools and write to superintendents, ‘No more requirements you have to deal with, but over three years you won’t have any money.’ ”

I don't expect to see this extreme change in the time frame she identifies, but thinking about it raises concerns.  It would mean the loss of federal Title 1 money based on free and reduced lunch counts and federal support for special needs students.  These are the cornerstones on which the department was built, extra support for economically and disabled students.  Only later with NCLB in the Bush administration and then with RttT in the Obama administration did assessments, reporting, and incentives become a part of the work.  For many of the candidates, these additional requirements and the influence of the Tea Party are resulting in the anti-federal push.

Though the anti-federal role position resonates with many and is supportive of education being the responsibility of the state, I don't believe that it will result in elimination of the department even with changes in leadership.  I agree with Hess when he says:

“You can imagine,” said Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, “the Republican candidate is saying, ‘Not only do I want to end the Education Department as a bureaucratic monster, but I want to defund programs for needy kids or special-needs kids,’ or ‘I want to let states spend those dollars on other kids.’ That’s a very difficult debate for the Republican candidate.”

Those that advocate for a continued federal role and some form of accountability like NCLB argue that absent this accountability the gains made in education of disadvantaged groups will be lost.

The question is whether states and local districts, without Washington’s various carrots and sticks, will continue to raise academic standards and give equal opportunity to traditionally ignored student populations.

I know how I answer this question and believe that it would be the stance of all in our school system.  We are not continuing to look for ways to support the achievement of all of our young people to qualify for federal dollars or to seek federal grants.  We do it because it is our purpose for being and because we want success for all of those we have the responsibility to support.  QUALITY LEARNING EVERYDAY IN EVERY CLASSROOM FOR EVERY CHILD, is not a saying, it is a belief that drives behavior.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homecoming football plus . . .

Last evening was the homecoming football game at THS and the Bears put on quite an offensive show.  They scored on the first play from scrimmage and didn't stop, putting up 55 points in a win over the Royals from Kent Meridian.  These kids can score on the ground and in the air and have been doing it all year. It was a fun game and a great way to celebrate homecoming.

As good as the game was, I was even more impressed by the post game show featuring our performance band.  Mr. Cole and his staff have the kids looking and sounding great.  During the game, the pep band kept the stadium rocking and the percussion section is exceptional.  It was a nice way to cap off an enjoyable evening.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Big $ at risk . . .

This League of Education blog post does a nice job of sharing what levy equalization is and how it will become a primary focus for the legislators as they grapple with a $2 billion revenue shortfall. This gap could also increase as we were recently told by a key legislator that the November revenue forecast will be even further below projections. In any case, levy equalization is on the table because it is the last of the big dollar items not covered under basic education.

Below is an explanation from the post of what levy equalization does.

The amount a local school district can raise via a local school levy is set as a fixed portion of a school’s operating budget. Currently law allows all districts to collect at least 28% (raised from 24%), with some grandfathered in at higher rates. Local levies are based on property taxes, and thus property values. With the great disparity between property values in different communities, the state established a way to alleviate the fact that well-to-do districts can raise more local money. This program helps school districts with lower property values offer the same level of education as higher-value districts. It is called Local Effort Assistance, or Levy Equalization, and the acronym LEA was born.

There is an equity problem that LEA tries to address. If there was no levy equalization in 2010, a $100,000 home in Republic would have paid over twice the taxes of a $1,000,000 home in Redmond for a 28 percent levy. Why should far poorer taxpayers in a $100,000 house have to pay twice the taxes of a $1,000,000 Bellevue home to get the same local levy for their schools?

I think this brief explanation does a nice job of sharing why levy equalization is so important. It is especially so for small districts that would find it very difficult to pass levies at the percentages that are common in our area. We are one of those that are at the 28% level and we also qualify for levy equalization, projected to be about $930,000 in revenue this year.

Levy equalization has survived the budget cuts of the last few years because of support from republican legislators representing those districts receiving levy equalization and democrats supporting the need. There are 240 districts out of 295 currently receiving revenue so there has been broad support for it in the legislature. There are problems, however, with LEA because the formula creates disincentives for some to raise local dollars and an argument can be made that 240 districts don't need the support. Even with these problems it has survived.  But, given today's budget crisis something has to go and this looks like one large pot at risk. The loss of another $900,000 to us would create problems not easily resolved and even bigger problems for some districts suffering significant budget issues.   If cut, it could lead to some smaller districts being forced to consolidate.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thank you Superintendent Dorn . . .

In case you didn't get a chance to read today's Seattle Times, here is the editorial supporting Superintendent Dorn's refusal to identify for the Governor an additional 10% in cuts to public education.  To deal with the revenue shortfall she had asked all heads of state agencies to identify an additional 10% for possible cuts.  Superintendent Dorn has refused to comply with the request.

"I have directed staff not to submit a list of options to you that would cut the State's payments for basic education by $97.3 million as requested," Dorn said in a written response to Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget directive to state agencies.

Thank you Superintendent Dorn for taking this stance.  I doubt that it will have any influence on the decisions that need to be made, but at least he is advocating for all students in the state.  The bottom line is that cuts will be a reality and it is likely that we will also feel the pain.  Will it be 10%?  I don't think so because of previous cuts, the lawsuit now before the State Supreme Court, and the constitutional requirements that we are all familiar with. 

Is the Superintendent playing politics as some suggest in the comments to the editorial?  I choose to view his position as advocacy for public education and not playing political games.  It is an attempt to balance the high demand placed on all public schools with the support necessary to achieve NCLB benchmarks and the need to prepare students for success in post high school learning and work.  Additional cuts will eliminate even more of the support structures that many do not understand are essential components of learning communities focused on student achievement and adaptive change.  Reading the comments to the editorial reinforces for me the lack of understanding that many have for the complexity of our work.  Some examples are shared below.

**Our education system needs restructuring. We need to return to the curriculum of the 1960s when the SAT scores were much higher.

The reason our test scores are moving lower and lower each year is because we have changed the curriculum from one of teaching the basics to one that is so broad based little is learned because there is not enough emphasis on the three Rs and science.

**Dorn is the boss and paid to lead, not obstruct. There are places to cut and ways to save. It may mean kids with laptops learning from home and reducing classes to a couple of days a week.

Less money, it means the same to a state superintendent as it does to your household finances. Crying to the world and ignoring the problem will not resolve the issues, except who will be replacing Dorn next election.
Almost all of the 24 comments are against the Times for supporting Dorn's stance.  You can find them here.  On this one I say thanks, though it probably won't influence the outcome it is good for our Superintendent to say enough is enough.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Two leadership books . . .

Many in our system know that I enjoy reading and studying about leadership and sometimes ask me to share some of the books that I read.  Two books that I have read within the last year that are influencing my thinking and my work are Change the Culture Change the Game by Collins and Smith and Clear Leadership by Bushe.  If these books had been available earlier in my career I am sure that they would have influenced the direction and pace of my work and that of our system.

I am particularly interested in what Bushe calls the "interpersonal mush" that forms when we make up stories about our experiences and about others.  This "mush" is the result of forming ladders with little or inaccurate data and gets in the way of skillful conversations and quality solutions to difficult issues.  One of the strategies that he identifies is using the Experience Cube.  In simple terms, he suggests that we need to ensure that people know what we are observing, thinking, feeling, and wanting to preclude mush from being formed.  In the absence of us sharing this about ourselves others will make up stories that may or may not be true, but will in either case guide their actions toward us.  Of course, we do the same thing about others when they do not share the information.  Though it is much more complex than this, the book provides us with guidance on how to move our journey forward while creating and maintaining communities of learning.

I would recommend these books if you are interested in leadership and increasing your capacity to support and influence your colleagues.  Of the two, Change the Culture Change the Game is a more difficult read but very supportive of understanding what to focus on in creating cultural change that will sustain over time.