Thursday, September 19, 2013

Learning from the Roundtable . . .

This morning was the first meeting of the year for the PTA Roundtable, a monthly meeting of representatives from each of our PTA's, School Board, Kevin Patterson, TEA, me, and Rob joining the conversations this year.  It formed over twenty years ago when I became superintendent and started our learning journey.  The first group of people I invited to a meeting were the PTA Presidents at the time.  The "Roundtable"  started with that first meeting and has sustained over time thanks to people like Ada McBride who has served as facilitator for a number of years.  I also learned this morning that coming together like this is not the norm in other school systems, suggesting that this may be another example of the Tahoma way with our deep belief in collaboration.

I have great admiration and respect for those that assume PTA leadership positions.  They are tireless workers for young people and teachers seeking nothing in return.  My attempt this morning to share my appreciation and suggest that they did not get the thanks that they deserve was pushed back with we don't do it for thanks.

An obvious topic of discussion this morning was the bond measure.  Many in the room shared their thinking and experiences with others in the community and I shared my concern with lack of a sense of urgency in the community.  This was then correctly directed right back at me with examples of community meetings not attended by administrators and with few teachers in attendance.  The point being made was why would the community be concerned if staff who will directly benefit by a successful bond measure are not visibly present supporting the measure.  In addition, stories were shared of staff members engaging in conversations where they shared that they would be voting no.

We have over 800 employees in our system.  This morning's conversation created dissonance for me as I wonder about the number who make the decision to actively support the measure, those that have little to no engagement, and those that choose to share their decision to vote no.  I can make assumptions about why staff members do not engage or would actively oppose the bond measure, but I would rather hear what the mental models are that result in this decision.  There is much we can learn about our system culture if we had the opportunity for skillful conversations.

The conversation this morning forced me to look inside our system before focusing on what may be a problem in the community.  It was a good learning experience for me that will influence my behavior.  Any thoughts on the mental models staff might hold that result in any of the three behavior choices above?

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