Presidents-Day-George-Washington-And-Abraham-Lincoln-With-American-Flag-In-Background

The third Monday of February is known as Presidents Day in the United States.   In the beginning, the day was intended to celebrate the birthday of the first president of our country, George Washington.  Today we use it to commemorate all 45 Presidents of the United States.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that we do not celebrate the legislative branch or judicial branch, but only the executive branch of our government.  As our second president John Adams remarked,  “In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.” Our various branches of government have often poked fun of one another.

Presidents, as we well know, are not immune from criticism.  Jimmy Carter said about his time as president since he left office, “My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.”

Somehow over the years, since we now have almost full and immediate access to information on public figures, including presidents, our respect for the office of president is in decline.  It used to be said, you do not have to respect the man, but you do have to respect the office.  Somehow, I think this maxim has fallen by the wayside.

Historians and our history books often reinterpret our presidents in a new light, or try to view them in the prism of modern society.  Knowingly misrepresenting our history constitutes intellectual harassment according to Michael Rosenbaum. Historical negationism which is watering down history to make something politically correct is dangerous.    Utilizing revisionism or misrepresenting a former president’s true political position is inappropriate at best and Orwellian at worst.

For example, many presidents have had their race, ethnicity and even sexual orientation debated.  And religion is almost universally questioned, when the faith issue is brought up.  Our former leaders, or at least their very being, are no longer accepted at face value.

Lyndon Johnson made an astute observation by pointing out that the “presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.”  Nobody is born to be President of the United States, and the on-the job-training is unlike any other endeavor the office holder is likely to face.

Perhaps we can simple honor all of our presidents, and give the nastiness of modern politics a much needed day off.  We cannot deny the ugliness of politics today is offensive to our own dignity and self-worth.  Everyone elected as a public servant is entitled to a basic level of human decency.  It is important that we remind ourselves of this fact on this President’s Day.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

As an organization, we are extremely committed to raising student achievement and improving public K-12 schools across the state while at the same time championing the concerns of our members in a manner that is reflective of a professional association.

Members benefit from the expertise of our governmental relations department. We provide testimony on proposed legislation and work to guide our legislative platform. We also attend and provide input at State Board of Education meetings; represent members’ interests at Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System meetings; serve as liaisons to governmental agencies, as well as key stakeholders; and work with our members on political issues and involvement.

Advocacy is NOT a magic bullet. It may seem simple, but is not necessarily easy. It requires discipline, focus, and clarity of purpose. Our Legislative Program is focused on eight areas:
1) Governance
2) Educator Preparation and Certification
3) Compensation, Benefits and Employment
4) Curriculum, Programs and Services
5) Safe Schools
6) Education Finance
7) Teacher Retirement System
8) Federal Education Issues

Many educators are mystified at how they can be an effective advocate. Keep in mind these principles of effective advocacy:
• Clearly articulate the problem
• Offer positive and credible alternatives
• Keep message directed at those with the power to make changes
• Provide clear goals and measurable objectives
• Understand this will be a long term process, not one event or output
• Advocacy is a means to achieve a goal, not an end in itself
• Follow through to ensure policy changes lead to improvements in practice
• Remember that change is possible – and inspire others to feel the same

During the legislative session, members can stay on top of the action with our regular updates. http://eepurl.com/2sBaT

Professional Educators of Tennessee’s Legislative Program is the cornerstone of our organization’s legislative priorities and advocacy efforts. It represents our positions regarding education and issues over which the state Legislature, state agencies and federal government have power.

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JC Bowman is executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee

The voices for kindness may be quieter than those of hatred and fear, but there are many more of us.

Admin vs. Teachers

Teachers and Administrators do not go into public education for the money. That point been driven home the last few decades. This is a great chart to demonstrate that money alone will not serve as an inducement to recruit teachers, or keep them in the field.

braveheart-poster

In the year of our lord, thirteen fourteen, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen and won their freedom.

The most memorable character, in my opinion, outside of William Wallace in the movie Braveheart, was the character, Stephen. One of the great lines from Stephen was when he was describing the battle about to be fought: “The Almighty says this must be a fashionable fight. It’s drawn the finest people.”

Stephen, my hero from the aforementioned movie Braveheart, (and maybe I like it is because of my Irish heritage) added: “In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God… The Almighty says don’t change the subject; just answer the @#*& question.  Of course, Wallace himself says, “As you’re lying on your death bed, would trade all your days, from this day till that, for just one chance, one chance at FREEDOM!!”

However, freedom without values is anarchy.  So yes, individual character does in fact matter.  There remains a real tension between spheres of commonality and social virtues and spheres of individuality and personal virtues. However, there are areas which deservedly lie in the public realm and those which ought to be left to individual choice.

Oliver Williams and John Houck in their book “Virtues in a Democracy” wrote:  “And, while there are frequently differences in interpreting the exact meanings and implications of prevailing virtues…virtues do provide sound and shared foundations for consensus formation, community endeavors, public policies and moral standing.”

In our elections, it is important that we are wise and elect those who best demonstrate virtue and reflect our shared values.  There are four cardinal virtues – justice, wisdom (prudence), courage (fortitude), and moderation (self-control, temperance). These are inherent foundational laws. If these moral values and commitments are as compelling as virtues are, they remain the foundations of moral discourse in society. They are indispensable guides to our actions. Statements which push new moral claims not absorbed into the set of shared virtues — have little or no standing, despite the age in which we now find ourselves living.

In 1788, James Madison asked the question: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks–no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”  Madison understood the battles that were ahead for a nation.

Our society works best when we recognize the need for shared values. Shared values are much deeper than principles rooted in popular opinion. Those who live for the moment are building their house on sinking sand. Those who only live in the present are incapable of seeing things in perspective. They do not fully grasp the relationship between means and ends, principles and practice. They are often self-centered individuals believing that only they can be the judges of their conduct, choosing what is best and right for them at the expense of society.  This not only hurts families and communities, it also destroys the fabric of our society. That’s why Madison added “we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

We fought some great battles in 2017.  Some of these battles were fought politically, socially and culturally.  We will undoubtedly see even more battles in 2018.  However, we also had some celebrations to go with our victories and some good times to go with the bad.  We are eagerly preparing for the legislative session to kick off in the Tennessee General Assembly.  Then, the election season gets underway.  In 2018, we will have a very quick legislative session in Tennessee.  In education, we have found policy enacted quickly often fails to be implemented correctly.  So there are many battles still left to fight here in Tennessee.    We should choose the best people to fight for us.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on Twitter at @jcbowman

Christmas Story Metaphor

“Peace on earth, and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled.”

I hope that everyone is preparing to have a special holiday season this year with their friends and family, those loved ones who complete our lives.  This truly is one of the most extraordinary times of the year. Most of us are reminded it really is more fun to give than to receive. If you have children, it is an attitude you are forced to adopt.

I am most grateful for all the military and civilians serving our country away from home this year.  We are blessed to have young men and women willing to risk their lives so that we can be free, as well as safe and secure.  I wish for peace and harmony in the world and the eventual safe return of all our troops from foreign lands after their brave service to our country. It is clear to all rational people that diffusing terrorists and their rhetoric is necessary for freedom to truly prosper in the world. These brave leaders are merely following in the footsteps of our founding fathers.

The late Paul Harvey identified that all other of the world’s revolutions before and since were initiated by men who had nothing to lose.  The founders of this great experiment had everything to lose… nothing to gain…. except one thing…. and  they pledged it to one another in the Declaration of Independence:  “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The inspiration of yesterday still inspires us today: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  To the memory of the patriots who paved the way during those tumultuous times, to the patriots who live today and the patriots yet to be born:  May your holidays always be filled with good times, good cheer. May health and happiness be yours in all seasons!

I wish all families had an opportunity this Christmas to spend time with the ones they truly love, whether they are halfway around the world or simply across the street. Love is the greatest gift of all.  I wish for my own family, as well as yours that this Christmas they can observe true love that lasts a lifetime beyond that reflected by our world.  If you want a magical holiday season, give yourself in love beyond what you traditional are willing to surrender.  Seize the opportunity and have the courage to tell those around you how much you care and appreciate them.

In today’s rushed society this holiday we should make every effort and encourage our friends and family as well as ourselves to reduce the many unnecessary obligations, pervasive card writing, never-ending baking, excessive decorating and needless overspending. Sharing quality time with family and friends is unmistakably more important than finding yourself severely exhausted, unable to appreciate those you love or even missing the true meaning of Christmas.

Maybe this explains why so many people have difficulty getting into the “spirit of Christmas.”  The self-imposed exhaustion, coupled with the fact that merchants have now extended the holiday season to well before Thanksgiving probably leads to Christmas fatigue and loss of spiritual significance.  This also means another holiday has lost meaning, of course maybe it is my heart that is in the wrong place.

The brave men and women who so eagerly wait for peace in the battles they fight for our security yearn for the peace at home, and peace on earth.  Let’s begin by bringing peace to our homes.  Peace on earth, which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after, can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent adherence to the divinely established order.

We are reminiscent of the Prophet Isaiah who wrote centuries ago: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).  It is true that Christmas, the day in which we celebrate the birth of Christ, probably is not an accurate reflection of the birthday of our savior.  But anyone who seeks the true peace and lasting joy needs to reflect on the babe of Bethlehem and the sacrifice for sinners he was to become.

I am now more determined than ever to celebrate Christmas, appreciate my family and friends and remember those that risked their lives, fortunes and honor so that I could do those things.  For those that are angry year round, let this holiday season be an exception.  If you need to reconcile with anybody, friend or foe, make this Christmas an opportunity to do so.  As Charles Spurgeon preached many years ago: “May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest.”

I wish you the happiest Christmas you ever had.  I hope that you have a memorable holiday and a wonderful time with those you love.  I also wish you have a safe and happy and prosperous New Year’s as well.

We should strive to be kind and affectionate to others.  If we always lived every day at peace with God, it would be the merriest Christmas we ever experience in all our lives every day in our heart.  As my wise mother, Linda Bowman Lawhorn used to remind us “he who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.”  Jesus is the reason for the season.  But really he is the reason for every season.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

dickens2

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It appears that 2017 has been a long year for many people, and 2018 promises even more of the same problems with even more politics. That is usually not a good recipe for success. However, if there is any lesson to be learned it is that we should endeavor to get the most out of life, use our God-given talent and our abilities, be loyal, love our friends and family, and honor God. We should not simply strive to be common, but seek to be remarkable. Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do in life, is your gift to God.  Teachers understand this more than most.

This Christmas season we will undoubtedly hear the story of God’s love taking the form of man and coming down to earth. There is much more to that story. But what is amazing to me is the role that women played in the life of Jesus. The old saying is that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Rodgers and Hammerstein added another twist: the hand that rocks the cradle rules the heart. Either way, women have played such a critical role in the world, often unrecognized by the very people who have experienced their influence. Invisible to the naked eye, true leadership is in the womb, the breast, the hands, and the soul of woman.

A mother has the most difficult task, for she must take a young, impressionable human being, and emphasize in their young life the things they must learn and experience, the hurt they will inevitably feel, the sadness – this is a difficult task a mother must do. It takes a tremendous amount of strength, patience, and moral fiber to give birth, raise, and eventually let go of, a child. My mother did an unbelievable job, in a difficult situation with a strong-willed child. I am the man I am today because of the woman she is. I am a living testament to her encouragement, love and yes discipline. She instilled in me a passion to believe in myself and to do what is right, even when others around you do what is wrong. More importantly she gave me the desire to live my life with intention. What a beautiful gift to give.

Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, wrote the poem “On Children.” Here is what he said: “You may give your children your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

I love that thought that Gibran expresses, but I differ with him: I do think we can dream that brighter future for our children. I hope that it is a future filled with hope. I wish for peace and harmony in the world and the eventual safe return of all our troops from foreign lands. In 1983 I was deployed and wasn’t home with my family during the Christmas holiday.   It was an incredibly lonely time.

I would wish that all families had an opportunity this Christmas to spend time with the ones they truly love, whether they are halfway around the world or simply across the street. Love is the greatest gift of all. If you want a magical holiday season, give yourself in love beyond what you traditionally are willing to surrender. Seize the opportunity and have the courage to tell those around you how much you care and appreciate them.

Jesus is the reason for the season. But really he is the reason for every season. The old adage “he who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree” is pretty accurate. So, from our team at Professional Educators of Tennessee to your family, we wish you an enjoyable Holiday Season and an even happier 2018!

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

declaration of independence

In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt designated December 15 as Bill of Rights DayThis is the day we recognize and commemorate the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which spell out our rights as citizens here in the United States of America.  That date was chosen because the Bill of Rights was originally ratified on December 15, 1791.  Our rights and freedoms as Americans are rooted in the Bill of Rights.  Unfortunately, many Americans do not fully appreciate or understand our Bill of Rights.

Future President, James Madison of Virginia, was the primary author of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which are recognized today as our Bill of Rights.  The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, strongly influenced their writing. Other documents such as the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the English Bill of Rights, and the Massachusetts Body of Liberties are considered foundations to our Bill of Rights.  The Bill of Rights was written to provide mutual constitutional protection of individual liberties of our citizens, and to limit the power of the federal government.

Regardless of personal political persuasion or affiliation, American citizens can unite around the Bill of Rights because it communicates our basic shared values.   President George W. Bush stated, “The true [American] revolution was not to defy one earthly power, but to declare principles that stand above every earthly power—the equality of each person before God, and the responsibility of government to secure the rights of all.”  President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the Constitution as “the great American charter of personal liberty and human dignity.”

Limiting the power of government and safeguarding the rights of our citizens is something we must all make a conscientious effort to protect.   We should be especially appreciative for the protection afforded in our Bill of Rights against a national government gaining ground against our most fundamental rights—freedom of speech, protest, and conscience guarantees our equal protection under the law.  A free society does not just occur. It has to be consciously devised and intentionally preserved. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

We invite all citizens and educators to celebrate Bill of Rights Day on December 15 and commemorate the ratification of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  It is critical to share the knowledge of the relevance and practicality gained through an understanding of the U.S. Constitution to the next generation.[i]

The Bill of Rights

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

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JC Bowman in NYCJC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

 

[i] NOTE:  We are glad to assist our educator members across the state in promoting awareness of the United States Constitution, through various partners and projects.  In addition, if you email our partners at the 917 Society (917society@gmail.com) they will provide copies of the US Constitutions free of charge to all 8th grade classrooms.

Singing the blues away

You remind yourself that the holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness, gathering of friends and family and most importantly optimism for the coming New Year. Yet you get inundated with reminders of the holidays that may conjure up unresolved issues like grief caused by a missing friend or family member, your own failing health or that of a friend or family member. Sometimes there is a sense of increased isolation and loneliness or recognition that there is a difference between the perception of holiday joy and the reality of one’s own life. Holidays can take a toll on even the happiest person.

From now until after the first of 2018 more than likely your life will be busier and certainly more stressful. You will have more things to do, more things to buy, there will be more traffic in our streets, stores will become more crowded, parking will become more difficult, and you will have your patience tried to the extreme waiting longer for service. Guests in your house will further add to your frustration. Heaven forbid if some person accidentally sits in your seat at your place of worship. The additional demands on our time, attention, energy and finances can be very traumatic. All of these issues come to a head during the holiday season. You want love or something like it.

Remind yourself all these issues can help you develop a strategy to tackle this short period of time. Most people struggle with holidays at some point in their lives. Just as we often struggle with life itself. It requires effort to overcome any problem. Recognition of our own thoughts and feelings helps us be successful in being triumphant over even the worst of times.

We begin our adult life with idealistic dreams of running off into the sunset, chasing whatever it is that makes us happy. We hope we are fortunate enough to reach those goals set by our youthful optimism. But for many of us we also learn we can only run so far before reality sets in. We must be extremely careful that we do not turn this optimism into pessimism, or even worse cynicism. This cynicism is often couched in anger and we hear or see the wounded cries. People become blinded by their own pessimism, then cynical of everything but their own cynicism.

Part of what makes us human is the ability to project into the future. However, do not believe for one moment you can find redemption by escaping your situation. Life is never really easy or is it? Are we not the ones who complicate it? When we complicate it do we become our own victims?

Perhaps the best scientific exploration of optimism, an incredible research study thirty-five years in the making entitled “Pessimistic Explanatory Style as a Risk Factor for Physical Illness: A Thirty-five Year Longitudinal Study”, J Person Soc Psych 55 (1988): 23-7, by C. Peterson, M. Seligman, and G. Vaillant, three main findings were established:

  1. Optimists live longer than pessimists;
  2. Optimists suffer from fewer and less severe diseases;
  3. Optimists are much healthier than pessimists.

Some of the benefits of being an optimist according to research are that we know that we will receive greater health benefits, higher quality of life–manifested by greater success, greater happiness and greater love. So, this holiday season take the time to revisit your own priorities for life. Hold on to your dreams. Never give up on thinking what was and what is and what can be. Yes we can all be winners in good times and survivors during the hard times.

If we want to relieve the tremendous stress on friends and family structures, we must make a positive commitment this holiday season to help others, as well as ourselves. We must all become promoters for hope. We need to work together to prevent symptoms of depression and anxiety from dominating our community this holiday season. We need a positive environment to help our children enjoy this most sacred season, and we all have a role to play to make sure those around us remain emotionally stable and use effective coping skills.

This holiday season take an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. When churches, synagogues, mosques, businesses, and governments collaborate, impressive things can happen to cause productive change in communities and among individuals. The impact could be of a global magnitude.

Like many I have learned what the power of faith can accomplish in an individual life. In addition, faith has traditionally played a crucial role in shaping both American institutions and civil society, and America has thrived as a model of democracy and equality precisely because of this pervasive religiosity and the traditions it helped establish. The abundance of faith based voices in the public square does not mean that the issues of the day will suddenly vanish. But the inclusion of faith based organization’s views and voices does allow communities to explore areas of consensus that are often overlooked. It provides the faith based community the opportunity to do what it does best, serving others and expanding its role in serving society.

Remember to make this a holiday season to remember. To somebody you may be just the gift they need. Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr often shared this prayer with people, and it helps remind me when I face depression.

The Serenity Prayer

 God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference;

 Living one day at a time;

 Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it:

Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2018, and stay positive!

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

difficult decision

It is often said that the most important role of a board of education is to hire its superintendent.  I think that is a somewhat a valid claim.   Certainly if you value public education, you must have competent leadership managing the daily operations of the school district.  A good superintendent leads the districts educational, financial and administrative performance; facilitates the performance of all personnel; and responds to and informs stakeholders and policymakers about the performance and leadership of the district.

Having met many, if not most, Superintendents of Schools here in Tennessee, I believe we do have some excellent leaders across our state.  Probably one of the most important duties of the superintendent is to make sure district students are learning and achieving at the highest level possible.  A superintendent must understand effective academic practices and be supportive of the teachers and administrators in the district.  Leadership, vision, and strategic thinking are critical skills for every superintendent.  A successful superintendent is should also be an effective and excellent communicator.  If the only voice a superintendent listens to is his/her own, or a few members of the school board, public education will eventually lose community support.

In the last few years, I have seen some horrifying treatment of Superintendents across the state.  I have seen them maligned by anonymous message boards, attacked in the media, belittled by their own school board members, often unfairly.  I am reminded of Mark Twain’s quote:  “Great minds talk about ideas; good minds talk about events; small minds talk about people.”

Does that mean that we simply accept decisions from superintendents, without challenging them? Of course not!  We must particularly hold them accountable in regard to educational, financial and administrative performance.  However, we should provide them latitude in regards to leadership, vision and strategic thinking on how to address the performance in those areas. And we must expect them to communicate effectively to all stakeholders.

The American Association of School Administrators suggests that the superintendent, like principals, must also demonstrate a keen understanding of teaching, learning and what works for students. As a change leader, a successful superintendent should emphasize the efficient use of resources, personnel, and data to break down resistance and drive systemic change; empower board and personnel to set goals, measure results, develop accountability, and support planning, evaluation, and resource allocation.

Our state has made some incredible strides in public education.  It is an accomplishment that we should admire and respect.  It begins with the men and women in the classroom across this state, and we must also acknowledge the hard work of those who lead our schools.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.