Culture has been defined as a set of beliefs that unites a group. It is a common mind-set that influences the manner of thinking, behaving, and working in a particular organization. While teaching is a profession, education administration is a business and, like any business, it will, deliberately or unintentionally, operate within its own business culture. When the culture focuses all personnel, efforts, and resources on a common goal, the chances for success are greatly enhanced.
In a school when a positive, productive culture is established it permeates every aspect of the operation. It affects the expectations and demeanor of teachers, parents, and students as well as, the selection of curricula, pedagogy, etc. It provides the environment within which administrators create visions, interact with others, model behaviors, and make operational decisions (employment, curriculum, scheduling, finances, etc.). Creating a school culture of success is the primary responsibility of one person, the school’s principal, i.e., the Chief Education Officer (CEO).
Just as school boards and bureaucrats must be more supportive and less directive of schools, THE ART OF ADMINISTRATION is intended to provide suggestions (not answers) for building administrators that will stretch their thinking for solutions to concerns they are or will be facing. While these principles of decision making are appropriate for all schools, their application will result in a wide variety of schools due to differences in community goals, parental input, as well as, the educational focus of a specific school.
A culture of high expectations leads to positive thinking that results in self-fulfilling prophecies. It is assertive in that it concentrates on achieving success and not on avoiding failure. It acknowledges that not all decisions will produce homeruns but, in some situations, a bunt single will get the job done.
The essence of administration is decision-making. Creating a new culture is a systemic change that will influence every facet of the education process in a school. Discipline becomes a positive effort to internalize proper behavior and not just to enforce rules. Parents are the primary customers of education and their greatest contribution can be quite simple, just displaying an interest in education to their children by asking, “What did you do in school today?” Teachers need to be recognized as the single most important factor to educational improvement and treated as such. Good financial management is critical for all businesses and schools are no exception. Calendars, schedules, textbooks, courses, technology, etc. are like pieces on a chess board. They are variables that administrators can maneuver within the culture to achieve success (checkmate!). This means that in Delaware with over two hundred schools it could result in no two schools being the same. That’s what can happen when schools are customized and not standardized.
The significant role played by culture in a successful business operation can be seen in a speech delivered at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce dinner in 2012 by Marvin N. “Skip” Schoenhals, chair of Vision 2015 and WSFS Bank, who credited the improvement at WSFS over a fifteen year period to a change in the bank’s culture. He also said public education had to do the same thing. For a more detailed description of creating a school culture of success read the complete version of, THE ART OF ADMINISTRATION.
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