Inspiring Our Best

Many have asked me why I am doing this. What is my angle? Why would I run for a position that is a significant cut in pay? Why would I want a position that doesn't seem to have any real power to affect change in education? Why don't I just become a Principal and work for change by showing others how things ought to be done? Well, here's a part of my angle...

I could have become a Principal 3 years ago, when I received my Principal Certification from the State of Florida, but I didn't want to become a Principal under today's conditions--high-stakes testing, destructive comparative school data, micromanagement of teachers, and ever changing targets and requirements for graduation. And to top it all off, I don't want to directly work under individuals I don't fully trust. I don't want to go all-in if I'm not 100% sure the people above me have my back. The last thing I want to do is get into a high-pressure situation and then be micromanaged from above. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way.

Teachers have put a lot on the line when they work in the trenches to make a difference in their students' lives. But even the very best of teachers, our high-impact teachers, are hesitant to take on the very toughest of assignments at our most at-risk schools...even for extra money. I know why they hesitate. They feel like the School District and School Board don’t have their back. Listen, "Soldiers fight for their country, but they die for their friends." If teachers don't feel that those above them respect them and are fighting alongside of them, they are not going to be inspired to give up all to help our most neediest of students. There are some that will--there are some Navy Seal teachers that will run to the battle regardless of the micromanagement and mismanagement that is taking place above them. I applaud these types of teachers. But the vast majority of great teachers are not so inclined to act in such a manner under the current conditions in our school district. Our most at-risk students need our very best employees to take on these special operations. But they have to know that those above them believe in them; they have to know that caring about people is far more important than PR moments and data charts.

If you want to inspire your high impact teachers to put everything on the line, double the bonus and drop the Marzano mandates at these schools. You already know that these teachers can teach--they know what they are doing, and they know how to get results--now give these teachers the freedom to work their magic in their classrooms. Increase tutoring, mentoring, and the extracurricular athletic and academic activities that are offered after school at these most at-risk schools. If I thought the District cared enough to do all of this, I would seek to become a Principal at the toughest of middle schools working with the most at-risk populations of students.

Listen and hear me well, our most at-risk students and schools are in desperate need of "game-changers". Students are dying in these schools. The lives of these students depend upon great public schools. The game-changers are out there, they just have to have reason to believe they are not out there on their own--fighting those they are trying to help, and also fighting those above them who have comfortable desk jobs and no real "skin in the game". Helping our most neediest of students must transcend the status of PR moments or resume-building opportunities.

Leaders have to lead...on the front lines...willing to give their lives, risking their reputations, their the very things that they are asking their teachers to give. We can make a real difference at our most at-risk schools, but we have to go all-in. We must think of these students like family and move heaven and earth to transform the cards they have been dealt by life by little to no fault of their own. These students not only need our very best efforts, but their very lives may very well depend on those best efforts.

If I am so fortunate to win the District 7 Seat on the Orange County School Board, these are the kinds of systemic changes I will tirelessly work and fight to bring about.

A final thought...the reason I am running for a seat on the School Board is because I don't want to help just one school, I want to help all schools, all students, and all teachers be successful. I believe I have the skills, the experience, the on the-ground knowledge, and the passion to do just that. When I look at my career, I believe I have been prepared for just such a calling at just such a time as this.

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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, Non-Partisan, for Orange County School Board Chair


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