Dist. 46 Resolves to Continue Trend of 'Positive Change'

Article excerpt

Byline: Marvin Edwards

Most people I know don't make resolutions for the new year because experience tells them not to even try.

By this time, more than half of those well-intentioned pledges already have been broken. Only a small percentage of the other half will survive until February.

But while we are reluctant to take on insurmountable personal challenges publicly, many of us enter the new year with a private list of positive things like good health, more family time, fewer debts and the like that we hope will become reality.

Although I didn't make it a personal resolution, I can assure you that Marvin Edwards' private list includes doing everything within his power to continue the positive trends we are experiencing in Elgin Area Unit District 46. Expanded instructional programs, enhanced achievement, new and improved facilities, a balanced budget, labor peace and national blue ribbon designation are things that happened in 1996 we want to see again in years to come.

I am optimistic that positive change will continue in District 46 because the people who really care have made a commitment to it. Because you will be hearing more and more about this change process as the new year progresses, we need to address it in the first column of 1997.

What is it? Why am I convinced it will work? What can you expect to see as it evolves? How will we know if and when it is successful?

The District 46 change process was conceived jointly by the school board and the employee groups. In our search for a guru to help kick off the effort, we contacted W. Patrick Dolan, a nationally-renowned authority on organizational behavior who spent two decades working in labor-management approaches to systemic change in the private sector.

As a result of this and his experiences with school systems in other states as well as several in Illinois, he was invited to bring his message to school and community leaders in June. They liked what they heard and Dolan returned to speak to all District 46 employees in August.

Dolan believes that school systems look and operate like most western institutions: a pyramid organizational structure with characteristics that are top down, authoritarian, layered in hierarchy, gridded into silos, and restricting the flow of information and autonomy. He suggests they must be restructured to reflect collaboration among all the players, to encourage decision making at the closest point to the decision by those most directly impacted, and keep the focus on the big picture - learning. …