Educational Leadership Can Make A Difference

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My name is Jim Cobble and through hard work and luck I have been fortunate enough to be involved in successful business ventures. In addition I have been a school trustee and, many would say, a successful school superintendent for over 30 years. I was awarded the Idaho's Educational Leadership award in 1999, The Idaho Superintendent of the Year award in 2007 and I was president of the Idaho Superintendents Association in 2005. Does that make me a "Bureaucrat or an 'Educrat"? I don't think so. It makes me a knowledgeable Idaho citizen that is gravely concerned about the future of our state and our children.

All my life I have considered myself a Republican. Through my nearly 50 years of voter eligibility, I have supported many more Republicans than Democrats. However, this year's race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction is not about politics. It's about knowledge, understanding, and above all, leadership. After watching the political debates with a critical eye, I have come to the conclusion that I need to share my observations. Some of my observations will be in the form of questions. I hope you take the time to scrutinize my questions and ultimately the facts.

Superintendent Luna is quick to give himself credit for accomplishments that are way outside the scope of that office. Some of these statements could even border on embellishments. Superintendent Luna is fond of the word "I", with no apparent understanding of the power of "we".

"More money in the classroom," is an irrefutable sound bite. It gets a lot of political mileage, but is simplistic at best. For decades, educational research (and business research) has shown that true improvement begins with strong leadership. Competent teachers will not work for mean, onerous, or ineffective principals, and if they can't transfer to another building or another district, their production will decline. Superintendents do fit into this equation and are in fact a key component. Strong principals don't work with weak superintendents. Obviously the quality of leadership permeates throughout the entire district and will affect student achievement. .

During the last debate, Tom Luna belittled the Boise School District for paying Dr. Stan Olson a salary that is required to hire a person of his quality. While serving as superintendent of schools for the Boise School District, Dr. Olson was far more than instructional leader. He was Chief Executive Officer of a very large business by any standards. The education of 25,000 students, a $200,000,000 operation budget and the ultimate responsibility for over 4000 employees requires skills beyond comprehension. How did he move that district forward over a ten year period? He did it by being good at what he does!

Would we question Boise State University about the wisdom of paying Coach Chris Peterson his salary? Does anyone want to pay him less and watch him leave? How much recognition and money has the State of Idaho received because of the success of the Boise State football team? In my mind "Coach Pete" is the poster child of what leadership can do! Stan Olson can be education's "Coach Pete." Under his leadership education will score touchdowns. We will get a higher ranking than number 50.

Dr. Olson was questioned about the dollar amount Boise spends to educate each student. Doesn't Superintendent Luna understand that the Boise School Board sets the budget and knows the expectations of the community? As elected representatives, they have an obligation to meet those expectations. Could quality educational be one reason Boise is ranked so highly as a desirable place to live?

Have you ever thought about why an overwhelming majority of Idaho's teachers, principals, support staff and superintendents are supporting Dr. Olson? His support comes from big districts, little districts, Eastern Idaho districts, Western Idaho districts and all those in between. It's because our children's greatest advocates know that he has the expertise, passion, and leadership to stabilize this unacceptable decline. He will hold educators accountable. He knows what to measure and when to measure it. When the economy recovers, Stan will lead our children into tomorrow's world. He will do it with us, not to us.