I remember stepping out of my ’84 blue Bonneville Pontiac, briefcase in hand and silk tie around my neck, with a sense of excitement as I gazed at the old country school where I was about to begin my teaching career. I was freshly minted out of college and knew I was embarking on a great adventure in little Pitsburg, Ohio. That country school, named Franklin Monroe, became home to me for 10 wonderful years. My friends were clueless about the life I lived as a teacher. To them, I was Jim, Jimmy, or the Big Shu (my basketball nickname). I was still their friend from the past. However, an entire community knew me differently as Mr. Schul.
As I write this, a montage of memories flood through my mind. All of these memories revolve around kids, colleagues, and parents who were once such a big part of my life. Many of these memories bring me hearty laughs, while others bring me to tears. I loved those people. I loved them dearly. They reciprocated that love to me. All of the memories from my career revolve around the love of the people I knew. You see, the heart and soul of a school is the relationships within it. Think about your favorite teacher … think why they’re your favorite. Strong relationships are the groundwork for strong schools – and teachers are in the frontline of the school’s mission.
I believe that if we help teachers, then we help students. The primary call of a school board member is to help students succeed. If we truly mean this, it will require us to help our wonderful teachers. My proposal to the WAPS community is cutting-edge in these times … I would like to uplift the teaching profession. The preeminent scholars of teaching and school reform such as Linda Darling Hammond and the late John Goodlad, laid out a vision of schools with more decentralized decision-making where teachers develop the macro-curriculum of the school and are in charge of professional development programming and evaluation. Envisioning such reform requires a paradigm shift away from a system where decisions are centralized with singular administrators. Click here for a little taste of some ideas that Linda Darling Hammond observed to be working well in Finland’s education system. Strong schools empower teachers. Shouldn’t we?
One of the first steps I will take if elected to the school board is to contact the WAPS teachers’ union. I will offer an olive branch by stating: “I want to uplift our teachers. Can we collaborate together to make this happen?” I then envision us studying and deliberating together about the type of teacher reform we intend to propose in negotiations. If this happens, as I hope it will, our students will boundlessly benefit because those who know them best will be making key decisions for them!