A Message from the President & CEO
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Do you see evidence that the pace of change is so much faster than it was 20 years ago? I know I do. “Cloud” based offices are quickly replacing those (and the people who set them up and maintain them) using servers, routers, and VPN remote access. Computerized renderings of home improvement projects have made a contractor’s meticulous and detailed drawings look unprofessional. When I was young, getting a job at the post office was considered pretty secure. No more. And when was the last time you used a travel agent to book a flight? Or drove to a video store to rent a movie? Purchase a Compact Disc? Whole business, even industries emerge only to disappear in a matter of a few years.
School may be the one place that until recently has avoided wholesale change. Sure, some things have changed, but for the most part, we have an institution that sorts and categorizes children by age and assessments of aptitude, sends them down a line where content divided by discipline is attached to them in 40 minute blocks of time for approximately 180 days, with summer off to presumably harvest crops. When I started teaching back in the days of disco, polyester, and cassette tapes, one was assured a degree of security in exchange for a low salary and a decent pension. My grandfather called it “good inside work.”
I know lots of people who like to make change, but very few (myself included), who actually like change when it happens to them. It has to be difficult to go to work as a teacher and discover that the ground that was once so familiar, and the system that was so predictable is now changing this fast. More accountability and higher standards. Sharing a building with another school. New kinds of schools opening while schools we have known for years are closing. Competing for jobs that were once guaranteed. Challenges to pension and benefits. Shrinking personal assets. It’s a lot to digest but truth be told, “whitewater” is the “new normal.” We are going to, not only adapt, but also get out in front and lead change rather than have it knock us over. This does not mean all change is good or all change is bad, just a reality of life for everyone.
The magnitude of change in Newark is remarkable. From charter schools beginning to share data with district schools, new school options—both district and charter—becoming increasingly available for children, to a new evaluation system for teachers, criteria for hiring principals, and an increasingly coordinated and aligned philanthropic community. We are experiencing a transformation in the way we understand public education, the expectations we have for teachers, and the standards upon which we measure success. All of this does not come without cost and not all costs are economic. Relationships are under stress, good people who care about children, but who see things differently are sometimes at odds, and a fractious environment that could potentially add to the churn of leadership, the false starts, or lack of cross sector support necessary to create and sustain needed reforms, is clearly a backdrop to reform.
The work of the Trust puts us in the offices where change is being orchestrated, in the schools where it is being implemented and in the public meetings where it is being challenged. We listen with our hearts as well as our ears, and we know that the issues are complicated, rooted in a history, culture, and earned mistrust. We remain committed to spotlighting on the issues, generating the evidence and data to inform decisions, and coordinating efforts that hold the most promise to ensure that all of our children have the knowledge and skills they will need to deal with the whitewater of their own lives.
We have a big summer ahead and are looking forward to sharing the results with everyone this fall.