Ron Wilson: Painting a vision for Ionia Public Schools – News – Sturgis Journal – Sturgis, MI
When I look back on my career, I often think of the people who have been a great source of inspiration. People who have sharpened my sense of servant leadership. The list would not be complete without Major General John Stafford.
After a distinguished military career, John Stafford became superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools. His vision and confidence were backed by a fundamental plan to improve a broken urban public school system.
John believed that leading was inspiring, not commanding. Leading to John meant loving the people you lead so that they could give you their hearts and minds. He was a master at communicating a vision of where they could go together and inviting them to join.
John Stafford was a master at using story to share a common vision and plan for getting there. One of my favorites was “The Man the Bed by the Window”. I was so impressed by this story that I used it as a graduation during my first interview for the superintendent of Ionia Public Schools. I changed the story to reflect my vision for the Ionia community. The story is as follows:
Once two men shared a hospital room. The man in the bed by the door was seriously ill; Doctors questioned its impact on life. But the man in the window bed was stronger and often spent the time describing the scene outside. “There is a park,” he would say, “I see children playing.” Or: “Look, the ice cream truck is coming!” Or: “Ah, two young lovers who go hand in hand.” When the sick man grew stronger in the bed by the door, he nodded and smiled; The proxy contact with the outside world cheered him.
After a week, the man in the window bed went home and the sick man was brought to bed by the window. The next morning, as soon as the nurse opened the curtains, he straightened up and looked out. To his surprise, there was a bare concrete parking lot with a couple of randomly parked cars. No children. No lovers. No park. At first he was angry; How could his friend have misled him? Then disappointed, he had so anticipated the prospect! But as the hours went by, he realized what a gift his friend had given him. The pictures the man had painted had reminded him of all that was good about life; They had renewed his sense of hope and opportunity. More than the medical care he received, these images had strengthened him.
Today we are the man who looks out the window for the children of Ionia. We need to draw a similar vision for our citizens and school employees. They too must see the possibilities in schools and believe that the possibilities can be realized. How else will they inspire our children every day? For the sake of the children, for the sake of our community, we must all share a common vision of what our schools can be: safe, loving places where all students can learn.
Starting February this year, Ionia Public Schools will begin updating our strategic plan. I will be looking for community input in this process. Please take the time to attend the upcoming community forums and help us as we develop a shared vision of what Ionia Public Schools can become. The dates for the forum will be set and published next month.
– Ron Wilson is the superintendent of Ionia Public Schools. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of any officer, employee, or student elected by the Ionia School. You can contact Ron by email at [email protected]