Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Commission

General George C. Marshall was appointed as the Army Chief of Staff by President Franklin Roosevelt on September 1, 1939, the day before World War II began. Marshall held this position until the end of the war in 1945. As Chief of Staff, General Marshall was responsible for building the U.S. military force from its pre-WWII level of 190,000 troops to the peak level of 8.3 million troops in 1945 (yeah, and you thought YOUR job was tough).

Typically when a writer quotes someone like Marshall, you expect something eloquent, emotional and full of inspiration. But sometimes you just need something a bit more direct and to the point. “I don't want you fellows sitting around asking me what to do. I want you to tell me what to do.”

During my visit to Jefferson High this week I was able to sit in on a meeting among the school's counselors and CICs (Campus Instructional Coordinators). This seemed to be their first meeting of the year where they are presented the course offerings and the staff rosters for the year. As the paperwork was being distributed I expected to see a large amount of confusion and frustration among the personnel at the table. The director of the meeting informed the counselors that they would have the most strenuous schedule in the district this year consisting of a '5x5 block scheduling'. This meant that each student at Jefferson would complete a total of 20 classes for the entire year, while students at other schools remained at 16 - 18 classes per year. This is not only a vigorous schedule for the students to undertake, but a strenuous task for counselors to manage. On top of being handed all of this information in less than 30 minutes, the director of the meeting then informed everyone that all of the student's schedules were to be finalized by COB the next day.

Now, I've been in military meetings where commanders have set deadlines weeks ahead for taskings that required much less than what these counselors were expected to complete. Those meetings were usually left with an enormous amount of moaning, groaning and complaining from the folks tasked to complete the assignments. I expected to hear the same moaning and groaning from the meeting at Jefferson. Instead I was presented with a level of motivation and excitement that I would have doubted existed among school administration. Instead of the typical mentions of "this is bull..." and slumped shoulders, I heard "Let's get going!" with heads raised high and smiles that could have convinced me that they were all told that they were getting a well-deserved raise. It was as though these counselors actually enjoyed their jobs...yeah, crazy.

I walked out with one of the counselors who has worked in the school system for several years and asked her "Is this normal?" She replied by informing me that Principals and administration at other schools typically don't get this part of the planning process started until the school year actually begins. So for her it was a delight to experience such preparation ahead of time. She also mentioned that the organization of it all (scheduling, staff rosters, org layout, etc) was something she hadn't seen in other schools and something that she was very impressed/pleased with. She continued by breaking down to me the procedures that go into planning a school year and informed me that it wasn't a simple process.

I know it seems like I should have EXPECTED a high school counselor to know how to do their job, but what I was more impressed with is the fact that these counselors could not only do their own job, but also the job of the person above them. This is a concept that is encouraged in the military; to not only strive to master your job, but to also be able to take over your superior's job as well.

Did I mention that Principal Cockrell was not present during this meeting?

“I don't want you fellows sitting around asking me what to do. I want you to tell me what to do.”


  1. So each high school within the district gets to dictate how many classes they want to have their students take each year? I didn't know saisd high schools had the choice of deciding that. That's awesome to hear the administration at Jeff is on top of their game! Very refreshing!

  2. Rich, this was a surprising factor to me as well, but yes, each administration has a choice regarding their respective curriculum. Ms. Cockrell informed me that this schedule was the same one she used at Fox Tech years ago and is one of the reason why she was able to take that school from one of the lowest in the state to being Recognized in such a short period of time. Very refreshing indeed!