Eric Smith and Pedro Garcia are crusaders. They both have taken on communities that need help. They have found success in other school systems and are trying to implement their visions elsewhere. However, I find their visions to be contrasting. While Mr. Smith would like to hold teachers accountable for failing students, Mr. Garcia would like to hold principals for the same. The way that the two are comparable is in the way that they communicate.
Eric Smith has been successful in North Carolina. He is hoping to bring this same success to Maryland’s fifth largest school system. Mr. Smith’s vision is to improve the scores of Hispanic and Black students. His motivation comes from trying to abolish the concept that students that come from difficult environments (ghettos, poverty, single-parent) do not perform well in school and should not be exposed to the same guidelines and academic opportunities. Mr. Smith’s communication style is very straightforward. He does not sensor his beliefs. For example, Mr. Smith stated to a teacher’s union “If the kids didn’t learn it, you didn’t teach it”. He is hard working and controlling. His approach to management is from the top down. He works very hard and expects all of those around him to do the same. Mr. Smith also raised some controversial questions regarding race. Smith attempted to break down and examine the data of Black and Hispanic students. He had been observing many minorities in under performing schools waste away in lax classrooms with under energized teachers with dull lesson plans. Smith did not care what the press would read into his intentions. He only wanted to show and prove that minorities were not making the grade in Maryland. He wanted to show that in fact there is a difference in academic achievement in regards to race.
Mr. Smith’s vision is purposeful because he is trying to improve the scores of students who most recently, had been overlooked. His communication style of being blunt and direct has been his signature trademark to make people understand and “buy-into” his vision. There has not been a question of believability because the hard-core facts are true: that Hispanic and Black students do not score as well as Caucasian and Asian students. Teachers have always known this fact, yet they have not been given the necessary support required to address such an obstacle. However, Mr. Smith is just the person to make his vision happen. He has a track record of success in the past. In fact, the Maryland school district is so confident with Mr. Smith’s vision, they have paid him $300,000 to see it happen. The measurability of the vision will be to see the increase of minority scores from the bottom. The vision will be measured by how many Hispanic and Black students can read in the first grade. This type of vision is not something that happens overnight, but with the motivation and dedication of the faculty, Maryland might be able to see the changes that North Carolina did.
Mr. Garcia’s approach to communication is very similar to Mr. Smith. Both are very direct and do not dance around an issue. For example, Mr. Garcia told principals that he expected them to attend his meetings every week and had better not be late. He also moved principals around to different schools. Where Smith was holding teachers responsible, Garcia is holding principals.
Garcia has not mentioned race in his vision. His vision is to increase scores collectively by 13%. Like Smith, Garcia enters a situation with a proven track record, having shown success in California. Smith and Garcia are similar in that they do not accept excuses and are very straight and to the point. They ask questions and pose solutions. They expect all of them around them to implement their vision. If faculty members do not help move the vision, then they are eliminated. Garcia did not waste time in replacing the human resource director who was not part of his vision.
In regards to being effective, you have to ask yourself: if your boss tells you to do something, do you do it? Of course if you want to keep your job the answer is yes. It is easy to understand why both Garcia and Smith’s communication style is effective because there is no hidden agendas. Both of them tell it like it is and expect to be told like it is. It is effective because they are at the top. If they were teachers their style of communication would be short-lived because they would be out of a job.
Both have visions of improving scores. Both are motivated by previous success. Both communicate in controlling fashion. Both are effective because they do not have to answer to anyone but the politicians that have asked them to save their schools.
The purpose, understanding, and believability of their visions are simple. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Like President Truman said: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”! When you are king it is easy to rally the support when you have to ability to make change. The measure of these men will be if their scores do in fact increase. The hardest part of having a vision in education is that the education of a child moves fast. In my school, which is a junior high school of over 700 students (two grades), we lose half our students every year. The vision must work quickly. Smith and Garcia’s vision is to improve test scores. Both have been called in to clean up an academic mess. Will test scores really measure their vision and its success or failure? If you were to measure the vision on motivation and effective communication, then there would be no need for measure; the vision would have succeeded.