The Coeur d’Alene school district is well-established and is doing many things right. But I want voters to know I am not running for Trustee to keep the status quo. I believe our schools can and must do better. If you vote for me, you are not voting for a placeholder or someone who sees his role primarily as responding to complaints and problems.

The role of a school board trustee is to take concrete steps to make CDA schools better. This means implementing changes to improve teacher and student performance, streamline administrative processes, and expand opportunities for our students.

Managing organizational change is not easy, and a school board is different from a corporation’s management. The board does not have the authority, let alone the task, of micromanaging our schools. Instead, our job is to oversee the broader picture and guide structural changes to promote more effective learning opportunities for local students. To do this, we must align all the involved parties in working toward positive change, even if it means pushing back a little against long-standing habits and methods. 

Elsewhere, I elaborate on concrete tasks I would like to advance as a School Board Trustee. Here, I want to explain my leadership philosophy so that you, the voters, will understand what I expect from myself in a leadership role. 

Put People First

Good leadership is about service to others, not telling others what to do; that is simply tyranny. Our schools’ stakeholders are the students, parents, teachers, and school administrators. They all have something to contribute, and it is these stakeholders who will need to invest in change to fuel and sustain it. Nothing will improve in the district if we don’t engage everyone in investing in a better outcome for all stakeholders, particularly the students. 

I believe school should be a transformative experience for our children. It should be more than just a place to feed children facts, theories, and formulae. It should open their eyes to possibilities for the future and stimulate them to question, discover, and explore.

While school may not always be “fun” in the conventional sense, it should nevertheless be a place that students find engaging and stimulating, a place where they leave every day with the conviction that they better understand and are more interested in the world they live in than the day before. I want every child to come home from school eager to share what they learned that day with their family. Will that happen? Perhaps not. But it definitely won’t happen if we don’t make the attempt. The effort will be worth it if we can reach even 10% more students to adopt this mindset.

As parents of children in this school district, my wife and I have one perspective. Our children have another. These perspectives are essential, but they are not the only ones. I don’t harbor any illusions that I have all the answers. In fact, if you look at most organizations, many people down in the trenches have great ideas for bringing about improvement because they have “boots on the ground” and see what happens daily. But they can lack the authority to implement them or even to have their voices heard. Good leaders should be willing to listen to these ideas and put them into practice when they make sense. No initiative can succeed if the people responsible for following through on it don’t believe in its value.

Communication is Critical

Leadership demands good communication. To lead, I must enable others to share my vision and motivate them to pursue it. True communication is not what I say; it is what the person I am talking to understands and what I understand from the person I am talking to. Without mutual understanding, communication does not take place. 

Leadership from the school board can only be effective when we communicate with all the stakeholders in our school district. This means that when we lead, we need others to understand our goals, why we think they are worth pursuing, and the benefits we expect from achieving them.

Communication is also ongoing and interactive. There must be dialogue to understand what is working and what isn’t, why we may hit roadblocks, or what resources we need to make something work. We need to have staying power and consistency to bring about real, lasting improvements in how our schools perform. It will require feedback and adjustment. But mainly, it will require commitment to making those improvements, even with obstacles, setbacks, or resistance.

Active Leadership

The school board must assume responsibility for achieving our goals, which means following through until we succeed. We have to be consistent and stay on course, adjusting only when it is clear that our chosen path is not the correct one. But we cannot be static or complacent. Pursuing excellence is a lofty goal and involves taking some calculated risks, including the risk of taking a misstep now and then. But to my mind, doing nothing is the definition of failure. 

Moving Forward

I don’t expect everything to go perfectly immediately, but I do hope to make progress. Positive change is the lifeblood of any successful, growing operation, including a school district, and the heart of change is people. As a team of leaders, our school board must position itself to manage necessary changes effectively through competent, transparent, and consistent leadership. 

If you share my vision for improved Coeur d’Alene Schools, vote for Jimmy McAndrew on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.

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