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Friday, March 23, 2007

Look Within

The news of yesterday's decisions by the Missouri Board of Education to remove the St. Louis Public Schools' accreditation and appoint McBride & Sons executive Rick Sullivan as chairman of the three-person transitional local board raise an important question.

Are we certain that a city as great as St. Louis cannot provide talent equal to the challenge of rebuilding the St. Louis Public Schools?

All too often, we discount the leaders and visionaries who toil away right under our noses, in favor of the more intriguing people who we have to beg. That's part of our inferiority complex, something yesterday's event only strengthens. We tend to downplay our city's stengths, and the strong leadership one finds outside of the halls of the political and social old guard.

Obviously, some people at SLPS have done poor jobs -- that's one cause of the district's failure. But there are many more others in the system who know better than anyone what is wrong and how to fix it. They don't have all of the answers, but they have some of them -- and the institutional memory essential for effective trouble-shooting.

A confident city promotes the efforts of its best and brightest. When we break from the cycle of self-flagellation, reliance on outsiders for direction and ignorance of our own talent -- then we will be a confident city. In the meantime, efforts like the reform of SLPS may suffer.


Anonymous said...

The longer we refer to community leaders from St. Louis County as outsiders, the more we will suffer.

Anonymous said...

So, name some names.

tobyweiss.com said...

Thank you for highlighting how the entrenched low self-esteem of the city has become a pathological blight.

When Rick Sullivan intimated that running the school system like a business could be the solution, I cringed.

Then again, I've been talking today with a lot of people who actually know him and have worked with him. The main consensus: STL City Hall allowed this mess to blow up, and since someone now has to clean it up, he's the best choice for this ridiculous situation.

What disturbs me is the continual reliance on Big Business to take care of city problems. As if they are the ONLY solution. Big Business is a PART of a solution, a PART of a city.

But the deed is done, and the future is the best option. My fingers are crossed that every single glowing thing the Post-Dispatch said about him is absolutely true. And that Mr. Sullivan had a Public Education at some point.

Just like we'd prefer a presidential administration that actually served in war to be deciding wars, it's beneficial for someone to personally know public education before they try to salvage it.