Tag Archives: President Barack Obama

STIMULUS: 20 Leadership Lessons From Barack Obama

stimulus | ‘stim yul us
noun (pl. -li | -,li)

• a thing that rouses energy in something or someone; an interesting and exciting quality

pres1On this, the thirty-day anniversary of the historic Inauguration of our 44th President, this much is clear: when it comes to leadership, Barack Obama has some game! In just four weeks (about the time it took most of us to figure out where the restroom was in our new school), President Obama has named and re-named cabinet members, passed a nearly $800 billion stimulus package, flown to Denver, Phoenix and Ottawa, launched Hillary into the Far East, visited a Washington DC charter school and took Michelle to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Whether you agree with his policies or not, there is much to learn from this president’s powerhouse approach to governing.

Metaphors for leadership abound– in Fortune 500 Company CEO’s, NBA basketball coaches, and admirals who have captained naval ships. You can find their books in Borders or read about them in Fast Company. Or you can follow CNN on Twitter and study how one man, our president, has approached his first month on the job and confronted the most complex and urgent crises of our generation.

So whatever your role in schools might be, here are “20 Leadership Lessons” from the dynamic presidency of Barack Obama:

1. Keep your eyes on the prize: There is nothing like a wordle to know you are consistently ‘on message’.

2. Invite them to the barbecue: Stepping outside of the hallowed halls helps to build social networks with allies and adversaries alike. Kegger at the White House!”

obama_running_blueflys_blog_flypaper_123. Don’t wait: Hit the ground at a sprint and knock over the furniture. Launch and learn!

4. Keep your family first. Period.

5. Feed your inner gym rat: Stay fit!

6. Bipartisan “process” is secondary to doing the right thing: So do the right thing.

7. Be resilient: After the inevitable setbacks, betrayals, and disappointments… you have to bounce back stronger.

8. Don’t be a sap: “I am an eternal optimist,” said the President. “Not a sap!

9. Read stuff!


10. Don’t give up your Blackberry: Especially if it is your link to the only people who will tell you the truth.

11. Speak to the conflict: When you speak from the heart to the needs of people that didn’t vote for you, that’s real Servant Leadership.

12. Have some courage. Enough said.

13. Sneak out to dinner: (But leave your Blackberry at home.)

14. Change the culture to change the outcomes: Replace the curtains hung by your predecessor and then make up your own rules.

lincolnjpeg15. Stand tall on the shoulders of giants: Don’t wobble, they became giants for a reason.

16. Appreciate the ghosts. (If I lived in the White House I would walk around at night and listen to the spirits whisper.) Our schools have a history too.

17. Surround yourself with the best people you can find: Build your own team of rivals.

18. You belong in the room: So when you feel like you are over your head, it is good to remember that you were hired for a reason.

19. Communicate… communicate… communicate: Make it your gift.

And finally, whether you are an urban school district superintendent, the assistant principal of a small elementary school, or the most powerful leader of the free world, one month on the job–

20. Remember that HOPE is what brought you here.


(Cross-posted at Leadertalk, a blogging community for school leaders hosted by Education Week.)


Filed under President Obama, resiliency, spiritual intelligence


Like this tag cloud designed by Wordle, everyone heard something different in President Obama’s Inaugural Address:


I don’t know what images or themes resonated for you, but Nelson Smith, the Executive Director of the National Alliance of Charter Schools reviewed the historical Inaugural Week in his Charter School Blog, and he heard this:

I found a strong echo of our [charter school] model in this passage of the President’s inaugural address:

 “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”

What this means for charter schools can be found on the new White House web site under Education Agenda. President Obama promises to “double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools,” but warns there will be “a clear process for closing down chronically underperforming charter schools.”

Fair enough.  As on most things, I agree with President Obama (and Nelson Smith, too). But how will the President define “successful charter schools?” and what are the criteria for an “underperforming school?”  

Presently “underperforming schools” become “underperforming schools” when their test scores in math and reading fall short of the prescribed benchmarks called Annual Yearly Progress or AYP. And since nobody wants to bear the mantle of an “underperforming school”, you can be sure we all teach the heck out of math and reading.  President Obama recognizes that schools have narrowed the curriculum in response to these pressures at the expense of science and technology and social studies and the arts.  And recess. He calls it teaching to the test.  I call it teaching to what is tested. Others may call it teach what you better teach if you don’t want lose your charter or be called an underperforming school.will-i-am

Nevertheless, as Will.i.am says “It’s a New Day” and thank God for that.  We have a mandate for change.  And since I don’t mind using test results to determine how effectively schools are serving children and their families, I don’t care whether president Obama changes the whole assessment game or not.  

What I do care to C H A N G E is how we recognize and define successful schools– charter or otherwise. Math and reading results are one indicator, but can we get some love for the other extraordinary things that happen for children at El Milagro?

Like when we …carlos

• introduce our children to the latest technologies…

• or teach them to think…

• or refer them to the eye doctor for properly fitting glasses…

• or teach them proper dental hygiene so their teeth aren’t rotting in their heads…

• or  teach them to sing and draw and recite their poems on a stage…

• or  teach them that their forefathers won congressional medals of honor in foreign wars too…

• or help them preserve and perfect their native language…

• or connect a family to health insurance…

• or help Rafael properly grieve for his relatives who were recent murder victims in Tijuana’s horrific drug wars…

• or help Laura stay grounded even as she  is about to lose her mom to stomach cancer (which is a big deal because her dad passed away two years ago)…

And so forth.  Supporting kids in crisis– isn’t that high performance too?

Just last summer, Nelson Smith and The National Alliance of Charter Schools published a tool they call “Quality Indicators“.  It’s one way to expand the definition of what a successful school is.  So at El Milagro we decided to integrate the general concept into our charter as we get ready to take it to the local governing board for re-authorization in March.   We will be able to describe the goals of our charter in broader terms than just academic achievement– but also longitudinal growth, progress of English Language learners and the sense of engagement for students, teachers and  parents.

                                                             *                *                  *

So when Wordle created their cool tag cloud from some of the major themes and words that were used by President Obama in his Inaugural Address, they were unintentionally shining a bright light on his priorities.  The bigger the word the more often he used it.

 I like that C H A R T E R and  C H I L D R E N are so predominantly positioned on the top of the box, and in the center– and that they are surrounded on all sides by C A R E  and  C O O P E R A T I O N and W O R K and  H O P E.


1 Comment

Filed under California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, President Obama, public education