Leaders have a Noble Purpose

Denise Ojeda

Guest post from LSAISD Class of 2015 participant Denise Ojeda with her thoughts on the first class of the 2015-2016 school year.  Denise lives in the San Antonio Independent School District.

The day’s session was kicked off by Durquia Guillen, LSAISD Executive Director sharing how the setting for our first meeting and the honorable Patti Radle, our first speaker, embody what individuals can do when they lead with a noble purpose.  Having never met Patti prior to today, I was most struck by the humility with which she speaks of Inner City Development’s rich history and accomplishments. She exudes a warmth and ease that belies the responsibility and influence she must carry as our district’s Board President.

Patti posed several questions and answered them with examples of service and volunteerism.  What is your mission?  A leader should know and follow their mission that is authentic and serves a greater purpose. Why is leadership important?  There are many ways to serve and connect with SAISD, our schools and our individual communities. What is your passion?  How can you turn that passion into an activity?  I felt she was illustrating for us that leadership is serving others. She also took the time to field questions from our group.  Soon the conversation turned to innovation and the future of our district. Thus providing a natural opportunity for her to introduce our new Superintendent.

Redefining Excellence

Pedro Martinez is bold and direct.  This very quickly became evident when he succinctly described the district’s 5-goal and plan, the data and research that support each item and the frame work he is building to make it happen. He also shared a theme he has identified with every conversation he has had since taking on his new role. The analogy he used was that of Charlie Brown and the little grey cloud that hangs over his head.  That cloud is one of low expectations for our district. He also shared an anecdote where an individual or perhaps individuals suggested not every student has to go to college. I was so infuriated by that notion that I went into my memory and re-lived the moment one of my dearest friends told me my expectations [of my son’s school, his teacher, how he should be and could be supported] were too high.  I should be more realistic and lower them. I came back to the present and listened to him tell us how he navigated that conversation. I appreciate that he spoke in way that was authentic and allowed me to connect with him. He is a man who is passionate about education. He knows from first hand experience how education has shaped not only his life, but, as he is the oldest of 10 children, it also shaped the life of his siblings. Education has the power to pull people out of poverty, change the destiny of an individual that person’s immediate family and future generations. He gets it. He’s lived it. My thoughts about what he shared and of him are – Pedro Martinez is authentic and daring us to be as bold as he is. He is daring our community to dream big. He is daring our schools to inspire our children to learn beyond test taking. He is daring our schools and communities to provide our children with a path to college and a better future.  Pedro Martinez is daring our schools and communities to redefine excellence.  All too quickly our time with him ended. During the short break we had before our next workshop, I wondered how many others in the group were still reeling from the realization of another thing he shared: “It is going to take a cultural shift to make this vision a reality.”  How many of us were imagining and felt energized by looking into the future and seeing all of our SAISD children graduate from college?

Discovering Our Values and More

A very engaging woman named Lupita González facilitated our final and most dynamic session. The three objectives she had for us were:  Assist us in discovering our values; provide and overview of the concept of “Appreciative Inquiry”  and provide a framework to help us create lasting change.

It’s challenging to summarize all of the concepts and ideas Lupita helped us navigate. This for me was the most thought provoking and mind opening part of the day. I truly felt transformed by what I learned from her and I will try to distill it into the following two sentences: Each idea, each concept is a tool we can call upon and sharpen not only during our 6-month journey in the Leadership SAISD program, but the rest of our lives. If ever we feel like we have veered off course or a goal seems daunting – we need only to look to our core values, focus on what can be and align the resources we have to help get us there.