Searching for Education Land of Oz

For those who long for an education renaissance, look in the mirror and across your own front and back yards. There you will find the education and community wizards to lead the education renaissance that you desire to see.

For caring adults who are looking for education champion leaders to lead you to the promised land of high student achievement, I offer a simple suggestion. And that is look into the mirror and across your front and back yards because you and your neighbors are the champion leaders that you are looking for. There is no one else that has a greater vision, dream, passion, commitment or desire to see your children and their friends achieve at the highest levels than you and your neighbors. There is no one else that has more invested in your children than you and your neighbors. There is no one more qualified to develop and execute a comprehensive education improvement plan for the school children in your neighborhood than you and your neighbors. And there is no one else better positioned to pull together the cross-sectional support to implement and execute a plan than you and your neighbors.

For the last 20 years, I have engaged with educators, administrators, local and state board members, superintendents, and legislators working to promote education reform that would improve student academic achievement. This odyssey began in 1999 when the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights cited the Cabell, Kanawha, and Raleigh County School Systems for the disproportionate over-representation of African American students in special education and their under-representation in the gifted programs.

I liken my odyssey to that of Dorothy and her friends in the classical movie for all ages, the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy wanted to get back to Kansas, Scarecrow wanted a brain, Tin Man wanted a heart, Cowardly Lion wanted some courage and Toto, just wanted to be with Dorothy. They joined Dorothy on the yellow brick road and were off on exciting adventure to see the wonderful Wizard of Oz. They each had high hopes that the magnificent Wizard of Oz would grant their request. However; they were greatly disappointed to find that the Wizard really wasn’t a Wizard after all. However, during their herring experience on their journey to Oz, they learned that what they were looking for, they already possessed. It only took the trials of their life experiences to bring to the surface the virtue that was in each of them.

Much like Dorothy and her friends, for the past 20 years, I have been searching for the magical Land of Education Oz. Where there would be a mystical Legislative Wizard that would grant my heart’s desire of high academic achievement for West Virginia’s school-age children. And like Dorothy and her friends, I have discovered there is no legislative Land of Oz or a Wizard. And much like Dorothy, I have concluded that to find my heart’s desire of champion leaders that can lead us to high student achievement, then I should first look in the mirror and then across my front and back yards to my neighbors. Because if I don’t find them there, then I probably won’t find them anywhere. Because across my own front and backyards are the people who love the children the most and know them the best. And they know and love their communities the most. They have the most to gain if their children achieve at high levels, and the most to lose if they don’t. Furthermore, they are better position to mobilize parents, community residents, business and faith leaders to support their efforts.