Thoughts on the Takeover: Encouraging Words

“Encourage one another” was the headline in an email message I received today from the minister of my church. It cites the Biblical example of Barnabas and how his encouragement helped early Christians.

Some of the advice I heard often from my mother – a teacher for 40 years – was to “be an encourager.” As a Head Start and special education teacher, she showed every day how that worked in classrooms of kids who struggled, with families who struggled. She was a popular teacher; Teacher of the Year in our community.

Think of how it feels for you – even highly educated professionals – when someone notes an accomplishment or encourages you through tough assignments. Think of what is like to have a boss or a parent who constantly belittles.

Culture is the environment in which you live and work. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio talked about the importance of a positive school and district culture focused on high standards as he made the rounds to civic groups recently introducing himself and talking about our school system.

His messages to the community about JCPS are encouraging. Employees are responding, the board is responding and the community is responding with admiration and support.

He knows there are problems, and they must be dealt with. But building a overall culture that results in success calls for encouragement, not negativity.

In his May 3 video message, Dr. Pollio said, “I can’t say how proud I am of the work that has taken place over the last 10 months.” That message was for everyone who works for JCPS, and it gives them strength and confidence at a time that daily news reports constant criticism.

I have been disappointed in the words coming from our civic and political leaders recently – really over the past several years – about Jefferson County Public Schools. It’s a bad business tactic. It divides us, and that, by definition, is bad politics.

Gov. Bevin’s comments about JCPS, its teachers union and school board, are not helpful. He has criticized teachers, called judges “incompetent,” said the school board has “failed miserably,” and that the district is a “disaster.” His most recent comments refer to the proposed takeover by the state of the school system. This talk slows progress, demeans educators, and misleads the community about the impact of the elected school board.

It sometimes feels good to respond in kind, but it isn’t really productive; it doesn’t provide any constructive solutions.

So I am offering my suggestion for how to support our district’s leaders and all of the people who work every day to help kids: Encourage them.

Encouragement is professional and productive. Its good business, and it is also good politics.


About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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3 Responses to Thoughts on the Takeover: Encouraging Words

  1. Riley Ramsey says:

    Ms. Debbie,
    Very well written, and well said. As a former teacher, and administrator (I’m now retired), this kind of attitude will go along way to encourage our children, our teachers, staff and parents. Your grade: A+

  2. Brad Matthews says:

    Very well said!!!!!!!!!!

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