Vail Daily’s View: School district unafraid to get real
Vail, CO Colorado
The Eagle County School District has done something remarkable for an organization known in the past to be a little, er, touchy about its brand.
Much of today’s corporate marketing and public relations come off as less than real for a rather manic obsession with image – and that image, of course, being maybe a little too perfect.
School districts – not to mention networks and media companies with newspapers – are not immune to the malady.
We want to be seen as sincere and authentic, and there’s no lack of scholarship on techniques and practices to go about achieving the illusion. We just don’t necessarily want to practice the sincere and authentic act of admitting that maybe we’re not always all that in a world where real humans dwell and work at our perfect organizations true to their imperfect natures, best intentions and all.
“Eagle County Schools” (the name a telltale part of the branding effort) endured a crisis of confidence a few years ago as several new private and charter schools opened. Some administrators changed, new programs were implemented, teaching methods overhauled and facilities upgraded all in that quest to be better. The district did and is doing exactly what all the public school systems should be doing: working very hard to improve American education.
To that end, they did something that might seem to run against the grain of trying to project an image of greatness but surely advances their prospects for actually reaching it.
This school year, they invited educational experts to scrutinize the district’s academic efforts and report straight up what they found.
The report was blunt in declaring that the district generally needs to improve in “academic rigor” and included a fair number of specifics that led to this conclusion. Ouch.
School district leaders, from board members to principals, for their part did a minimum of trying to discount the observations and focused instead on how to use the report to continue improving.
This self-reflection, never mind encouraging a blunt report on shortcomings in the first place, may not have happened a few years ago.
The underlying message of this actually is encouraging if you think about it. We know our school district is quite good. Our children can and do regularly go on to pursue their highest dreams from here. And we also know that our schools – like pretty much all others – can do better, in some respects a lot better. That’s not really news.
But district leaders showing the confidence to examine brutal realities and discuss them with candor, now that’s a real step forward. This is healthy for the community the district serves as well as the district itself.
This encourages confidence that they truly are serious about improving the academics. It’s an act of authentic sincerity that says hang the branding, let’s really get better for the kids, no excuses.
And if ultimately that winds up helping the brand, so much the better.
Vail Daily Editorial Board