I remember it as if it was yesterday – I was sitting in a large conference room, the lone charter school founder, among nine members of the board of trustees of Renaissance Academy Charter School of the Arts. It was a long road getting there and in just about six weeks, we were scheduled to open our doors to 194 kindergarten through second-grade students and their families. 👨👩👧👦
This should have been a meeting where we tied up loose ends. Unfortunately, we had so much more to discuss. We didn’t have a building in which to open our school and the co-founder, who was also supposed to serve as the head of operations and arts, had resigned.
I knew this was a make it or break it meeting 🎯 As the meeting was called to order, the facilities committee made their report. After losing a lease with another organization, they sought a lease-purchase agreement of a school building in a neighboring school district. The committee was hopeful that the two organizations would come to an agreement, yet we still did not have a confirmed location to open our school, meant to open in less than four weeks 🏨
The second agenda item was the resignation of our co-founder and what our next steps should be. The board urged me to hire a replacement immediately, to lessen the load of opening the school. I declined and explained that it would expend more time and energy bringing someone new up to speed. Instead, I needed to spend my time focusing on teacher training and building school culture💞
At that time, one of the board members voiced her concern that we did not have the leadership to open the school effectively. She urged the board to request a planning year so that we could work out these issues. I listened to her concerns and I understood from where she was coming – I really did. We were at the crossroads of success or failure, and no one wants to be associated with failure. I also understood that if Renaissance Academy Charter School of the Arts did not open as scheduled that August, it never would. The school, the board of trustees, and I would lose all credibility with the families that signed up to join our program. More than that, I felt a commitment to the hundreds of families that I personally met with while registering their children for school. Where would those kids go to school if we did not open? What schools were left for the families? I knew that the only seats left in elementary schools in the Rochester City School District were in the lowest-performing schools, schools to which I would not send my own children. How could I, in good conscience, knowingly send those children to those schools? I had promised those families something more.
I took a deep breath, centered myself, and said, “We are not asking for a planning year. With all due respect, I did not just fall off a turnip truck. I have been a principal before, and I am quite capable of opening this school on my own.” I explained my concerns for the children, their educational future, and the future of our organization. I said, “I made a commitment to these families, their children, and this city. What about the thirty-two staff members who signed employee agreements and who left other positions to join us? What should we tell them?” I asked, further expressing my concern for our staff. 🗣
A board member, sat forward and said, “Let me ask you something, which is more likely to get us sued – asking for a planning year or moving ahead and working to open this school in August?” ❓❓❓❓ “Asking for a planning year,” I quickly responded. He sat back and said, “Then I say we keep going.” The board chairperson asked each member of the board to state their preference and all but one said that we should proceed for August. I breathed a sigh of relief and knew I had the support of the board of trustees, but also that, for me, it was all or nothing. I needed to open this school to fulfill the commitment I made to the families and my community 🏨
The moral of the story: Don’t ever let anyone tell YOU what YOU are CAPABLE of achieving! ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜
In love, leadership, and friendship,
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