What IS Systemic Change?

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"A Former Board member's view from the OTHER side of the table."
Molalla River "BoardWatch" Website

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Since the Board of Education will no longer be providing video-taping for cablecast (effective July, 2002), suspended delivery of the "Molalla River Reporter" and stopped communication with the "Educational Ambassadors" (September, 2002) I have tried to provide information regarding education concerns for interested persons:

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The Blueberry Story

If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"

I stood before an auditorium filled with indignant teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. I represented a Business Roundtable dedicated to improving public schools. I said that public schools were antiquated and that teachers and administrators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by a monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! Continuous improvement! TQM! As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant - she was, in fact, a razor- edged, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.

She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

I smugly replied, "People Magazine chose our blueberry as 'The Best Ice Cream in America,' Ma'am."

"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"

"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.

"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.
"Superpremium! Nothing but AAA." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

"Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap. I knew I was dead, but I wasn't going to lie.

"I send them back."

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school!"

In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"

And so my long transformation began.

I have learned that, unlike business, schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups, and they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream.

None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post- industrial society. But these changes can occur only
with the understanding, trust, permission, and active support of the surrounding community. For the most
important thing that I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and the health of the
communities they serve, and therefore improving public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.


Most teachers and administrators have never done a better job; they are teaching more students in
more subjects to higher levels than ever
before. Millions of Americans are convinced, however, that our public schools used to be better. They are suffering from a debilitating mental condition that I call NOSTESIA* an hallucinogenic cocktail of nostalgia and amnesia that results in the glorification of a past that never was.  Miracles occur in America's classrooms every day. We must fight nostesia and celebrate success. It is time to stand up for America's public schools.

*Use the following equation to determine
an individual's nostesia quotient:

represents a person's age and 0 is number of years he or she has been out of school. Further multiply this number by 2 if the person works in higher education.
Anyone with an NQ over 2000 will likely
be beyond rational thought on the topic.

To invite Jamie to speak
please call 641-472-1558,
or e-mail jamie@jamievollmer.com