May Fast Company : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Shes On A Turnaround Mission From God

by Jill Rosenfeld

Fast Company

May, 2000

Pages 56-58

Sister Barbara Rogers is a 47 year old nun with an MBA from the Yale School of Management. She is currently the headmistress of an all girl school called Newton County Day School, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1989, when Rogers took over, the school had a $160,000 deficit and the enrollment was declining. Since that time, the endowment has increased more than sixfold and the enrollment has risen to a high of 280 students. Construction on both a new arts center and a group of new science labs will begin in June of 2000.

Rogers led this transformation by dusting off a long-neglected set of five goals that the school had adopted in 1975. These goals were used by Rogers to legitimize the tough changes that were needed to build consensus among staff members, raise standards, and boost morale. One of these goals called for a deep respect for intellectual values. To Rogers this meant leaving a slot open, rather than accepting an applicant who didnt meet the schools rigorous admissions standards. This also meant adding an advanced placement physics course to the curriculum, even though only three girls chose to participate in it and even though the school was low on funding. Another one of these goals called for  building community as a Christian value. This meant diversifying the student body and providing transportation for those girls who needed it to be able to participate in after-school activities.

One of Rogerss earliest moves as headmistress was to revise the schools awards policy. Instead of giving an award to every student, Rogers decided to give each class just five awards; one for each of the five goals. Her intention was to raise standards and to create rituals that focused on the schools culture and mission. The new awards policy marked a drastic change and nearly one-fifth of the faculty left after the following school year. Those who stayed or joined later, mobilized around the goals. Today the schools goals appear on its public relations materials. Students and parents are clear about the goals and the mission of this highly successful school.

Setting clearly defined goals and sticking to those goals is extremely difficult in this time of change and unpredictability. I think of OBE and the controversy and problems associated with that concept until its disappearance. Now we are faced with the uncertainties associated with the grad standards and profiles of learning. What will happen when the first lawsuit is filed in International Falls, because a student has not met the standards? Will acceptions be made? These questions are on the minds of educators in our school district and many other school districts throughout Minnesota. Private schools, such as Newton County Day School, can close its doors to students that can not meet certain academic standards. The public schools must open their doors to all students, regardless of academic ability. I agree that goals and standards must be set and that students must be held accountable for the quality of their work, but not all students can pass the standards without provisions for modification. Are we then changing the reason for having the goals or standards in the first place? The future of public education in Minnesota will be filled with change and controversy. As a teacher with less than a dozen years left before retirement, I must say that I am still excited about facing those challenges and controversial issues.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

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