July 28, 2008

Three Keys for Green

Maurice "Mo" Green speaks with deliberation, choosing his words carefully and repeating key phrases for emphasis.

Maybe he could have been a teacher. Instead, the Duke-educated lawyer will become Guilford County Schools' first superintendent without classroom experience -- a sore point to some but not a liability that effective leadership can't overcome.

Green will make a good start if he's as good as his word in three key ways:

l He listens and learns. During his visit to Guilford County as a finalist for the job Wednesday, Green said he won't bring a "Mo Green plan of action" from Charlotte, where he's been deputy superintendent for the past two years.

He shouldn't, because Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hasn't solved the big problems of public education, either. And steps leaders there have taken might not work here.

Green promised to learn about Guilford County, its issues and its desires for the school system and then to work collaboratively to set goals and design plans to achieve them.

l He demands a lot of students, school employees and himself. One of his favorite phrases is "call the question." It means getting to what matters. In school, what matters is giving students the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing economy -- and that requires creative teachers, innovative principals, adequate resources and excellent facilities. We won't settle for "incremental progress," he said.

l His role is to serve: "I tell principals, I am your servant. The role I play is to serve you. You're doing the work." Exactly. Principals establish the educational environment in each school. But they need the superintendent's support to make sure that they have a strong faculty and staff, that they have authority to make necessary decisions without fear of recriminations, that central-office policies promote a better school climate rather than undermine it.

Green holds strong views on many subjects. He sounds conservative when talking about discipline, dress, conduct and attitudes toward learning. He was brought up in a family where great value was placed on education, by a widowed mother who became a teacher herself. So, when Green says he "reveres teachers," it's personal.

He speaks in a forthright, easy-to-understand manner. He's not a fast talker. He appears to possess an analytical mind and a calm, quiet strength.

The school board has put its confidence in him, which Green will earn if he listens and learns well, demands excellence of himself and others and truly sees his role as serving the educators who work every day in Guilford County classrooms.

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