Friday Focus – 9-27-2019

Dear Team

Rock? Paper? Scissors? Usually, I choose rock. Why? The rock is always the solid choice. What do you think of when you hear the word “rock”?

Do you think of an object to be hurled and cause damage? A pebble tossed into a stream, creating ripples that go on and on? Your favorite kind of music?

For me, the word rock makes me think of a solid foundation. A steady constant. An anchor in a chaotic world.

Rocks can be impressive examples of nature’s power and beauty. Like Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredericksburg. A mountain of pink granite, it’s the largest of its kind in the United States, and legend has it the Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche all held it as a spiritual place.

Rocks can also be transformed into works of beauty and remembrance by human hands, like Mount Rushmore, where the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are carved into the granite cliffs of the Black Hills in South Dakota.

Speaking of Mount Rushmore, who would be on the Mount Rushmore of your life? We all need rocks of support—who are yours? Life is better when you don’t go it alone, that’s why we should all reach out, make friends, love family and be masterful at forgiving. We should cultivate those in our professional lives who can be our rocks as well.

Here’s another question. On whose Mount Rushmore would you be on? As a member of our One Family, we get to serve our students, our coworkers, every day. Each day avails many opportunities to be attentive, strong, and supportive for them, our friends, and our families. As you answered the two questions, my hope is that you are not spreading yourself too thin and that you, in fact, have those rocks that you can lean on.

This week we held our first Exchange meeting of the 2019-2020 school year. These gatherings are an opportunity for all of our campus principals and department directors to learn together, get to know each other better, and focus on strategies to help us better serve our students.

In my welcome, I asked each of them to identify one thing that they pledge to work on to improve during the 2019-2020 school year and to select three people to hold them accountable. The improvement goal and there three accountability partners’ names were written on two index cards (one to give to me and one for their supervisor to help them reach their goal). This goes beyond platitudes—I’m expecting monthly check-ins with their three accountability partners to provide feedback and progress. I’ve learned through experience that simple, personal challenges that are meaningful and include accountability partners to keep you in check can lead to personal transformation. My personal goal last year was to be on time and on task for every meeting, appointment, or gathering on my schedule. Knowing my rocks of support would be watching and encouraging helped me stay on track with that goal, resulting in better use of time and strategic, purposeful meetings.

I also challenged our District leaders to take the idea back to their teams. Imagine the positive impact on our students if all 7,000-plus employees identified one simple goal for improvement this year and three accountability partners to keep you on track. Each month ask your accountability partner one simple question, “How am I doing on my goal?” Accountability partner, your job is to be honest in your feedback. Giving someone feedback that they want to hear does more damage than good. The change that will result from successfully following through could be seismic for you and our Destination District!

One challenge. One simple challenge that can be achieved in one year. That’s all I’m asking. I’ve written before about the dash on a tombstone (another meaningful rock). We tend to focus on the birth date and death date, but that dash in between, that’s life. That’s what mattered to that person. That’s laughter and love and heartbreak and joy. The dash is where the living happens. It’s the same with our school year: 2019-2020. The numbers are just the beginning and the end. It’s what happens in between, what is happening now, that matters. And in that dash, you affect change.

We are fortunate and should be proud, to be part of Round Rock ISD for many reasons. But I’ll admit that one of the things I love most about our District is our name. We have fun with it, don’t we? We have RRock Stars, we are RRock Ready, I even named my dog RRanger. But even our Round Rock has a story. And in its way was an anchor, a landmark, a place to find solid footing. Located on the famous Chisholm Trail, it marked the spot where wagons, horses and cattle could safely cross Brushy Creek.

We should be proud of our name and let it inspire us. Let’s find our rocks of support and look to be that anchor for others. I hope you each think of a personal challenge for this year and who your “rocks” will be to help you achieve it. Write me back and tell me about it. I’d love to hear how we’re all working to live up to our name and to do our absolute best for students. If we can do that, test scores and ratings will take care of themselves.

My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock
–  Bob Seger

Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.

Respectfully,

Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools