Happy New Year!  It is my sincerest hope that 2013 will bring peace, happiness and success to you and your loved ones.  The New Year also gives us the opportunity to move forward as education advocates and members of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

When I was named NJSBA executive director this fall, I made a commitment to change our good organization to a great one.  The term “good to great” is more than just a catchy phrase; it’s the title of a five-year research project described in the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Other Don’t by Jim Collins.

As I’ve done with my administrative team as a district superintendent, and am doing now with our NJSBA staff, I use Good to Great as a source of information and motivation.

The book describes common strategies and characteristics of 11 companies that attained and sustained peak performance.  These companies were not among the so-called glamour stocks of their day, nor were they led by high-profile celebrity CEOs.  Some were established more than 100 years ago, and toward the end of the 20th century found the right combination of attitude, practice and values to advance to top performance in their markets.

Collins identified eight types of common characteristics—too many to describe in a single email message.  One that I want to share with you is “confronting the brutal facts.”  The practice is not always as harsh as it sounds.  The author summarizes it as follows:

… the humility to grasp the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights.

At its most basic level, the effort involves…listening.

As we move NJSBA from good to great, listening—that is, being genuinely interested in what you, the members, have to say—will be crucial.  Toward this goal, I have taken two steps: first, I am in the process of visiting every county school boards association to exchange ideas with our members; and, second, I have directed our staff to issue a needs assessment to all members. The electronic survey was recently sent via email.  We want to determine not only how well we’re performing, but also the programs and services you need to perform your responsibilities effectively.

Your input on the needs assessment, which delves into advocacy, training and new services, will be invaluable in confronting the facts, making you a better board member and, in the process, strengthening NJSBA.  (If you have not received the electronic survey, please contact Lauren Cuervo, NJSBA marketing manager, at [email protected].)

As the New Jersey School Boards Association approaches its centennial year (2014), a straightforward, unvarnished assessment will be necessary in moving us from good to great.

These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours.  Contact me at [email protected]