Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Business of Schooling

Educators typically resist comparisons between business and education, after all schools are not profit driven. When you think of business, I am sure that schools aren't the first things that come to mind. Business exists to make profit for shareholders and investors. This is typically accomplished through the manufacture of a product by starting with a raw material, and then selling it for more than it cost to produce. Or the business provides a valuable service or commodity that is sold for a profit. 

Obviously education as an institution does not exist to make a profit. But make no mistake, we are producing a very valuable commodity. Our stockholder group is immense, and these investors expect a return on their investment. The raw material that we begin with is rough; but shaped, molded and fine tuned over the course of many years it will produce what we hope will one day become a stockholder in our enterprise.

The raw material that we work with is the student. Our challenge is that each unit of raw material is special and unique. Each begins at a different point and requires an individualized approach to learning. Some students enter kindergarten with a vocabulary of 13,000 words while another may have a vocabulary of 7,000. This variable will undoubtedly contribute to the rate at which the youngster learns to read. As these children go through school they will continue to grow and learn at different rates. Some will need extra time to learn the skills and content of some academic disciplines, while others will pick up these aptitudes a bit quicker.

The business of schooling is a very labor intensive enterprise. Our labor force is complex and composed of multiple divisions; all of which play a critical role in our enterprise. First is a highly trained group of teachers and paraprofessionals. Teachers and paraprofessionals work with the students entrusted to them and fully understand that there is no quality control department that can be blamed when the instruction fails to meet the needs of the learner. This group [of teachers and paraprofessionals] is essential to the functioning of the school. They must have the ability to mold their students in a manner that ensures continued growth, no matter where they fall on that spectrum of preparedness. They must be well equipped to solve problems of instruction, and have in their toolbox a plethora of instructional strategies designed to meet the needs of an ever changing diverse group of learners. 

An often overlooked division of the school is the transportation department. How else might you get the students to the 'business' that is the school? The drivers of our fleet have the responsibility of ensuring the safe delivery of this precious cargo to and from the school each and every day. Often times the school bus driver is the first representative of the school that the students see each day. In addition to the safe passage of our young people, it is the drivers who have the most contact with the public. It is through the interactions of these drivers who log somewhere in the vicinity of 70,000 miles per year (enough to circle the globe almost three times) that they act as Ambassadors of the school.

The maintenance department is another division of our enterprise that is sometimes not noticed--unless of course there is a problem. With a staff of only 5; this group has the responsibility of ensuring that our facilities are clean and safe every day. Summertime is among the busiest for this division. Every piece of furniture is touched, cleaned, and moved into the hallways so all the floors can be waxed and prepared for the new school year. Equipment repairs that they didn't have time to complete during the school year are completed, and other projects are completed that can only be done while students are out of the buildings.

Food service practically serves as an enterprise in it's own right. During the 2013-2014 school year, this division served approximately 77,441 meals! With a staff of 10, they are responsible for ensuring that our student body has nutritious and healthy meals. Without this division, it would be nearly impossible to fulfill our educational mission. Hungry students do not learn well!

When you think of administration, I am sure that you automatically think of the building principals and superintendent--but the folks that really make the school run smoothly are the clerical staff. Once again, a small staff of 6; this group knows where everyone is, how to answer the multitude of questions that come their way, and do their best to make sure that everyone is well taken care of! Like the transportation department, this group often times has the greatest contact with the public and serve as Ambassadors to the school district.

If you count it all up, the school employs approximately 120 individuals. With an annual budget approaching $10 Million, it is important to remember that each one of us that pays taxes is a stockholder in this enterprise. Our expectation for a return on investment should be graduates of our school who are college or career ready. We should expect those 'end products' to ultimately become Contributing Citizens where they can contribute to our economy and society as a whole. 

No comments:

Post a Comment