The question often arises in conversation here locally, especially among educators (those I know) – has public education (K – 12) become a business? The answer should be obvious, yes; big business with grave political ramifications for those who are underserved and most impacted by the current business, political model.
However, unlike big business (Bank of America, Carolinas Medical Center, University of North Carolina, Charlotte) seeking the help of an organization development (OD) consultant or change agent is not common for a school district; at least none that I know of and if I am wrong, please educate me. This work for most school boards nationally, so they think, is best left to hiring a new superintendent, which the rotation is akin to running for local office; three to five years and the superintendent moves on leaving much to be said for purposeful continuity. But then some would argue, how long should a superintendent serve? Good argument.
The concept of change agent, like leader, evokes a myriad of descriptions based on gender, circumstances, age, environment, and occupation. And like the role of leader, the change agent will work through one or two mediums, task management or relationship building. However, research opines organization effectiveness is attributed to leaders who accomplish both in tandem; “According to some, the “best” leaders are those who exhibit high levels of both task and relationship behaviors (Hall and Hord, 2011, p. 120).” This construct should be looked upon favorably as the concept for 21st century leadership reflects leaders who possess competencies in being environmentally and culturally literate, collaborative, visionary, empathetic, empowering others and the capacity for shared leadership.
With respect to public education, what should be the role of “change agent?” I would offer that the change agent should have the capacity (I use this word as the depth of ability) to influence change in a school district and or designated schools effecting improved efficiency relative to the circumstances and desired outcome. Because I am in agreement with the task and relationship behavior competency model in effecting effective and sustainable change, I will address both formal and informal influence capacity of the effective change agent.
The formal influence of the change agent is attributed to an associated hierarchy that dictates the nuances of the desired change or a strategized structured alignment of how the desired change will take place with rules and procedures for guidance and compliance. Conversely, change agents informally influence change through their knowledge and application of relationship skills; accepting of, tolerance for others input. Attributed to the author Mendez-Morse (1992), Leadership Characteristics that Facilitate School Change, in the section – Current leadership research; subsection, Valuing human resources – “Leaders… provide an environment that promotes individual contributions to the organization’s work; Leaders develop and maintain collaborative relationships formed during the development and adoption of the shared vision.”
Therefore, the effective change agent in public education, accepting shared leadership, ensures that teachers understand that they are leaders as well given their roles in school; formal, informal and are also expected to bridge task and relationships to effect change. Hall and Hord (2011) state, becoming an effective change agent requires being sensitive to people (people represents parents and students for this article) and their needs, as well as being expert with the innovation (p. 229). I reference innovation to 21st century instructional delivery in education through the use of available technology as current and relevant as possible to the respective content.
In closing, the current atmosphere of blaming others, global to local, leaders are often portraying “Teflon Dons” and screaming not my fault; it’s the other guy or my predecessor. As a military careerist, I was taught that you can always delegate authority; however, never responsibility. Teachers don’t establish district instructional mandates. Collectively, teachers are not the problem but a part of the resolution, which an effective change agent would prove. Effective change agents, leaders, superintendents, whichever title we attribute to the role of public education leader, must understand and accept that regardless of federal mandates and teacher evaluative measures, success will not be accomplished in public education until existing roles and relationships (schools, parents, community, and business) are realigned to fit the new initiative (Bolman and Deal, 2008, p. 382); whatever that may be that is proposed.
Bolman, Lee G., Deal, Terrence E. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and
leadership, Fourth edition. Jossey-Bass a Wiley-imprint, San Francisco, CA.
Hall, George E., Hord, Shirley M. (2011). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and
potholes, 3rd Ed., Prentice Hall publications.
Mendez-Morse, Sylvia (1992). Leadership Characteristics that Facilitate School Change,
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Retrieved from http://www.sedl.org/ change/leadership/welcome.html.