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Bellevue Superintendent: An Open Letter to Supporters

Quantitative researchers claim that everything can be analyzed and generalized through numeric measures.  While I understand this from a mathematical standpoint, I disagree fully with this notion.  One of the many beauties of life is that emotion is ever-evolving and elusive.  You can’t, and shouldn’t try to, put a number or numeric value on personal feeling.  Or motivation.  Or persistence.  Or effort.  Only the bearer of those thoughts knows exactly the intensity of how he or she feels. 

One of my favorite movies is Bull Durham.  If you’ve been around the game for any length of time, you know that baseball is notorious for using statistics.  For example, this is why you see so many pitching changes late in a game.  The managers are playing percentages based on hundreds of similar previous events.  But every so often, and probably more often than we know, you’ll hear a manager start a post-game sentence with, “I know what the book says, but my gut…”  There are some things you just can’t measure.  Instinct.  Urgency.  Appreciation. They come from experience.  Interwoven in Bull Durham is a love story, so you have these very two different worlds competing against each other: one quantitative and the other purely emotional. In fact, one of the best lines in the movie is from Kevin Costner’s character Crash Davis who said, “I don’t believe in quantum physics when it comes to matters of the heart.”

Education has become a poster child for quantitative measures.  Data now permeates every corner of our school buildings.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m in no way anti-data.  We need it to help our kids improve.  We need it to set goals.  We need it as a basis for our reliance on formative assessment in the classroom.  Data is good…and we will use it.  Our district will be publicly judged by quantitative measures, and I welcome this.  Our goals will be listed in our school and district improvement plans for the world to see.

I also embrace judgment in the aforementioned matters of the heart.  My purpose with this letter is to provide you with a clear description of how Bellevue Independent Schools will conduct the business of teaching and learning and how I, as superintendent, will lead those efforts.  I call them assurances. 

As your superintendent:

  • I assure Bellevue Independent Schools will have an open door policy with the community and that I am accessible.
  • I assure Bellevue Independent Schools will be a collaborative partner with organizations contributing to a better community.
  • I assure employing only the most competent and dedicated professionals who place students as their priority.
  • I assure an inviting and welcoming environment for students and parents.
  • I assure intentional focus on providing safe school buildings.
  • I assure an instructional approach that focuses on the whole child – academic, vocational, social, and emotional.
  • I assure attention to individual students, irrespective of diverse needs.
  • I assure high expectations.
  • I assure an investment in all employees so that they may grow professionally.
  • I assure fiscal responsibility and the analysis of every resource as it pertains to student growth and achievement.
  • I assure collaboration with the community, region, and state for the benefit of our students.
  • I assure experiences designed to ensure that our students become more than stringent academics, but citizens of an increasingly communal world.
  • I assure attention to sportsmanship and empathy for fellow man.
  • I assure the opportunity to dream.
  • I assure that every decision made will parallel the hopes, needs, and wishes of our kids.
  • Most importantly, I assure personal ownership of any breach or infringement of these assurances.

There is no price tag on trust or confidence in others and, in my opinion, no method to accurately quantify it, either.  I am not asking for blind faith in me or the school system.  I am asking for the opportunity to earn it through personal interactions.  These assurances may or may not show up in a school report card or a rank list of test scores, but they will show up in the evolution of our community and in our kids’ futures.

I appreciate your support of Bellevue Independent Schools.

Written by Robb Smith, superintendent of Bellevue Independent Schools, as originally published on his blog

Photo: Robb Smith via Bellevue Independent Schools