Question: What is your vision as a leader?
Andres Alonso: My vision is for every parent to have a choice of a great school. A great school meaning a school where every classroom has a great teach and every child, no matter what their point of entry, is being served with love, with intelligence. It’s that simple. Everything else is a means to that end.
One key element of my vision is that people just have to be better at their jobs. I mean, I remember this exchange at a cabinet meeting very early at my arriving in Baltimore where I think I’m very simple person in terms of how I see the work, and I remember this person, who still works for me and very young, somebody I like, very talented, who at some point says to me, “The problem is that I don’t think the cabinet understand your vision.” And at that point in the game my response was, “Okay, I’ll tell you what my vision is. I want everybody to do their job better. As in, if everybody does their job better, then by the finish in the school system is going to get much better, as in, come on, let’s have the numbers be right. Let’s have the food be better in the cafeteria. Let’s have the parents feel that when they show up in September the schools are clean, the books are in classrooms.”
Those amazingly simple things add up to a functioning school system. Most school systems that are chronically underperforming have extraordinary performance gaps and people talk about the achievement gap, they have operational gaps and those operational gaps need to be closed so that the adults who are in front of the kids can concentrate on getting better at teaching their kids.
So, a lot of the vision is about the idea of inspiring people to believe that kids can learn and that there are no excuses, etc. But, a lot of the work is simply about, you know, as the manager of a huge business operation, to get that operation to function better. So, it’s this combination between the idea of the transformational leader, but I think we’ve sold short the notion of really good managerial leadership. So, I think both things are necessary.