What’s in a Reputation?
December 20, 2018
As someone who was brought up to consider my own reputation as well as that of others, I am fascinated by how elusive that question is. A good reputation is hard to come by and easy to waste. As educators our reputations are often stellar with the parents of our students, yet somehow greatly diminished on a regional or national scale. How can something so important have a relative value depending on who is looking at it?
Because of our dues dollars, I had the privilege to attend the National Council of Urban Education Associations (NCUEA) conference in Des Moines, Iowa two weeks ago with two of our SEA Executive Board members. The three of us came away with new perspectives about unions and unionism. What struck me most, outside of the simple fact of gathering together to increase our power, was the idea of partnerships built around mutual interests.
In one of the break-out sessions at the NCUEA conference, we learned of a school district on the East Coast that is building community partnerships. Their goal was to create an even stronger community around the reality of a ‘students first’ public education. They started with a self-assessment, and then proceeded to an assessment of their own standing in the community, finally landing on shared interests between various members of the local community: PTSA, Parks and Rec., and even local businesses.
In this process, I was struck by a simple question they asked themselves – “What is our reputation?” I almost missed the rest of the presentation because I was so pre-occupied by this simple query. I don’t know what our reputation is in the broader public. I don’t even know what it is amongst our members. And even more importantly, I don’t know what SEA members want our reputation to be. In my experience, a reputation isn’t something you hold, others possess it for you, and you can borrow against it depending on its perceived value. If that is the case, then our reputation is critical to our success.
So, what is our reputation, and what do we want it to be? As a union of educators committed to the common cause of public education, how much does our collective reputation influence our success and failure? To that cause, I will be asking members and individuals in our community to answer the question: “What is our reputation?” I will also be asking the Executive Board to formalize the question in the form of a survey so as to gain a broader understanding of what we want our reputation to be.
I know what kind of organization I want to lead, and those that have come before me have left it in good stead. I have an idea what our reputation may be, but I want to explicitly ask the question without fear of the answer.
SEA is our union and we can build its reputation into whatever best represents us. I look forward to our conversations and to working with you to build a reputation in which all of us find value.