Change Happens

By Lawrence Hardy

When Superintendent Kenneth Marang asked his board members to hire a curriculum director for their 2,400-student district in southeastern Iowa, the response was unequivocal.

Unequivocally negative.

Absolutely not, they told Marang. We don’t need that. We’re too small, they said. We’re “top heavy” as it is. We’re getting along fine without one.

For Marang, the administrator and former football coach recently brought in from Denver, the experience was excruciating. “That was a change—change that had never happened in this district,” he says. “You’d think I was pulling all their wisdom teeth.”

This isn’t the story you might think. It’s not about a “bad board,” but quite the opposite. In the end, Marang got a curriculum director for the Fort Madison School District—and not necessarily because of his charm or persuasive powers (although that never hurts). He got it because of the personal dynamics of the board itself, this board for whom hiring a curriculum director seemed akin to visiting the dentist.

We could tell you that Marang had data showing Fort Madison wasn’t administrator-heavy after all, or that he showed how a curriculum director could boost student achievement—and that’s all true. But something more basic and significant happened: Fort Madison became a district that—by virtue of the relationships forged between school leaders—could accept and embrace change. 

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