(Reader note: Welcome to the sixth in a series of weekly articles meant to stimulate thought and ideas. I am the only candidate offering weekly ideas to improve our schools.)
You’ve probably heard this definition of insanity in one form or another. It usually describes doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. I don’t know that it is an accurate description of insanity, but I do know that it’s not a good personal policy and certainly not recommended when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.
For nine years, I worked in a national advertising agency, working my way up from copywriter to vice-president, marketing. At that point, my job was to attract new clients. When I was finally in charge, one of my missions was to put tighter controls on our marketing efforts and change things as soon as we had evidence that what we were doing was not working.
But I also had to allow for testing, and devoted about 20% of my marketing budget to new ideas that were presented in weekly meetings. Some of those things worked, some of them did not.
One of the ones that worked was the one most people said would fail miserably.
On the flight home from an unsuccessful business trip in Boise, Idaho, I took my frustrations out on my laptop and wrote a letter to our prospective clients. It started out as a story, then finished with a pitch for our services. I am a fan of this style, which is called “story selling.” The final draft of the letter was five pages long.
We packaged it in a #10 envelope without anything else inside – just the letter.
Long story short, the letter was a huge success and generated millions of dollars in revenue during the three years it was used.
I was reminded of the letter and that test we conducted when I was researching the success or failure of same sex schools. Frankly, the results in the U.S. are mixed and depending which side you are on, you can find reliable evidence to support it.
Most of the schools in our district do not need the drastic overhaul that a same sex school would require. But what if a school were underperforming for several years and despite changes in administration and some other smaller attempts to right the ship the desired results were still not being achieved? Would it be smart to keep doing more or less the same thing over and over hoping for a different result? In that case, would a same sex school concept warrant, at the very least, a discussion of the pros and cons?
In a campaign several years ago, one current school board member advocated “fresh ideas.” I like fresh ideas, too. Here’s hoping that the discussion of the fresh idea of same sex schools in a few of our locations doesn’t wind up like my five-page letter would have had I not been in charge.