Super(intendent) Wisdom: Part 2 — Long-Term Interim

Walt Tobin 14May AllendaleLast time, I shared wisdom that I’ve gleaned from my old high school football coach, who is now the Assistant Superintendent of Lexington District 4 (go Swansea High School Tigers!). This is the continuation of that post.

Dr. Walter Tobin came to Allendale last February, as an interim Superintendent, when the previous man in that position had his contract suddenly terminated. (Side note: I think that firing was a terrible decision.) He has now had his interim contract extended several times by the local school board.

My history with Dr. Tobin goes back almost as far as with Coach Maddox. During my last couple of years of high school, Dr. Tobin was the Superintendent of the school district which included Swansea. I was in a school play with his daughter.

Though I didn’t know him then, many of my former coaches and teachers have had great things to say about his leadership. And I’m happy with the leadership that he’s provided in Allendale. He’s come into a tough situation, and helped bring stability.

Of course, this stability will change when a permanent hire is made. But we’ll enjoy it for now.

Beginning Humbly

I’ve talked with him a few times over the past 15 months, including during a School-Community Forum last year. And I was able to hear him cast vision again at a recent community partners breakfast.

As you would expect, I took notes.

In front of about 25 community members and leaders, Dr. Tobin recounted his first days and weeks in Allendale. While many expected him to make immediate changes, he started by learning about the community and the district. He asked a few questions of people he worked with:

  1. Who are you? What makes you you?
  2. What are you doing, that we can build on?
  3. What do you look forward to in the future?

This humble approach is a great reminder for any of us who will be starting new work in a new area. (Note to self . . . .)

Moving Higher

Though his vast experience in education, Dr. Tobin is familiar with the challenges that we face in Allendale. He knows that children here are typically under-resourced and held to low expectations.

He shared an article about and discussed America’s Educational Failings, and explained that we need students in Allendale to be college-prepared and career-ready.

I like this 1-2 combination. While I agree that not every student will go to college, I feel that many education leaders default to minimizing college. Let’s keep our expectations for students high, while also preparing for a Plan B.

Proceeding Forward

He closed his presentation with two things we all need to do:

  1. Regain the pride in our community. Good things are already happening.
  2. Start with ourselves. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make a difference?”

Knowing that many of the students in Allendale are school-dependent (for education, loving relationships, exposure to experiences, and even necessities like healthy food), we must all give a little more effort here, compared to other areas around the state.

Always Learning, and Doing

Coach Maddox and Dr. Tobin have passed on super wisdom to me, and I’m sharing it with you. All that remains now is for us to put it into action.

What can you do, today and persistently, to be another link in the chain?

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