|Mighty, yes; savior, no. And that's no dig either.|
First Royster. It was gratifying to note her elevation to Police Chief of our nation’s largest city. Royster’s advancement from Deputy Chief will make her the highest-ranking black woman in the history of the New York Police Department, according to reports. I celebrate her achievement but her promotion is accompanied by some unwelcome baggage.
Royster has nearly 30 years of experience with the department. That’s not the problem though. Neither is the fact that she started her career with NYPD as a police administrative aide. Nor is it that she’s a mother of two.
What’s troubling is this: Royster is a person. A human being. Why is that a problem? In and of itself it’s not. The thing is, there’s a whole lot of expectations that this one individual can affect change, in short order, to a system that was established 170 years ago. It’s the largest municipal police force in the country, with a reported uniform strength of about 34,500 people.
A lot of folks are pinning their hopes on Royster to markedly improve department levels of racial and gender equity. That’s real heavy lifting for just one person.
This same issue’s on an even larger scale at the national level. Even before his election, idealistic supporters cast President Obama in the role of savior. What we found out all too quickly though is that like Royster, the president is just one person. The result was sobering disappointment and in a lot of cases outright disapproval.
|Royster is super too; but no miracle worker to be idolized|
Indeed, the very purpose of these institutional elements is to keep the organization, and therefore the system, running smoothly. That makes change difficult; even when the change is in the best interests of all involved.
External forces are also a factor. Meddling outsiders, politics, regulations and other dynamics all influence, even mandate what happens inside a given institution. To the extent that no one person can affect significant change when faced with so many moving parts – most of which are designed to discourage, and in some cases actively resist change.
About Linda Hicks. Like Royster and Obama, the former BCPS superintendent suffers from the human condition of only being one person.
On occasion I got to work up close and personal with Hicks. From my perspective she did everything humanly possible to strengthen and repair BCPS. Unfortunately, she was faced with too much, too little, too late.
Like her predecessor, Hicks took the reins of a system that had been steadily losing its base of support. The core of that base is people. Students. With bleeding levels of enrollment came (or rather went) government financial support. Fewer students means fewer dollars, resulting in fewer education resources and tools. That translates to poorer outcomes.
|Linda Hicks gave 110 percent|
Like many urban school systems, BCPS is broken. Its problems are many and not just confined to the classroom. Issues are internal and external, from scarce resources to indifferent parents and teachers to meddling adjacent school systems to the state school board and legislators who lack conviction. The breadth of the dysfunction is out of any one person’s control, no matter their job title.
Did Hicks make mistakes? Who doesn’t? But let’s not forget the good. According to a school board statement, Hicks developed and implemented a successful Ninth Grade Academy that improved graduation rates. She managed the district’s relocation of the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center to downtown. She also transitioned Dudley Elementary into a STEM school. Not bad.
It’s time we stopped bringing in “saviors” only to scapegoat them when spectacular results aren’t immediately realized. Instead, let’s surface holistic approaches to building community, ones in which leaders feel supported rather than antagonized.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.