Bibb County Schools are like so many in the 21st century, struggling with children in poverty, educational standardization, declining economic status, changing demographics, and other challenges. At the same time, the Bibb County Schools Board is working to achieve a radical change that is unique among most large American school districts and is positioned to create a positive learning environment in the decade to come.
How then can it capitalize on the upcoming economic and population growth without leaving critical segments of the population behind?
This was one of the key questions at the heart of the Macon Miracle Summits held with Superintendent Romain Dallemand and approximately 4500 teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries, community members and parents in September and October 2011. And it is the ongoing dialogue that remains focused on the positive outcomes for students and their learning achievements that will create the foundation to sustain changes for the greater good.
The Summit served as an opportunity for the Superintendent to comprehensively lay out his vision for the “Macon Miracle” and to provide the public discourse to identify and begin the design of an educational system that address the school district’s core opportunities and challenges in depth. A packed Arena of more than 4300 people participated in the two day-long Summit using an Appreciative Inquiry Model for positive and generative change.
Here is how Superintendent Dallemand introduced his vision for the “Macon Miracle” at the Summit:
We stand at a crossroad in education in Bibb County, Georgia, and the United States. We can either continue down the path we are on now that has led us to a 44% graduation rate or we can select a path that will ensure every child is receiving a high quality education that prepares them for the possibility of a 4-year college degree and leads to a successful life.This is your chance to express how we can best meet the needs of our students and help them succeed and maximize their potential. Our children must be prepared not only for the world they live in now, but also the one they will enter in the future. It is up to every employee, every parent, and every member of this community to provide them with the education, tools, resources, and support to be lifelong learners and to be globally competitive. Our education system is not currently designed to prepare them for a world that is changing on a daily basis. We need a different system, and we have the wonderful opportunity to work together –with the students—to design a system that meets their needs today, tomorrow, and in the future. With a new system, we will bring the best of what we do to help students discover their intelligence and their gifts to improve our community, our state, our nation, and our world. You are a part of something miraculous: creating a better future by improving the lives of children today.
(We as AI Facilitators were at this point so excited yet resolved that our facilitation would be mindful, relaxed and allow their voices to flow.) Using Appreciative Inquiry as the framework for bringing together the voices was a strategic planning decision that Superintendent Dallemand made. Appreciative Inquiry brings about decision making and actions.
Participants generated an impressive set of statements and structured focus areas from these areas. These provided both excellent insights and astute guidance for what the School District and other stakeholders could consider doing going forward.
While 4300 participated in person, others viewed the work on facebook, twitter and via live online, followed by continuous conversation and engagement by face to face meetings at schools and community locations, the school intranet and other online options and with additional surveys designed to gather student input.
Visualize an enormous cement structure with three story high ceilings, no tables, flip chart paper on the floor in the middle of each circle of 8 and up to 2,000 people in an “area” with one, maybe two microphones! It was a humbling experience for the Center for Appreciative Inquiry Design and Facilitation staff to see so many people leaning into the conversation while sitting knee to knee in circles of 8. They were ready to tackle tough issues, and to do so with grace, patience, and intensity. So many people at the end of the day were exhausted, happy and energized. What an extraordinary two days it was for Bibb County Schools. Day two brought new energy as people clearly understood that each voice counted. From the first question with a positive focus: the conversation, the depth of what is and what could be was clear to all of us. The sense of commitment to the children, to the community and to each other was authentic and people found alignment with others that they had not known before.
The feeling to togetherness, sharing achievements and identifying goals are shaping a new and inspired view of the future of education in Macon County. This heighten sense of collaboration and open conversation has continued to provide a background and support for Bibb County Schools as they reach out to the entire community to engage them in “what legacy do we want to live into.”
If you are interested in learning more about Bibb County Schools, check Dr. Romain Dallemand’s Blog and for the Strategic Plan to find out how they are planning for the Macon Miracle, please click here.
For more information about Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning or the Center for Appreciative Inquiry, please contact Kathy Becker by email or phone (702) 228-4699 for a free consultation.
Author: Kathy Becker, Certified Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator and Trainer.