Everyone has a stake in this

Julie Brown

Julie Richardson Brown (BF '12) B.A., M. Div., community integration coordinator, Family Scholar House

Bingham Fellows 2012 February program day

I arrived for day two of the 2012 Bingham Fellows Opening Retreat before the sun had even come up, fumbling out of my coat and stumbling towards coffee on automatic pilot. Only a few others had arrived and it was still quiet, so I slipped over to the enormous windows lining one side of our meeting room.

We were at least twenty floors above ground-level and as I drew up close to the windows a wide expanse of the city of Louisville appeared. Cars were beginning to populate the interstate. Activity had begun in the streets below. Things hadn’t quite exploded into a busy city weekday yet–but you could feel it coming. Feel the just-before-full-dawn energy building. To my right the sun was climbing up out of the horizon, a brilliant hot pink and orange. To my left a flock of wild geese–so completely out of place–flew high and fast over office buildings and hospital towers, disappearing into morning clouds almost before I realized they were there at all.

It was a big-picture moment. And I could not help but think, as I stood there letting coffee and time do their work on my still-sleepy body and brain, that it was the most perfect of places to set about the task of being a Bingham Fellow. An ideal spot to think, “common good,” “whole community,” “all in this together.”

We’re charged with thinking about how we might–as an entire community here in Louisville–set about encouraging and supporting parental and community engagement in student achievement. And then, doing something about what we come up with–putting thought into action in a way that encourages our students to do and be their very best, that helps families see that education is both a family and community project, and a lifelong process. No simple task.

It is safe to say that intelligences, emotions, tempers, personalities and anxieties are running high from the get go. Everyone has a stake in this. Everyone has a child or a grandchild or a niece or a nephew or a friend involved in our education system. Everyone wants the best for their own children, but also for all children (and yes, I really do believe, at our best selves, we want what’s best for them all). And because those of us who comprise the Bingham Fellows class are all driven and passionate people–leaders in our work places and individual communities–we also all have our own supposed ideas of THE most important part of the problem and perhaps even, THE solution to it all.

And what we really have to be able to do is get all of that out of the way and position ourselves so that we can see big-picture–high enough and wide enough that our own stuff gets lost in what it means to be about the common good.

It will not be easy. It won’t even always be pleasant. And I imagine that somewhere along the way at least a few of us will want to quit. I also know—I can already tell from two days together–that we’re up to the task. And that somehow we’ll manage to think beyond ourselves and into what it means to be part–just part–of the village raising our children here in Jefferson County.

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When it comes to justice, compassion and accountability are not mutually exclusive

Elaine Gravatte

Elaine Gravatte (LL '12) senior vice president, operations, DD Williamson

Leadership Louisville 2012 program day at Metro Corrections

I don’t spend much time in my day-to-day life thinking about our justice system. Until recently, I was ignorant of much of the workings of our Department of Corrections as well as the work being done to change how we approach “corrections” in Louisville. In January, Leadership Louisville exposed our group to the interworkings of Metro Corrections and presented us with local supporters of Restorative Justice.

During our tour of Metro Corrections, I was struck by waves of resignation and defensiveness from the inmates; expressions of respect and humanity from Metro Corrections staff; and the combination of pride and frustration from the Director.

I found it most difficult to observe inmates behind bars and glass, held in common rooms with up to 30 people in an area. I didn’t know where to look, how to engage with the eyes looking back at me. Although the facility was very clean and under good control, I was overwhelmed by the number of people – cell after cell of humanity confined to very basic living conditions.

I was shocked by many of the statistics given – that a facility built to house 1,793 individuals averages 1,992 per day and that it costs $65 to house an inmate per day. In other words, we could pay for a 4-year degree for less than it costs us to incarcerate one inmate for one year. With budget shortfalls and as a country with one of the highest incarceration rates in the developed world, clearly there are changes that must be made.

Next we discussed one such change that is in its infancy in Louisville. We were joined by a panel of legal and political professionals who are working to pilot a program known as restorative justice for juveniles in Louisville.

Restorative justice defines crime as a violation of people and relationships, and focuses justice on making things right with victims of the crime. In practice it takes more-up front work than arrest and incarceration – the police have to determine whether a young offender is receptive to the process, all parties must agree to participate and everyone has to arrange for supporters they might need. However, initial results are very positive – when those who have committed a crime are forced to face those who were harmed and offer up some repair, reality sets in and the youth may choose a different path going forward.

The program has been proven in systems elsewhere to dramatically reduce recidivism – in New Zealand where the program has been in place the longest, arrest rates were reduced by more than half. The participants made the distinction this way – we might apply justice differently for “those we are afraid of than for those we are simply mad at.” This principle resonates with me. Others might be fearful that we would become too soft on crime with such programs in place; but for some, facing the reality of your actions can be much more difficult than paying dues to society as it is traditionally done.

I came away from this program day with a sense of hope that restorative justice may turn the tide for young people who might otherwise be just one of those faces behind the glass.

New favorites in my leadership toolbox

Reanna Smith-Hamblin

Reanna Smith-Hamblin (IL '12) vice president/ communications, Better Business Bureau, serving Louisville, Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky

Ignite Louisville 2012 program day at Yum! Brands

From Colonel Sanders’ white suit and secret doors in David Novak’s office to motivating leadership tools and culture, our Ignite Louisville day with Yum! Brands was an invigorating way to start the new year. Banners in bold colors were at every turn within Yum! Headquarters, inviting us in and demonstrating the excitement I’ve heard about from those who work there.

We were introduced to Yum!’s program, “Achieving Breakthrough Results” (ABR), designed with help from John O’Keeffe, a management consultant who wrote Business Beyond the Box. The program filled my leadership toolbox and I will share a few of my favorite tools I plan to use!

One of the most important tools for me was to Schedule Thinking Time. Schedule 30 minutes, two time times per week, to THINK! Some of your best ideas can come from this scheduled thinking time. Do it in an environment you are comfortable in. Think. Is that in your office? With music blaring? With the lights off? Mark your calendar!

Another valuable tool – Mind Mapping! It helps you categorize what could be a very big picture. For example, in an exercise, we had 30 seconds to come up with “things to do in Louisville.” By creating a Mind Map, we came up with a larger list of things to do than we would have without the map.

Jigsaw Achievement could help me with my mission to become President of the BBB when ours retires. In preparing for this position, I have often thought about all of the jobs I will be responsible for when/if I take his position. These are all parts of the jigsaw puzzle that I need to place together as I learn about each piece, one-by-one.

During lunch, we were asked to use the 3 x 3 CHING for Breakthrough Results. We sat with a partner and asked each other three questions (3 times each). The questions were: 1. Tell me something you think I don’t know about you. 2. Tell me something you like about me. 3. Tell me something you think we have in common. It’s a great way to “break the ice” and build relationships. I came into my office today and used it on a few people!

The day with Yum! Brands wrapped up with a tour and we discovered many things. First, did you know Colonel Sanders always wore white suits so he could check out the kitchen without flour from the biscuits showing? And David Novak’s recognition culture comes to life in his office, where plaques and awards plaster the walls – even on the ceiling! And the secret doors, well….if I told you they wouldn’t be secret!

It was truly an honor to spend the day at Yum! and I look forward to putting the lessons into action!

‘I dwell in possibility…’ – Emily Dickinson

Tamil Chellaiah

Tamil Chellaiah (FL '11) manager, Ernst & Young

Focus Louisville – November 2011

Focus Louisville did an amazing job of raising my awareness and helping me forge a connection to a city in which I otherwise have no ties.

I have been commuting to town from Washington, D.C. for many months to serve some of Louisville’s great companies. When the opportunity to relocate was presented, I could not have been more excited about the professional path ahead. However, being accustomed to life in a bigger city, I still needed convincing on the personal effects of becoming a ‘Villian.

In advance of my move, I was encouraged to participate in the November Focus Louisville class to meet some new folks and learn what the city has to offer in terms of housing, education, local government, public works and civic/philanthropic initiatives. I had no idea that I would gain so much more from this experience!

Focus Louisville not only exposed me to the city’s many strengths but also its areas of opportunity. We got an insider’s view of some of Louisville’s state-of-the-art public schools, most challenged neighborhoods, mayoral initiatives, the arts and zoo as well as the array of services available for those in need. Not only were we exposed, but at each stop we were given clear instructions on how we can GET INVOLVED. This was the key element. The program is not just about raising awareness but effecting change and our class did just that.

In the days after Focus Louisville, we each found accountability partners (mine is a fellow transplant hailing from Los Angeles), identified the causes dearest to us and made moves to become a part of the solution. Even months later, through the chaos of the holidays and with the ringing in of a new year, our classmates still send updates on what we are doing and how others can join in.

I cannot help but wonder what could happen if more cities had something like Focus Louisville to bring together global thinkers committed to acting locally in order to make their communities better places to work and live. I am proud to be moving to a city that celebrates its strengths and is honest about its weaknesses. It is here that real possibility lies. Thank you, Focus Louisville, for helping make Possibility City my new home!

Using a ‘People First’ Approach to Success

Julie Juvera

Julie Juvera (LL '12) director of legendary people, Texas Roadhouse, Inc.

Leadership Louisville 2012 December program day with Jefferson County Public Schools

Many prosperous organizations’ key to success is focusing on the people who work in their organization. Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks said, “Treat people like family, and they will be loyal and give their all. Stand by people, and they will stand by you. It’s the oldest formula in business.”

As a business leader in the community and as a parent of a child attending a Jefferson County Public School, I was encouraged to learn through my Leadership Louisville experience that we have many leaders in our school system who have the same “people first” philosophy.

Our new superintendent, Dr. Donna Hargens, on her 126th day of work shared with us her strategic vision, mission and goals for the school system. At the heart of her plan are the students. Dr. Hargens said that whenever changes are discussed, she always asks the same question, “little Susie and little Joe still don’t know how to read or write. How is this (process, system, change, etc.) going to help them?” What a great question to ask, because at the end of her day she needs to know that the students are not only learning the core curriculum, but retaining the knowledge as well. She says she will verify this achievement when she starts seeing “the arrows (test scores and other measures) going in the right direction.”

David Mike, principal of Western High School showed us how the same people-centered plan can produce desired results. The key components to his strategy that led to the 49% increase in test scores in his high school included standing behind his teachers and staff, empowering them to teach and holding their students accountable. He also created a goal-setting environment where students are reaching for higher levels of achievement. In this case, his students are eagerly preparing for and setting their sights on college.

Walking the halls of Olmsted Academy South, the first all-female public school in Jefferson County and the state of Kentucky, it was obvious the leaders were focusing on the students first and foremost. The halls were lined with messages of encouragement:

  • “The difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude,”
  • “The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is that little extra.”

My favorite message was written on the wall in the administrative office – “Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” This powerful message reminded the school’s leaders that their state of mind affects the students, which in turn affects the bottom line –student performance. The formula is working. Olmsted has seen an increase in test results over the 4 years the school has been open.

Our Leadership Louisville class was not only able to meet with the leaders of the school system, but we were immersed into the schools, gaining a deeper understanding of the 28th largest public school system in the US and its challenges. As Dr. Hargens said, “There are pockets of excellence (in JCPS) and we are trying to create a system of excellence.” Dr. Hargens is on the right path and is driven to reach her goal, especially with 4 of 5 of her Strategic Priorities including a people focus: Student Achievement, Teamwork, Community Engagement, Retaining, Recruiting and Training High-Quality Employees.

I continue to be impressed along my lifelong study of leadership, that the good leaders are those who focus on the results, but legendary leaders focus on their people, who will in turn lead them to success.