The secret behind one school’s success

Brian Jones

Brian Jones, (BF '12) membership development manager – Louisville, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Bingham Fellows 2012 February program day

Rather than an exhaustive list of things learned, snazzy quotes, or a rundown of items accomplished during our February program day, I’d like focus on something shared by someone outside our Bingham Fellows class. Here’s what I consider one of the most memorable insights from the last program day.

We had a discussion with Lisa from Atkinson Elementaryʼs Family Resource and Youth Services Center, a school that has seen tremendous improvement in the last five years under the leadership of Principal Dewey Hensley.  During the conversation, I asked her what was not working prior to his arrival and what did they change?

She shared that “pre-Dewey,” the school was “siloed”.  There was no cohesion, no collaboration between principals, teachers and students. After his arrival, Dewey asked all teachers to buy into the mission, “all of our students can and will learn and achieve at the highest levels.”  Everything became focused on student achievement at Atkinson Elementary. In short, Dewey Hensley got the right people on the bus and set its course accordingly and the school’s performance improved as a direct result.

Now, this strategy might seem fairly obvious and the most common sense answer to turning things around in a persistently low-achieving school, especially when the relatively easy answer to dealing with adversity is usually focused on ‘inputsʼ rather than ‘outcomes.ʼ In fact, the actions of Atkinson Elementary seem so simple, it’s a wonder they havenʼt been replicated throughout the rest of the district, state, and country.

However, you have to look a bit deeper into what Atkinson’s leadership decided to ‘doʼ despite all of the challenges and barriers faculty, staff and students face daily. In short, this is a school that says, “Regardless of the hand we (principals, teachers AND students) are dealt, we will deal with it, because all of our students can and will learn and achieve at the highest level. Our definition of SUCCESS is Hard Work + Resiliency + Teamwork = SUCCESS,” said Lisa.

Resiliency, as Julia Inman of the Greater Louisville Project defined it for the Bingham Fellows, is the ability to readily recover from adversity; to rebound after being bent, stretched, or compressed. Atkinson Elementary models the very definition of resiliency in principle and practice; truly a lesson for all of us in Louisville that goes beyond the ABC’s and 123’s.


Surprising lessons learned at UPS

Gabe Riggs

Gabe Riggs (IL '12) manager, marketing web strategy, Norton Healthcare

Ignite Louisville 2012 program day at UPS

Before last Wednesday, the extent of my knowledge about UPS encompassed brown delivery trucks and the rumbling roar of their planes between 2 and 5 AM, continually shaking my house. To have a chance to see the expansive technology behind the global delivery machine, Worldport, and realize how much Louisville benefits from the organization, was very eye-opening.

One of the biggest takeaways I had from the morning was during the Director of Maintenance, Brad Schwandt’s talk about their community internship program. Brad spoke about how they work with FedEx to borrow parts and collectively it made both companies better. Brad said, “In the airline industry, you have to collaborate or you will fail.” That statement caught my attention. Why the airline industry? You would think that in an industry that has, as a whole, had horrible losses and struggled to stay financially viable, competitors would take any advantage they could over each other. Yet these competitors work together to create mutually beneficial relationships that help both companies better meet their customers’ needs. I thought about how we perceive our competitors in my industry. Instead of putting up walls and defenses, why don’t we look for bridges? I do realize that this wouldn’t apply to every company or industry, but I know that looking to a competitor for collaboration has never shown up on any of my resource lists.

The rest of the morning was great as well. Rhonda Clark’s story was absolutely unbelievable and inspirational. I can’t help but admire how she overcame so many obstacles and conquered new challenges with such humble resilience. I look forward to buying her autobiography someday. The afternoon tour of Worldport was great. How Jeff O’Dell knows so much baffles me. Aside from all the great UPS information, I learned that if you need a tree cut down, you should first get a quote for the wood to offset the cost. I also learned quite a bit about lobster. That guy would make a fortune on Jeopardy.

Thanks to UPS for giving us the opportunity to experience the heart of their operations. As I stood in the elevator with a UPS driver this morning I couldn’t help but smile at him as I thought through the amazing process the packages he held had been through. He was probably a little freaked out by me. Thanks again!