Louisville – Quality of Place? DEFINITELY!

Sandy Deel

Sandy Deel (LL '12), director of HR services & benefits, Thorntons Inc.

Leadership Louisville 2012 April program day

Our Leadership Louisville program day started at Valhalla.  My husband considers it almost hallowed ground and I would agree that, even under construction, it is an impressive facility.

As a mother of a college bound football player and budding basketball player, I thought I knew a little something about sports in our community.  However, I learned quite a few things that I didn’t know from Steve Higdon, Chairman of the Kentucky Sports Commission. For instance, I didn’t realize that our community doesn’t have a facility large enough to host the NCAA Final Four or Championship Game.  After visiting the YUM Center I can’t imagine that we would need a facility that would hold four times the amount of people needed for one of those games.

I think perhaps my favorite part of the day was when Scott Martin, Parks Director of Parklands of Floyd Fork, gave his powerful presentation.  I am not someone who is easily “sold” the first go around.  It usually takes a vendor a few times to get me on board.  However Scott Martin had me at Hello!  He sold me lock, stock and barrel on the Parklands of Floyds Fork, and the visit to the Beckley Creek park facility sealed the deal.  There is so much thought process that goes into planning each and every detail of the parks and Scott took us through some of those details.  He described to us the thought process behind the playground equipment choices.  Scott envisioned children playing together and working as a team.  This was proven out when a few of my classmates had to work together to go around and around on a piece of the equipment.  Some of my more competitive fellow classmates climbed to the top of the playground equipment (Go Tori Murden McClure and Mark Hogg!) and had a great time doing it.

I loved the visit at the Iroquois Amphitheater.  I had not visited there since I was in high school and I didn’t know the amphitheater had been remodeled to the extent that it has been.  It is a beautiful facility and I plan to make it a point to visit for some performances.  The free Monday night movies in the summer caught my attention and I think that would be a great family outing – a day in the park finished off with a movie in the park!

I must say that I love being part of the Leadership Louisville experience and I think the staff gets so much great experience packed into just one day.  I am always mentally exhausted at the end of these days but it is a good mentally exhausted and I will miss that.  This was another GREAT program day and I hate to see the program (for me) come to an end.


Geeks, shoe pickers and a giant armadillo provide lessons on regionalism, logistic

Lisa Brosky

Lisa Brosky (LL '12) vice president, community relations,
Jefferson Community and Technical College

Leadership Louisville Class of 2012 – March program day

It was a day about regionalism, but the lesson was logistics.

While this river city, which grew out of a need to portage around the Falls of the Ohio, has always understood the importance of logistics, logistics now drive the economic well-being of a two-state, multi-county region that is stitched by I-65, complemented by the Ohio River and punctuated by UPS Worldport.

As a result, we are all in this together: geeks in requisite black clip-on ties, shoe-pickers who walk 15 to 20 miles a day, a commerce park director longing for a bridge, and even a 7-foot armadillo in Western wear.

On March 13 Leadership Louisville visited two of several businesses that have located in Bullitt County thanks to the proximity to UPS and I-65.

Each day hundreds of computers are shipped to Geek Squad in Brooks for repair, and then back to their owners. Down I-65, on-line retailer Zappos in Shepherdsville, ships out thousands of shoes and household goods each day and returns are happily accepted.

Each day hundreds of people, both skilled and unskilled, go to work.

Thanks to logistics, our region benefits from the presence of Geek Squad “agents,” who take pride in their work and culture, down to the bottom of their shoes, stamped with the Geek Squad logo. Some even carry a badge.

At Zappos, where “shoe pickers” manage vast carousels of footwear, their paid benefits, free lunch and deals on cushioned shoes, are critical and appreciated parts of their compensation.

To the north in Clark County, Ind., River Ridge Commerce Center is expecting a major new tenant (Amazon?!), but eagerly awaits the east end bridge, which will bring interstate traffic nearly to the doorstep.

For me, the day also brought home the impact of Metropolitan College, a partnership of UPS, Jefferson Community & Technical College, University of Louisville, metro and state government. Students work for UPS and receive paid tuition and books, providing UPS a reliable workforce and opportunity to grow. How critical that has proven.

And, of course, there was an armadillo in a cowboy hat. We began our day with Andy Armadillo, mascot of Texas Roadhouse, which believes in good customer service and a good quality product. We were reminded, thank you Andy and team, that fun at work is a good thing (and starting your day with a rousing cheer feels pretty good). Texas Roadhouse, now nationwide, calls Louisville home. More good news for our region.

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.

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.

Changing the way I look at Louisville

Maggie Harlow

Maggie Harlow (LL '12) owner, Sign-a-Rama

Leadership Louisville 2012 December program day with Jefferson County Public Schools

Just when I think my mind is full and busy with lots of ideas, Leadership Louisville comes along to shake out old ones and make room for new ones. The December Leadership Louisville day took us on an ‘insider’s’ look at education. We faced our own stereotypes and expectations and were inspired by the missions of so many that make our school system better every day.

Our first speaker was the impressive Dr. Donna Hargens, our new superintendent. She takes a complex issue and distills it to remove distractions. She talked repeatedly about “arrows going in the right direction,” meaning continual improvement is what matters. Lastly, the questions to ask every educator to be sure they can answer:

  • How do you know what the student should learn?
  • How do you know if they are learning it?
  • What do you do if they aren’t?

That’s a series of questions I can adapt for my business and employees!

Going from that 10,000 foot view, we were suddenly brought into close focus by seeing schools close-up and personal. I had a chance to tour Western High School, a traditionally “troubled” school for “troubled” kids. The principal, Mr. Mike, was clearly systematic about his processes, clear about limits and discipline, but also a powerful leader who understands kids and teachers want a reason to show up each day. They are on a mission at Western – a mission to get EVERY kid to look at college as their destiny. The feedback from others in the class that visited the North and South Olmsted Academies and Mill Creek Elementary made me a little sad I couldn’t tour them all!

While the Western HS principal was impressive, the teachers, admins and students were stars, as well. I had a chance to visit with a few students – many of whom have parents who are busy with multiple jobs and have no ability to assist them with homework or college applications. These kids weren’t “troubled” in the way I was thinking – when asked “What would you change?” they unanimously said “We would like to get MORE kids in our school talking about college in their future.” Wow – they were only troubled by the fact that they couldn’t get more kids to open their minds to possibilities of education. THAT is a group of kids on a mission!!

Other “Aha!” moments:

  • Meeting JCPS School Board members, who are doing their best in a system that is clearly needing a “fix”
  • Learning what non-profits like Family Scholar House do to fill the gap between education and business – changing lives for generations
  • The large businesses in Louisville that make contributions to education to make their business work, but more directly reward Louisville with better educated workforce and better paying jobs

As old ideas leave my head, I eagerly stuff in some new ones and change the way I look at Louisville and my role in the community!

Policeman for a day

Vince Patton

Vince Patton (LL '12) executive administrator, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Leadership Louisville 2012 police car ride-along

On Monday, December 5, Officer Chuck Cooper and I began our journey throughout the Chickasaw, Shawnee, and Park DuValle neighborhoods.

My most memorable event of the ride-along was when Officer Cooper responded to the dispatcher’s report that a girl had violated the terms of her house arrest. When we reached the location, a hostile teenage girl confronted us. Officer Cooper calmly explained that we had to take her to the juvenile detention center, but the girl tried to resist arrest. The officer reached for the girl’s hands and placed handcuffs on them. She fought the officer every step on the way to the police car.

When we reached the police car, the girl shocked us by revealing that she was pregnant. Officer Cooper helped the girl into the car, and we waited until two other officers arrived on the scene. Officer Cooper later explained that if an individual resists arrest, the police are required to complete additional paperwork and take photos of the suspect.

Officer Cooper and I drove the girl to the juvenile center, where she was originally scheduled to serve her sentence.

Officer Cooper told me that our evening, which included six stops, was slower than normal. On a typical night he might stop twenty to twenty-five times, responding to anything from robberies to domestic disputes. During our time together he indicated that 90 percent of his time is spent on approximately 10 percent of the people in his district.

My ride with Officer Cooper left me in awe of the patience and dedication police officers display. Officer Cooper spoke admirably of churches and social service organizations in the community. His comments reminded me of the many different needs of individuals and the incredible things that can be accomplished when people and organizations of all types come together for the sake of the whole community.