I hope you can help me.
I’m looking for the name of a specific community leader, the one with the courage, commitment, and most importantly the capacity to bring us all together.
I’m not talking about waterfront development, or tourism. We’ve got those areas covered, and I too am excited by the growth.
The leader I’m searching for is focused on human capital- someone who understands the complexities of politics and poverty, but is driven ultimately by the promise of untapped potential; someone who can see and work across systems and is not constrained by specific agendas or ideologies. The leader I am seeking is a facilitator, a designer, a navigator of complexity, someone with thick skin who can deflect the negativity and fickleness that so quickly emerge, someone exceptionally smart, and definitely kind.
We are certainly not lacking in community leaders. But I don’t think they’re the ones I’m looking for. And I have been waiting for so very long.
My search began back in 2007 when I was working with former Superintendent of Schools, Dr. James Williams, as liaison for higher education partnerships. When he would introduce me to leaders from various sectors of the city, I would pose the question in the most earnest and hopeful way, explaining that I was eager to offer my assistance once I could identify the right person.
Can you believe that in over eight years of asking the question, I haven’t gotten a single enthusiastic response- not one.
Since leaving my role with Superintendent Williams and returning to my work at the University at Buffalo, I have pulled back from the world of educational partnerships, waiting for the dust to settle so that I could identify the appropriate opportunity to reengage. And throughout the years and months I have continued to ask my question.
Just recently I learned of Mr. Wilmer’s press event and grew excited that perhaps the time had finally come. If Mr. Wilmers, a leader for whom I have great respect and admiration, a leader who makes big things happen for our community and schools, if he was rallying the troops, then maybe we could finally get something accomplished. But alas, I was told by numerous attendees that he was clearly not the one, that he had emphasized throughout his presentation that he was a banker and not an educator, and that the responsible community leaders needed to step up and find a way forward.
And then just this morning, a few brief minutes ago, I read of the upcoming Superintendent search and the School Board’s expectation that there must be a suitable internal candidate, a principal, who can step up and lead the District forward.
My heart aches as I ponder the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I continue to ask myself who is that leader, and I am hoping desperately that one of you knows.