Honesty, Integrity, Follow-through
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
by: Dr. Paul Gausman

Section: From Contributors

Dr. Paul Gausman, Superintendent of the Sioux City Community School District - Sioux City, IA

Honesty, Integrity, Follow-through

Honesty in the educational environment is paramount for success. Communication that focuses on honest statements of a situation or detail, thorough specifics of the plan of action and truthful feedback about areas of success and challenge will bring about student-centered accomplishment.
The Sioux City Community School District is a public school district serving over 15,000 students nestled in the Loess Hills of the Northwest corner of Iowa.  We serve our students and families with a population of nearly 2,500 staff members in over 20 student attendance centers. Seventy percent of our student population qualifies for Free and Reduced Meals, and nearly 20 percent English Learners represent about 40 home languages. Our metropolitan area exceeds 100,000 residents.
We are a proud member of the Urban Education Network in the state of Iowa, where some may consider the words “urban” and “Iowa” when used in the same sentence to be an oxymoron. Still, noting that our 17 Urban Education Network Districts serve nearly 40 percent of Iowa’s public school enrollment, we serve our students with common approaches with respect to our common characteristics.  

As an educational leader, I focus on the core values of honesty and integrity and actions exhibiting comprehensive follow-through. Instructional leaders will consistently serve any organization to perform at higher levels, so long as their formula for success includes being honest with people, making decisions with integrity and follow-through with thorough communication and implementation of action. 

Honesty in the educational environment is paramount for success.  Communication that focuses on honest statements of a situation or detail, thorough specifics of the plan of action and truthful feedback about areas of success and challenge will bring about student-centered accomplishment. 
Integrity begins with appropriate data acquisition and decision-making procedures, including involvement and communication with those affected. I derive integrity and strong moral values from my own life and education, faith and family. As a leader, I firmly believe in the need to “model the way” for all in the educational community, specifically in the area of integrity.  I work with teams of educators to understand the decision-making process through the community lens. 

Leaders in any education system serve students and their community best when they exhibit significant follow-through in their actions and communication.  Follow-through must be exhibited in communication, and in the implementation actions to build a pattern of trust and consistent expectations of high levels of student achievement.  Through diligent follow-through, leaders model for students that the educational process has value for them and the rest of the community.  

Our team exhibited appropriate honesty, integrity, and follow-through in communication as we developed our own “Return to Learn” plan following the challenges of the global pandemic by involving thousands of people through virtual focus groups, surveys and communication.

Our plan, like most, has some version of the options of on-site instruction, a hybrid plan with in-person and virtual instruction and a true virtual model. Iowa is one of the first states that will reopen our schools for in-person instruction, as our governor has required that we open with at least 50 percent of our core instruction delivered in-person with the ability for families to choose a fully virtual model on an individual basis. 

The district may only decide to go fully virtual if approved by the state departments of public health and education, following a local metric of double-digit positivity rate of the virus.  This scenario is certain to create an environment to further polarize the opinions of those who desire more social distancing, in contrast to others who believe it is time to get all students back in the buildings. It is through honesty in communication, integrity in decision-making and follow-through of our actions that we will weather this challenge together and come out of the challenge as a stronger educational system and community than we were when we entered the pandemic.  Our students deserve no less from their community and district leaders.   
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