Standing Up by Stepping Down

In our current economic condition in the United States, the business world is rapidly beginning to look like our political landscape. CEOs of large companies are held in the same regard as the politicians who represent them, and the public trust in both public and private leadership has been on a perpetual decline since scandals like Enron and Halliburton plagued our media airwaves and esteemed government officials have resigned amidst rumors of financial scandal.

Many corporate and government leaders are looking for ways to boost public confidence. Larry Powell, the Superintendent for County Schools in Fresno, California, has stopped looking and started doing.

This summer, during the review of his District’s financial budget, it became clear to Powell that many programs were going to disappear due to budget cuts in public education. Those cuts would dramatically reduce funding for preschool and kindergarten teachers, a project that steers B and C students to college by giving them additional skills before graduation, arts programs, and an anti-bullying campaign. In order to ensure the future of such initiatives, Powell appeared before his district board with a rather unusual solution.

He simply asked to return over $288,000 of his salary and benefits for the remainder of his term to the district’s discretionary fund. In order to accomplish this, Larry Powell technically retired, and then agreed to be hired back for a salary of $31,000 a year- $10,000 a year less than a first-year teacher- and with no benefits. He surrendered his $250,000 life insurance policy, and will enroll under his wife’s health plan. Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.

In addition to the immediate $200,000 reduction in salary, Powell will forego over $28,000 a year in sacrificed pension payments. If he lives to be 87, the current age of his living parents, the “early retirement” will have cost him over a million dollars.

Monday Morning Perspective

 “The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way. Henry Miller

“Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible. Francois de La Rochefoucauld

So why would any rational human being take such a course of action? Powell said it was simply the right thing to do. The reduction of his salary ensured that teachers would not be laid off, that classrooms would not be overcrowded, and that programs necessary for student success would not be jeopardized. He may not have been able to affect State funding, but he could affect the financial stability of his district. After thinking about it, he decided to take action.

Larry Powell’s bold move significantly impacted his district’s ability to educate the upcoming generation. What bold move have you been thinking about? What will your organization, your family, or the community stand to gain if you decide to take action on your idea? There is certainly a time for thinking and for planning, but there is also a time for action. That time is now.

Have a wonderful week!

Warmest Regards,

Crystal Dyer

© Crystal Dyer 2011. All rights reserved.

ISSN: 2158-1355


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