Thursday, October 15, 2015

The New-Old Way To Show Love - Accountability

In Lean On Me, Principal Clark cleans house by dismissing the troublemakers who have prevented the school from achieving the district's expectations on test scores.

Most of us saw Morgan Freeman portray Joe Clark, the once doomed principal who is now heralded for turning around a low performing, inner-city school named Eastside High in Paterson, New Jersey. Most of us remember this intense scene in the movie when Mr. Clark placed students identified as "troublemakers" on the stage to publicly and formally dismiss them from the school. He qualified what he meant by troublemakers - 5+ year students, drug dealers, drug users, gang members etc. Although Morgan Freeman's performance in the auditorium was one of the best parts of the movie for me, the best part of the auditorium scene is the elation shown by the students seated in the auditorium as the troublemakers were escorted out of school. And did you catch the relief and joy on the teachers' faces when they saw this demonstration of support from their leader? It was the boost that Eastside High needed to propel them to defy the odds and do what everyone said low income students can't do - achieve. 

Now all that sounds good for the movies, one may say, but what we can't forget is in this instance - art imitated life. 

So I pose this question: How long will we continue to hold our students and teachers hostage by not holding students with habitual behavior offenses accountable?

Let me be clear before I proceed, this conversation is not about who's right, but what's right. I implore you to process and comment in that context. 

I won't be long winded on this, but I do want to leave you with a few thoughts to get the discussion started:
  • Is it possible to do a Joe Clark "dismissal" in our urban, low performing school systems today? 
  • I am told that students cannot be suspended more than 10 days in a school year, what happens when students commit another offense that warrants suspension? I'm asking for the professional protocol that teachers/administrators have to go through when this happens.
  • Are there any consequences for parents if their children continually demonstrate they cannot behave at school?
  • Are schools supposed to be in the business of rehabilitation or education?

CJ and I speak with CEOs, COOs, heads of Human Resources, managers, supervisors, College Athletic Directors and Recruiting Coordinators all over this City and State. One of the main complaints we hear as it pertains to Black male applicants is they generally do not protect or do right by the opportunity. 

Let's look at the baseball angle for example. Black males make up about 6% of baseball student-athletes in the NCAA. Regardless of the lie that the media tries to sell this country - BLACK BOYS DO PLAY BASEBALL - especially here in metro-Atlanta. Why is our representation so low? Consider this. Black athletes carry with them the PERCEPTION of laziness, lack of discipline, lack of loyalty and a social mesh of issues that most coaches prefer to pass on. Such is the perception that all Black folks have to fight, but let's stay focused on athletes for now. When you see a Black Athlete at a predominately White college, rest assured that he/she is working his/her buns off to fight off a perception that they may not even embody. For those who do embody this negative perception, however, where do they get this notion that they can come to practice any time they want to (yeah, we talkin' about practice), wear their uniform however they want (if they have on the correct uniform at all) and curse their teammates and coaches out, but still get to keep their scholarship? 

Could it be that they have been raised/educated by public school systems that have allowed them to run amuck for so long that they think this is how the world works? Could it be they can't keep a job because they have become accustomed to bucking authority while still being able to enjoy the benefits as if they have met and kept the standard? 

These are all questions and thoughts that are heavy on my spirit right now.

We must remember as adults the discipline that we endured as children that helped us to become the accountable citizens we are today. Accountable, not perfect. 

Accountability doesn't mean giving up - it can be one the best demonstrations of love we can show our children. 

I welcome your comments. 

Written by: Guest Blogger - Kelli Stewart

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Till Before You Teach

I had the privilege of meeting with a gentleman named Steve Mayers who serves as the Director of Guest Relations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. As a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with the airport – how people and things were always in constant motion, going to different places yet seemingly always in sync. I learned the latter part of that statement not to be so true when I started flying a lot as a professional baseball player.

During my time with Steve and his team, I wanted to know his top priority in his role as Director of Guest Relations. In summary this is what I heard him say: his goal is for every guest to have an enjoyable experience while on his property. That is an impressive goal to have, especially when you think of all of the different scenarios attached to people’s travels at Hartsfield-Jackson. Some are soldiers leaving loved ones for a long deployment, some are parents saying goodbye to children as they go off to college, some are family members there to receive the remains of loved ones while others are leaving for honeymoons, weddings and graduations. Such a myriad of emotions can be pulsing through guests as they hurry around the airport.

Since Steve and his team cannot service the millions of guests at Hartsfield-Jackson by themselves, they must rely on the talent pool available to them in metro-Atlanta. Since Atlanta Public Schools serves over 52,000 students, the system should be a prime target for employment talent at the airport. While I don’t know the stats on
the percentage of employees at the airport who attended/graduated from APS schools, I do know that the airport has a high turnover rate for vendor employees. Most of the jobs for the various vendors require basic educational qualifications such as a high school diploma or GED. While most are not jobs that one would want to make a career out of, they are, however, entry-level opportunities that could lead to higher positions if a job candidate has the right awareness and make-up.

Here’s what I mean by make-up and awareness:


Candidates must possess CORE VALUES, a guiding set of principles that govern their behaviors regardless of the environment. CORE VALUES do not produce perfect people, however a person who embodies CORE VALUES will be a more disciplined and accountable employee.
Candidates must possess APTITUDE, the ability to learn information and apply it appropriately.

Candidates must possess COGNITIVE learning skills that allow them to expand their APTITUDE from one discipline to another. This skill makes them valuable across organizational competencies.


· Candidates who know how to create and maintain healthy relationships are building networks for their future and their posterity’s future.
· Candidates who know to ask, “What’s next” are positioned to properly evaluate opportunities. Understanding the “What’s next” of an opportunity can help the candidate decide if he needs more information (from a mentor or family member) or if this is an opportunity that he should pass on. Understanding how to EVALUATE opportunities is a vital life skill.
· SEIZING an opportunity includes the acquisition, maintenance, and execution of the opportunity. This is a critical step where most candidates fail.

I’m sure there are more bullets to add, but these are the top three points that affect the young men I encounter each day through L.E.A.D. As a side note, I want to be clear that the young men I serve in Buckhead through my for profit company, Diamond Directors, don't always make the grade when it comes to having the best make-up and awareness either. However, they have access to strong generational networks that can mitigate their poor handling of relationships/opportunities. For my Ambassadors, if they handle an opportunity poorly, their first shot is often their last; their margin for error is slim to none.

In my next blog(s), I’ll layout L.E.A.D.’s methodology for developing the necessary make-up and awareness in our Ambassadors so they are properly equipped to make the most out of college and career opportunities and ultimately win at the game of life.

As we continue on this journey of proper alignment with Atlanta Public Schools for the purpose of empowering our students, it's important to keep our mission statement front and center along with that of APS. The updated mission of APS follows ours.

L.E.A.D.'s Mission: To empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their City.

APS's Mission: With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.

We had an amazing lunch today at Sylvan Hills Middle School (Atlanta Public Schools). From left to right: Ralph Berry (Physical education teacher, Sylvan Hills Middle School); Keshun Freeman (GA Tech student/athlete (football); Tre' Jackson (GA Tech student/athlete (football); Kele Eveland (GA Tech) and CJ Stewart (L.E.A.D., CEO)