Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year! I want to begin by thanking so many wonderful people in our school community for the very warm and thoughtful welcome. I am both humbled and honored to have been selected to serve as Superintendent of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD). With that district name comes a storied tradition that extends beyond the borders of Orange County. I look forward to working collaboratively with our Board of Education and each of you as we continue to serve our students.
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who make this district an exceptional place for students to build skills for their future. Each individual’s commitment, dedication and genuine appreciation for PYLUSD has been both energizing and impressive. Teachers, staff, parents, community members and the Board have all demonstrated a “Student First” spirit, which is essential for a successful district.
One of the aspects I have enjoyed most is the willingness of so many people to take the time to share special stories that describe the fabric of our district. Whether the story began with, “Just last week …” or “Remember back when …”, there was a passion that matched the excellence of PYLUSD.
Author Max De Pree in his book, Leadership is an Art, gives an illustration of the importance of what he calls “tribal storytelling.” De Pree writes: “Dr. Carl Frost, a good friend and adviser to our company, tells a story of his experience in Nigeria during the late sixties:
Electricity had just been brought into the village where he and his family were living. Each family got a single light in its hut. A real sign of progress. The trouble was that at night, though they had nothing to read and many of them did not know how to read, the families would sit in their huts in awe of this wonderful symbol of technology.
The light-bulb watching began to replace the customary nighttime gatherings by the tribal fire, where the tribal storytellers, the elders, would pass along the history of the tribe. The tribe was losing its history in the light of a few electric bulbs.
This story helps to illustrate the difference between scientific management and tribal leadership. Every family, every college, every corporation, every institution needs tribal storytellers. The penalty for failing to listen is to lose one’s history, one’s historical context, one’s binding values. Like the Nigerian tribe, without the continuity brought by custom, any group of people will begin to forget who they are.
The example of the Nigerian tribe provided by Dr. Frost is just as relevant and valuable to our own individual families. In today’s technology-rich world, it is important that we create the time and space needed to experience the unique stories of our family history. We must be the leaders who create and seize opportunities that encourage such “storytelling.” As we focus on the future and what 21st-century education will continue to bring, we must hold true to De Pree’s example, and participate in the dynamic teamwork of a special school community that will foster a culture of continuous improvement and growth.
This year will bring a successful graduation for the class of 2017 … yes, 2017! As we begin school, I want to wish all of our students, families and staff members the very best. Our team-based focus will provide our outstanding students the opportunity to build academic and personal memories, which will surely add to our very own “tribal history.”
Greg S. Plutko, Ed.D.