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Running our schools like a business

I am often challenged by constituents to run the school system like a business.

Of course, what they mean is to run the school system like a successful business.

Success in every business I have worked in or read about starts with leadership, especially leadership at the top. And a common trait of successful business leaders is to ensure that the business is properly funded before the beginning of each year. In fact, the most successful companies have Boards who ensure that their budget is established months in advance so that their managers can plan for and build momentum and enthusiasm among employees, ensuring that from day one, the company hits the ground running.

Yes, we could use that kind of leadership in public education in North Carolina.

In addition, successful companies have leaders who recognize the critical role that talent plays in their firms’ success. They provide their managers with the tools needed to recruit, retain, and reward the talent needed for success — tools such as a competitive compensation schedule and attractive benefits package.

Of all the traits of successful businesses, the most critical is culture. Successful business leaders are obsessed with creating a positive, can-do, enthusiastic culture that enables their employees to rise above today’s shortcomings and the constant criticism of naysayers.

Successful companies have senior leaders who do small things every day, and big things some days, to inspire their employees to give their best effort to accomplish the company’s mission, a mission more than merely increasing profits and shareholder return, but a mission that enables customers to achieve their goals or striving to create a better community. In the public sector our mission must go beyond merely cutting taxes and smaller government.

In the business of public education, our mission is to prepare the next generation, and the generation after that, to create a better North Carolina.

Perhaps what we lack most in running public education in North Carolina like a successful business is not an inspiring mission, or competition, or choice.

What we most need is optimistic, positive, can-do leadership for public education in the General Assembly, the kind of leadership that inspired small, insignificant businesses across North Carolina in banking, textiles, furniture, and utilities to become national success stories.

Next spring, when the best teacher candidates are available and when we want to recommit to those veteran teachers for another year, the the State Board of Education and the General Assembly can ensure that school districts across our state have the budget to make those commitments.

Yes, let’s run the school system like a successful business — starting here in Raleigh.

Eric Davis

Eric Davis was appointed by Governor McCrory to the N.C. State Board of Education in January 2015. He previously served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education representing District 5 and served as Chair from 2009 to 2011. After attending CMS and Lincoln County schools, his 32-year career includes service as an Airborne Ranger Combat Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army, a Professional Engineer in NC, and a Senior Vice President in the financial services industry.