A man with a plan: David Lawrence, Principal Thurgood Marshall HS

(A disclaimer: I’m biased. Live with it. I’ve been friends with David for years.)

I predict that within 3 years, Dayton’s Thurgood Marshall High School will be a school of first choice, much like the vaunted St. Ivers (I mean Stivers). And, I’ll be surprised if the parents of the students attending don’t know it as soon as this school year begins. The question will be: How long will it take for perceptions to change- and the word to get out.

Thurgood Marshall is a new Dayton Public School brand, to clean up what was a bit of a mess at Col White. The name change was phase 1, the new building on Hoover was phase 2, and the new team in charge is phase 3. The Phase 4 is buy-in from the rest of the staff. And there will be buy-in.

The reason comes by way of David Lawrence, a man who doesn’t leave anything to chance. A Dunbar grad who still holds the City record in the long jump 25 years after graduation, and who looks like he could still could jump 25.5 feet, he has moved through the Dayton Public Schools as a math teacher at grades 4-12, a curriculum coach, an assistant principal at Stivers and now with two hand-picked assistants is going into the new school with his standard operating procedure: Figure out best practices and desired outcomes, set high expectations and then work tirelessly to get everyone marching in step.

It will happen. Mark my words.

When asked to coach basketball, even though he’d played for years- David immediately read everything he could on coaching the game. Next up, a few coaching clinics, then he wrote out a practice schedule for the entire 3 months- including both the drills and the skills that were the objective of each day. In his first year, he won coach of the year and the team went 17-3.

That’s the power of a man with a plan. It’s also what seems to be missing from so many other organizations we talk about on this site. What’s the plan for Dayton? The region? I think we’ve had so many master plans drawn up, both publically- like the “Vision 20/20” plan way back, to the ones in the backrooms that give us things like “Tool Town”/”Tech Town” or “Ballpark Village”- which waste time, resources and distract us from the basics. And, what’s missing from all our pie-in-the-sky master plans is a leader to champion the progress and keep the ship on course, but, that would of course require real change (like UniGov) and we’re too afraid to take a real jump.

Concentrating on the basics is the foundation of building successful organizations. That’s what’s about to hit Thurgood Marshall like a tsunami. If you want to be on the winning team there, you’ll be asked for a plan, given a performance standard and then “coached” by a pro on how to achieve the goal. Every step of the way, your performance will be monitored, and if you are running into troubles- help will be near. Every day, Principal Lawrence and his team will be making the rounds of the classrooms- checking in. Discipline isn’t just in punishing those who step outside the lines, discipline is setting goals and working tirelessly towards them. Parents will get a home visit, students will be expected to perform, and there will never be a question of what the expectations are.

Why? Because it’s all in the plan.

And, although he doesn’t believe in luck, I wish him the best of it in his new position.

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