Excellence is a Choice

Excellence is a Choice –

A year ago, the community quietly began a journey of excellence. The conversation began with the City, Hospital and School District because our resources are precious. By resources, I mean — time, money and our environment. This is a period of change and controversy. In our lifetime, we will start to see driverless vehicles, we have already seen the birth of many new jobs and the loss of others that are no longer relevant. How do we train the workforce of tomorrow, when we don’t even know what jobs will exist. What public investments do we make, if traffic and transportation as we know it today is different tomorrow?

In October, Kristen DeHart and I attended the Baldridge Conference to learn from others on the same journey we are on. The big take-away is to “know your WHY”. Why are you doing this?

There is a need for fundamental change. It is a fact that American students chronically lag those in other industrialized countries in reading, math, and science and only a quarter of public high school graduates are prepared to succeed in college — an important gateway to prosperity in the US. And there’s a growing gap between the skills American students learn and those needed in the 21st century workforce. Our school district is already organizing itself to meet this challenge at all levels.

The US ranks at or near the bottom of high-income countries in common measures of public health; Americans live shorter lives and in poorer health despite spending far more per capita on health care than any other nation. We recently saw that residents in the 64024 zip code have a shorter life span than all other zip codes in Clay County. These poor health outcomes have a direct correlation to educational and wealth attainment.

Communities of Excellence assists community leaders in implementing the Baldridge Framework, a validated systems improvement framework, that we believe will improve health status, educational attainment, and economic vitality of residents in communities by focusing on improving overall community performance.

We define community as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. Our community is defined as rural/suburban and has a population ranging between 11,000 and 20,000. These challenges require a higher level of performance that grows out of the recognition that the social determinants of educational achievement, economic vitality and health status are inextricably interwoven. It is time for the leaders of the community — official leaders (those elected or appointed to their formal positions) as well as the many informal community leaders work together to set community vision. Last December, we asked our residents how well we were doing and they said our weaknesses were in Housing, Service Industry, and Healthcare. We need help to confirm whether the perceptions of our citizens is accurate and what do you, as a member of the community that works in one of these areas identify as Opportunities for Improvement (OFI).

This is the start of a new year toward Excellence. We will continue to learn how to mobilize to achieve our goal of Excellence. We will participate in a monthly webinar and meet with our mentor, Brian Lassiter, President of the Performance Excellence Network, who will continue to ask us questions to guide us on finding our focus. We cannot expect to be the best at everything, we have to focus. Biggest lesson on the journey to excellence: 1) don’t give up, 2) you’re not too small (or too large) to improve, and 3) focus on what’s important.