I was fortunate enough to work with Jim Sheeley, in Newark Public Schools, NJ. He became my Supervisor of Fine Arts when I was a music teacher for the district. As a boss, he entrusted his music teachers to know what was best for their students. This gave the communities freedom to have the type of musical offering that best served the children. There was no mandate, no requirement, no obligation. It was simply a charge to serve the family and students of the school through music.
Now, he couldn’t make miracles happen so there were no windfalls of budgets or extra checks or surprise funds found to help us all create music programs. And he knew he had to work within the confines of each school’s budget. (Some of my battle stories will follow later.) But what left an impression on me was how Mr. Sheeley took a step back from the fight of securing bigger and better music budgets against deaf ears. He took a step back and saw that we had to help ourselves.
So he coordinated with each and every teacher determining what we each had that was ‘extra’. Think about how powerful that is. Instead of saying each teacher needed ‘x’ dollars to outfit their music rooms and needed ‘x’ instruments to run a program, he identified who had a surplus. One teacher had an abundance of old outdated music textbooks, another had an extra bin full of rhythm sticks, another had bits and pieces to an extra drum set, another had an extra piano in the school basement. I can go on. And guess what he did…
Jim went from school to school, coordinated with others to go from school to school, and he gave us all as much as we needed from what resources he could find. That, my friends, is how you lead and build loyalty. He’s now back in the classroom, once again as a music teacher, but we all still remember what he did for us to help us serve our communities.