Most of us as parents remember the plaintive wail from the back seat of the station wagon as we set out for the beach, historic landmarks, national parks or relatives.
Sometimes we answered "we're almost there" and then sometimes we started games of distractions, like finding license plates from other states. Both were deceitful practices, but excusable diversions.
But the answer to the same question for the Manatee County School District is "no, we are not there yet," and it will take longer than we'd like, especially since it took years to deteriorate.
We know full well where "there" is -- it is a financially stabilized district, accountable, improved student outcomes, fully transparent with much higher levels of professionalism and a return to the Tradition of Excellence, the district's motto.
The road has had milestones: In late April, we continued to lose ground, with the loss of adequate reserves. The new superintendent, in month two, continued to uncover more problems. The transition team report confirmed, validated and expanded on what some of us, both on the board and in the community, had been saying: that we need to change and reject "business as usual" and focus on student achievement.
As we move rapidly with major changes, with higher levels of competence and professionalism, driven by long-delayed policies like nepotism and fraternization, the new superintendent and his new deputies revealed their command, full knowledge and expertise in the June 3 discussion on the new organization chart.
Dr. Diana Greene and Don Hall showed candor and professionalism as they fielded questions about the timing to reconstruct fully effective departments as well as offered details about changing personnel and upgrading job descriptions and reassigning staff.
As the necessary changes are made, this road trip has been full of wrong turns, dead ends and backing up to get on the way. It is unpleasant and stressful for everyone -- employees, teachers, parents and even school board members.
The two reports, the forensic audit and the transition team report, made many suggestions for improving inadequate practices and procedures. The sad reality today is that many are feeling the impacts caused by the few who did not or could not adequately perform the jobs with which they were tasked. There is no joy in eliminating jobs.
I understand how some would want to leave -- for the messes created by others were not their doing -- but many of us cannot and will not until we fix this. I do not know how long it will take -- much more than 100 days -- but we will stay at it until it is fixed, functioning with organizational effectiveness and integrity.
The most damning statement for me is on page 48 of the transition team report. It addresses cultural issues, which will take much longer to change than the Economic Recovery Plan establishes financial stability.
But as the FADSS team wrote, "(In addition to the financial crisis), another crisis is occurring and little concern has been demonstrated. Student learning ... has been declining over the past several years. ... the district is ranked 47th out of 67. ... The latest available data ... indicates that the district has one of the highest absentee rates and dropout rates ... for districts similar in size. Very few district staff interviewed were concerned or alarmed. ... In fact, conversation about improving student achievement was minimal. It appears that a culture of complacency and low expectation is accepted. ... Visual evidence of successful school or district-wide data with benchmarks for increasing learning for all students was not noticed at the district offices. District staff did not talk about their responsibility or accountability to ensure that schools were successful or that students achieved."
The cultural shifts shock some, and we are seeing resistance as people cling to the status quo and try to undermine change and those leading the changes. Efforts to distract, discredit, distort facts, promulgate lies and rumors are rife. These must not succeed; there is too much at stake. No more deceptions, deceit, diversions from our mission.
For we know that money is fungible, but students' lives and futures are not. We commit ourselves to a culture of meritocracy, not mediocrity, and in particular to the bright futures and needs of every child, every day.
We welcome and anticipate Mr. Rick Mills' 100-day plan as well as the next 1,000 days. For we know that we are not there yet, but we are on our way.
Karen Carpenter, is chairwoman of the Manatee County school board.