Rick Cruz Speaks at Georgetown University's Leadership Commencement
On Saturday December 15, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business held its 2018 District of Columbia Public School Leaders Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) Commencement Ceremony. Ten DC Public School principals and 10 public charter school principals participated in the 11-month program. This program develops principals’ leadership skills and facilitates best practice sharing among district and public charter schools.
Rick Cruz, DC PCSB’s chairman, provided the following remarks at the 2018 Commencement Ceremony and watch the video for his speech as well.
Thank you for inviting me here today.
I moved to DC in 1995. The city at that time was a very different place. And not only because we didn’t have as many restaurants, condos, and stadiums. But, because of the quality of public schooling available to our children. Many of the children then - often poorly served - are themselves now parents with students in your classes. Their experiences coloring what they expect from our public schools and, perhaps, what they hope for and think possible for their children.
That experience is sticky. Whether you’re talking about DC or Detroit or NYC - where I grew up in the Bronx - the culture of our schools is pervasive/foundational, and it shapes our communities’ perceptions and too often our dreams. It’s also sticky in that that culture of underperformance is hard to change. There are no sure things...no easy ways forward...and it takes many of us pulling in the same direction, working tirelessly, and leveraging our individual and collective strengths.
All of you here today lead in different capacities, in different schools and in different ways. But you have in common a commitment to the students in our public schools in the District. And today, you graduate with a new set of tools to bring to that work day-to-day.
I was a philosophy major in college, so maybe it was inevitable that I’ve become an ed policy junkie. I’ve been reading a lot recently about whether we’re now in a post-Reform era and, if so, what that means. One of the more thought-provoking theses is that we’re at the end of education policy - post NCLB, post ESSA - and that the present and future is all about a return to practice. Now, I don’t know if that’s entirely true. There ARE important policy issues that we can and should move forward. But the idea that the future lies in practice resonates with me nonetheless, and for no other reason that that’s where the real work is done...and oftentimes we forget that. The only way to find out what is possible is to do the work, because it’s in the doing that we find truth.
No matter the school or role in which you serve each day, you all work with a really precious resource: our city’s kids. I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms in DC. I’ve seen good and not so good instruction - I’ve seen students struggle…and adults too. But, I’ve never for a minute questioned the potential that lay within the young girls and boys behind the doors of our schools.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you must choose between recognizing the many challenges that our kids face every day and believing in their intrinsic capabilities and their potential. We can acknowledge the obstacles that they and their families encounter—we can fight the inequities they confront—but we cannot let that burden their - and our - sense of what they can be. I encourage you to all build schools that embrace that view...that seek to make what today seems the extraordinary - what many would describe as the improbable or impossible - ordinary. That ensure that all our children and especially the black and brown kids who are too frequently left behind…realize their potential academically and beyond.
It’s fitting that your graduation takes place in December. Holiday lights twinkling, a general sense of celebration and, perhaps more fitting, the reflection and thankfulness that comes with the close of another year. It’s also a time pregnant with possibility - what a new year hold forth.
Thank you for getting up each day and dedicating yourselves to the kids and families in our city. Thank you to your families and loved ones for supporting you in what can often feel like a thankless job.
And, congratulations for completing this program and committing anew to support DC’s families and young people.