John Lynch is a school board member and lifelong champion of vo-tech students. He has advocated for them everywhere from CEO offices to the General Assembly Hall, and developed formal partnerships with local businesses including DuPont, Astra Zeneca, and Christiana Care. He led the effort to establish St. George’s HS and guided the Partnership Zone process for Howard HS. He also instituted a formal database that identifies school and district strengths and areas of improvement, leading to the district receiving the State of Delaware Quality Award.
“We are all educators and no one is left out of the equation.”
John F. Lynch Jr.
School Board President, New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District
In his own words…
Excellent public education is important because the complexity and intensity of things such as technology, science, international business, health and medicine increases with each passing day. We need to provide educational opportunities that not only address the needs of the present but open paths to education that will address the future.
I became involved in education when my children, now adults, started public school. I volunteered to help on committees, on class trips, whatever was needed; partly because that’s what my parents did for me and my siblings when we were in school and partly because my wife was a public school teacher and I knew how parents helped in many ways where she taught.
One of my proudest moments as a champion of education was having the opportunity to help plan and build a new Vocational-Technical High School, St. Georges Vocational-Technical High School and seeing that it is designed to meet the needs of today and adaptable to future needs. There are many more things that make me feel I have been a positive contributor, but St. Georges is one of the more tangible.
My approach to my work is inspired by the methods I have had success with over my years working in business and industry. This method has several names, but the one which describes what and how it is done is what I refer to as “leading from the middle of the pack.” Some of my mentors referred to it as “carrying the bullets and water.”
If the process is done properly it lets everyone in the organization know what direction you are setting. They know what is expected of each person and this openness allows everyone to ask questions or make suggestions without fear of being rebuffed, because the entire organization knows that they are part of and have a vested interest in the process. They are all important members of the effort.
This approach is innovative and unique because it requires those designated as the leaders or part of the official leadership team to be open minded and be willing to relinquish control and some decision making responsibilities on occasion. This method requires that regardless of your title or position in the organization everyone shares responsibility in setting and achieving the designated goals while helping each other accomplish their specific tasks. In other words, Delaware students are impacted though this work not only formally in their academics and in career and technical programs, but also by observing how the process of cooperation and partnership can make the educational process much more open and friendly. These ways of delivering education gives everyone in the educational system, from the custodian, the cafeteria worker, the classroom teacher, to ancillary staff and administration, ownership in the process which in turn provides more support and resources for the students. If everyone is on board, the school experience is more positive and meaningful for all the students.
I feel the most exciting thing others can learn about this approach is that success cannot be forced it must be nurtured and guided. There are rules and procedures that must be adhered to but, just like in your garden, you produce the best plants and flowers with proper cultivation and watering. The second thing that we should all be aware of is that the actual task will constantly change and all programs have some differences. Therefore we must all be flexible and open to change.
To me, pushing the envelope means to color outside the lines, find ways that some of the programs we already provide can be adapted or improved to address new and expanding needs in business and industry. It also means we must always be looking for things that benefit the students we are charged to educate; simply put, things like iPads or electronic notebooks as well as computers, to provide more usable and updated texts books thus saving time and money while providing better educational opportunities.
We are all educators and no one is left out of the equation. Our option is whether we prefer to be positive or negative influences in the lives of our youth. We can help them with their homework, see that they are prepared and encouraged to participate in school, and help make sure schools are safe, healthy and comfortable places for them, thus being partners of the school. Doing this we teach our children that the public education system is the way to a successful future. We can also be negative educators. We don’t have to express ill thoughts about the system and public education, we can teach the same lesson with apathy. This is why I have chosen to continue where I can to promote and help provide a strong public education opportunity here in Delaware and specifically in New Castle County.
I have many pleasant memorable moments as a student, but one that stands out in my mind, was a high school English teacher Mrs. Elzy. She worked with me and tried to help me improve my spelling. She has no idea we would end up with spell check on our computers. Mrs. Elzy, instead of making me feel bad or incapable, came up with a rather unique method to help me to improve my spelling skills. She gave me the job as “proof reader” on the school newspaper. Instead of being a negative experience, she let me have a positive experience and I was eventually able to identify misspelled words quickly and easily. That is what and educational experience needs to be for every child in the system, uplifting and positive.
If I could change one thing about education in Delaware, I believe it would be encouraging a more uniform and rigorous curriculum at the elementary through middle school. This would allow the same rigor through high school and reducing the need for most remedial programs, which would assure students they are truly career and college ready upon graduation. Another benefit to this type system would be the reduction of “drop outs” because the stronger more supported programs would help students form a better attitude towards education and a more confident self.