One of my favourite characters from ‘The West Wing’ television series is Toby Zeigler, the White House Director of Communications. In one scene his colleague pulls him out of a meeting with lobbyist where Toby had been rude, arrogant and argumentative. His colleague says, “You know you are getting a reputation of being an inflexible grump.” To which Toby responds with a smile, “I’ve taken years to cultivate that reputation.” Although we don’t necessarily want the same reputation as Toby he does make a couple of interesting points.
Firstly, a reputation is something that takes a long time to develop. Usually doing one good thing or one bad thing is not enough to get a reputation. It is what we consistently do that gives us our reputation.
Secondly, Toby says that he ‘cultivated’ his reputation. Cultivation is not passive process, it’s an active one. In other words he has been intentional in the development of his reputation. He has helped it grow by paying attention to it and constantly keeping it on his radar.
As a school we try to be intentional with our reputation. We use our website, newsletters, social media etc. to share with our parents, students and beyond the great things about our school.
Our reputation in the Illawarra is a strong one. We are known to be a school that produces students who are well-educated, resilient, faithful to God, respectful and compassionate. As I am out and about I constantly hear those messages back from a variety of sources and I feel proud that we have a reputation for doing these things consistently well.
I do, however, have a concern about our reputation at a local level. Although it is strong in the areas mentioned above, what I do hear from our neighbors, both residential and the nursing home and retirement village are concerns regarding how our parents are driving and parking in the local area.
Cedars is an active part of the local community. We visit the nursing homes regularly. Our students perform for the residents, read with them, lend a listening ear and play board games. We also participate in activities such as Clean Up Australia Day to show our local area how much we care. But people who are parking on private property and damaging lawns, who are taking up car spaces in the nursing homes and being rude when asked to move on, and disobeying road signs are eroding the reputation we have cultivated over many years. It would be a parental expectation that if our students behaved in this way they would be disciplined. I am calling for all of us to lead by example.
Over the years, the college has worked with Roads and Maritime Service to improve signage and parking outside of the school and we have put in place systems for drop off and pick up times. I would like to thank the parents who use these systems well. You have added to the safety of the students in our College and have been positive and proactive members of the community. To help those who are unaware of those procedures, please refer to the College website under Our Community. If you have any questions please speak to one of the teachers on duty in the morning or afternoon and I am sure they will be able to help. For those who know the procedures yet choose to operate outside of them, please be aware that you are damaging the reputation that we have worked so hard to cultivate as a community and this is a reputation I am passionate about protecting.
Our community is welcoming, loving, respectful and passionate. I look forward to celebrating those fantastic attributes with you at our Community Connect next Wednesday evening.
Let me encourage you all – staff, students, parents and friends, to think about what your own reputation is. What do you do that consistently forms it? And how does your individual reputation reflect on the college community as a whole?