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Posted December 11, 2013

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Superintendent Inspired by Coach Who Emphasizes Execution, Not Excuses

"When we have setbacks – we have and we will again – we’re not making excuses or offering defensive explanations. Instead, we’re re-examining, re-evaluating and adjusting the game plan." Read Superintendent Winston Brooks' column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Autumn is such a fantastic time of year. Changing colors, a nip in the air, Thanksgiving and football.

Yes, I’m a big fan of the sport. I told the crowd at an Albuquerque High School pep rally recently that I root for the Kansas City Chiefs, but my other two favorite teams are the Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because both were coached by Tony Dungy, the first African-American coach to win an NFL Super Bowl.

I am a long-time admirer of Dungy, who not only attended the Bulldogs pep rally but also spoke at the 57th fall conference of the Council of the Great City Schools in Albuquerque.

It’s not Dungy’s success on the gridiron that most impresses me, though he did lead his teams to 10 consecutive playoffs. It’s the way he approaches the game – as an opportunity to learn and develop.

That attitude goes a long way in the classroom as well. As does the advice he shared with students: “You determine if we stay where we are or we improve. You have to take the challenge.”

In Albuquerque Public Schools, we’ve chosen to take the challenge, and we are improving. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get knocked down now and again. As Dungy pointed out, someone is going to lose the game, but losing the game doesn’t mean you’ve lost in life. Failure is temporary. It’s only fatal if you choose not to learn from the experience.

As the Albuquerque High football team teetered on the dubious state record for the most consecutive losses, Coach Dungy shared six words of advice that he also offered the Buccaneers after the team lost 12 straight seasons: expectations, execution, no excuses, no explanations.

It’s advice I’ve taken to heart.

We’ve set high expectations for our students. We expect to see improvement in their math and reading scores. We expect 75 percent of the class of 2015 to graduate. We expect them to go on to college or work and to be successful in their careers.

In order to meet those expectations, we’re executing programs, support systems and new approaches to teaching and learning. Whether it be AVID classes that reach out to the students who need a little extra push, or online learning or extended school days or more challenging programs like the International Baccalaureate Programme and dual-credit classes, we’re finding and executing ways to help our students achieve.

When we have setbacks – we have and we will again – we’re not making excuses or offering defensive explanations. Instead, we’re re-examining, re-evaluating and adjusting the game plan.

Our fall sports teams are wrapping up their seasons, and inevitably there are joyful winners and disappointed losers. But in my eyes, these kids are all winners because they participated, tried, learned, improved.

These athletes may carry memories of their losses with them for a long time. Coach Dungy has, as have I. He told the Bulldogs that he still remembers his high school team losing to a cross-town rival for the first time when he was a player. I remember heartbreaking losses on my high school basketball court. And somehow, it all worked out. We picked ourselves up, brushed ourselves off and carried on.

Enjoy the autumn. Enjoy the cooler weather, the snow-dusted mountains, cheers from the stands, family, friends, turkey, a few days off. I am thankful for the people I work with, the students I work for, and the wherewithal to have expectations, the ability to execute, and the strength to make no excuses or explanations.

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