Dr. Robert Graham

Dr. Robert Graham took his understanding of the art of influencing leadership to help change the culture of a Tampa Bay school. He recognized the need to gain the trust of the principal before anything was going to be accomplished. He first gained her trust by asking questions and listening carefully. He empowered the principal by allowing her to take the lead in the relationship and allowed her to grow as a leader. The first question he asked was what she needed to accomplish her vision for the school.
One of the problems at the school was the fact that there was very little parental involvement. There was no PTA and little community support. Dr. Graham found that parents did not feel comfortable coming to the school, so they only did so when there was a discipline problem. At the first Arts Festival at the school, there were 90 children on the stage, and only 35 adults in attendance. At the final one he attended, there were 90 children on the stage, and 375 adults including parents, grandparents, and extended family members in the audience.
Dr. Graham attended all events at the school including “Muffins for Mom” “Donuts for Dads” and all of activities for students. In one instance, Dr. Graham received a donation of 500 books from Barnes and Noble. He invited parents to a program at the school at 7:30 AM to read together with their children. All of the parents who attended received a free book. This encouraged the parents to read with their children, and this practice grew.

Successes:
•    Increased parental involvement significantly
•    Secured 95 mentors for 95 students – 35 from the Mayor’s Office, 35 from Women’s League and the others from smaller groups
•    Taught the principal how to include marketing as a part of her business plan and her vision for the school
•    Hillsborough Education Foundation had 386 scholarship winners. Secured mentors for 82% of these students
•    The principal reduced the amount of time she spent of discipline from 55% to 18% ensuring that she had time to be the educational leader of the school.
•    Attendance at the school rose from 88.9% to 95.8%

Legacy:
The mentor program established at West Tampa Elementary is one that is extremely impressive and helped to improve the discipline of the students. The reduction in the adult to student ratio helped to ensure that no student fell through the cracks. Students felt that this person genuinely cared for them and this enhanced self-esteem. The improved self-concept helped overcome discipline problems. “My legacy grew from mentorship for the students at West Tampa to the students who were scholarship winners in Take Stock in Children. Also, I was able to take my experiences with the Council for Educational Change and the PASS program to have a positive impact in another state, with other schools, and other students. I paid it forward.”

Elevator Speech (In His Own Voice):
“Any business partner will be more rewarded by the time they spend with the principal, staff, students, and teachers than anything in their professional lives. They can share in becoming a part, and reveling in major changes they are impacting as measured by academics, moral growth, improvements in the student body, and increasing parent involvement. Principals have limited business skills and do not fully understand marketing, developing business plans, and other business strategies. A good business partner can bring these skills into the repertoire of the principal. When principals make business skills a part of their toolkit, the result is that the performance of the students is greatly enhanced.”