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CANOGA PARK : Some Fresh Ideas on How to Run Schools

September 23, 1993|SUSAN BYRNES

Lockheed executive Bryn Davis looked a bit out of place at Pomelo Drive Elementary School.

He towered above library shelves stocked with titles such as "Mr. Popper's Penquins" and touted business principles of team-building and continuous quality improvement.

But the parents, teachers and administrators of the school-based management school in Canoga Park who gathered Tuesday to hear him, seemed to hang on to his every word.

"This is excellent," said Robin Wilkes, a member of the advisory council who has a son in the third grade at the school. "Schools and businesses are organizations that function in many of the same ways. We're going to have to be proactive and take some risks."

The talk marked the first meeting of the school year for the 16-member leadership council at Pomelo Drive, one of 47 elementary schools participating in the three-year-old Los Angeles Unified School District's school-based management experiment. The aim of the district program was to shift control of operations such as budgeting and teaching methods to elected councils made up of teachers, administrators and parents. While Pomelo's council occasionally has speakers at its monthly meetings, Davis was the first guest from the business sector.

Using organizational flow charts on an overhead projector, Davis outlined methods used by Lockheed to improve business--including adopting a new philosophy, ceasing dependence on inspection to achieve quality, and constantly improving systems of production and service.

Pomelo's principal, Robert Fishman, said that a willingness to change is important for the future of public schools.

"Resistance to change has been pretty universal," Fishman said. "We have to start to look toward doing things in a whole different way."

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