Sunday, 31 August 2014


Part of my morning meditation included reading this article by Margaret Wheatley: // and that took me back to all the times we have crossed a border, north, south, east or west. 
What I found was that regardless of country, language or culture, people are all of the same species, homo sapiens, although one has to question the wisdom part.  That we are the only surviving members of this genus is quite amazing when you review the history of wars, poverty, hunger and disease. 
I believe our survival has more to do with our being fairly adept at communication such as language and art for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. We have created many cooperating and competing groups, from families to countries. 
Our very human desire to understand and influence our environment, and explain and manipulate phenomena, has been the foundation for the development science and religion.  And both have created enormous conflicts in our world and why?   Is it because of the old territorial imperative, pride, jealousy or some psychological need for control?
Right now, the world seems a little wacked out over some big differences in values and consequent behavior of how we human beings treat each other.  On the one hand you have compassion, kindness and love and on the other side of the fence what seems like cold-heartedness, cruelty and hatred.
Each side is trying to prevail through various means and neither negotiation nor force is resolving very much.  The conflicts and disagreements continue to reinforce the boundaries and separation rather than breaking down those things that keep us apart and prevent our cooperation and collaboration to solve some of the common issues that affect everyone.
Sometimes it is like a bad dream and we hope that we will wake up and it will be over but such is clearly not the case.  Some of us have hope that the next generation of children growing up will do a better job at all of this and more, and make the world safer, healthier and more friendly. However, it is really up to us to do what we can while we can to erase those things that keep us apart and strengthen those things that bring us together around common concern for our mutual well-being.

Saturday, 30 August 2014


Check it out on a web search.  Fascinating and appealing, at least to some of us older folks who have lived in larger houses, in different places over the years.  We often hear people talking about “downsizing” and we all know what that means.  I like to refer to it as “right-sizing” which to me means having enough shelter and comfort to meet our needs.  The small house or tiny house movement began when people became concerned primarily about two things – the environment and finances. 
The typical American home is over 2000 square feet and we were definitely in that category for many years.  Some of the small houses are under 1000 square feet so you can see immediately that the impact is cut at least in half if not more.  Many of the designs of these houses are very creative and use space in interesting ways, often multi-use instead of separate rooms for everything.  I can remember when some houses even had a sewing room! Imagine that!  Who makes their own clothes today?
In January of this year, we sold our 2700 square foot house, six acres, a barn and several outbuildings and moved into approximately 370 square feet, plus an outdoor patio.  Never mind that it is a 47’ motor home with four slide-outs and a diesel engine.  Our carbon footprint is up for review but we often park it for several months at a time, usually in a great place.  This experience started us thinking about what’s next and what some viable options might be.
We had seen many RV parks and a number of them had modular houses or park models as they are called, some known as manufactured houses.  The history of those buildings is simple.  Once upon a time there were house trailers and a classic that has been around for a long time is the Airstream but there were many other brands as well.   They were built on a chassis with wheels, parked somewhere and people lived simply and inexpensively.  In the mobile RV market, there are travel trailers, camping trailers, fifth wheel trailers, Class C which is a truck chassis onto which a camper is attached, Class B which is basically a van outfitted for camping and Class A which is a self-powered diesel or gas motor home that comes in various sizes and configurations. And there is a percentage of RV folks who live and travel full time in these conveyances.
In one particular RV park we noticed a senior community of these manufactured homes, some 60 of them located behind the campground and we started talking with people who lived there and visited a few of the houses.  Voila!  The construction looked solid, the floor plans flexible and we could get everything we needed in a 16x68 single wide house that ends up being just slightly over 1000 square feet with two bedrooms, two baths, living and dining areas, utility room and we will add a small, covered porch/deck.  We rent the lot and we are ordering the house to be built to our specifications within the next few weeks.  It will be delivered intact and it will be our residence for the foreseeable future at least when we’re in town  Seems like a good choice for us given where we are, geographically, chronologically and financially.  And perhaps as important as the house, our neighbors are interesting people and we like them.  Check out the most recent issue of dwell, Clever Living Solutions for Homes Under 1,000 square feet.  Small Space, Big Design.

Sunday, 17 August 2014


On Thursday, August 14, I was witness to an historic occasion of a school being born.  This was the third such opportunity in my career and while each one was quite different, as you will see in a moment, there were also some surprising similarities.  What we might learn from these occasions will depend on our own insight, understanding and experience.  Starting a new enterprise of any kind can be an enormous challenge and starting an independent, private school has its own peculiarities.

The challenges for those who have a vision for what a new school should be include:
  • inspired leadership
  • sufficient financial support
  • adequate and desirable physical facilities
  • outstanding teachers
  • a dynamic curriculum
  • the enthusiastic support of the local community
  • families and students who want to be part of the experience.
Fortunately, in each of the three cases that I will outline very briefly, these elements came together  because there were talented people who wanted to make a difference, who were passionate about the project and who were committed to see it through.  The most recent one, just beginning, does not yet have a track record of success but I believe they are well-positioned to head in that direction very soon with an opening scheduled for August of 2015.  In all three cases, advanced planning has been a key component in putting the pieces together.

1.  Bosque School, Albuquerque, New Mexico.  It opened in August, 1995, with 60 students in grades 6 and 7 and today has over 500 students in grades 6-12 on a campus of 40 acres, nine buildings and growing.  I was asked to become the founding head of school and began work in August of 1994 with a year to put it all together.   I had a lot of good help along with the vision of the founder, Peggie Findlay, who marshaled a field of energy, people and resources that took us forward.  We rang the bell on opening day that has rung every day since for the past 20 years.  The stories surrounding the beginning years has many aspects, more interesting to those of us who were involved than the current constituents.  Suffice to say that Bosque School would not exist without the early support of many people and all seven characteristics listed above.

2. Monte del Sol Charter School, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In 1998, Tony Gerlicz and I had a conversation about his career path and I suggested that he consider opening a charter school since the legislation for these public schools of choice had just been enacted in New Mexico.  Tony worked diligently, as is his style, and the charter was granted in December of 1999 for five years.  I served as the founding Board Chair.   In the ensuing years, the first 10 of which were under Tony's leadership, the school received many awards and is still ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best high schools in the United States.  The fourth head of MdS has just taken the reins and the school continues to thrive with its innovative and progressive programs.

3.  The Delta School, Wilson, Arkansas.  Last year I was contacted by a former colleague who has known of my work these past 15 years as a school consultant focused on leadership. John Faulkner, formerly of Choate and Ensworth schools, had been hired as the town manager and developer for a small town in southeastern Arkansas about an hour north of Memphis.  John was working with Gaylon Lawrence, Jr. one of the principals of The Wilson Company and Gaylon believed strongly that the town and the region would benefit greatly with the presence of a new, independent school.
I agreed to help The Delta School find a founding head because I saw the possibilities and I had been in the search and consulting business for quite awhile.  I was no longer ready to take on a project of such proportions although it was very tempting because of the uniqueness of the situation.  The Delta School founding Board signed the papers this past Thursday and that paves the way to build this new school with all seven components churning away.  A 17,000 square foot mansion and surrounding property have been allocated for the opening in August of next year.  A new head has been hired, plans are on the drawing board and the next steps are being taken in the weeks and months ahead.

What I conclude from all three of these experiences is that while each one is very different from the other, the similarities may be more important than the differences.  The success of each of these schools rests on those seven characteristics at the top: 1- inspired leadership from both head and board; 2- sufficient funding that comes from numerous sources; 3- a teaching/learning environment that is optimum for both students and adults, 4- passionate, talented and committed teachers,
5- a program that is student-centered, developmentally appropriate, comprehensive, integrated and performance-based; 6- community recognition and support; and 7- students and families who are excited about being part of a progressive educational experience.

The stories of each of these schools are rich with people who care and who have what it takes to make it all happen and keep happening.  I am grateful to have played some part in each one and feel honored and humbled by the experiences.

Sunday, 3 August 2014



The origin of the word is obscure but we all know its meaning.

It is usually associated with damp, moist and thick air where

Sound travels better although it might seem muffled.

Apparently the drops of water in fog are not connected

And it’s really hard to see (or think) in a very thick fog!

That exercise of 55 words started a train of thought about some of the things that present obstacles to sustained thought.  I have often thought that I probably “suffered” from ADD as it has always been easy for me, at times, to be distracted by some peripheral, external activity.  In fact, it still is unless I am really concentrating and focusing on a specific activity.  I did not consider my deficient attention to be a disorder but rather a welcome diversion, at least on many occasions when I found something of interest even if momentary.
Here is one example.  We will be driving down the road having a conversation, which we do a lot, and I might say, “Look, there’s a chicken!”  I know it seems rude to my wife and for awhile it became a kind of joke that we could use as a reference whenever either of us interrupted the other with something other than the current thread of conversation.  You need to understand that I had a genuine interest in chickens and kept some for several years.  I was especially fond of French Black Copper Marans.  So it was easy for me to be drawn to chickens in the same way that classic cars might turn my head at another time.
Another obstacle is what I call overloading the circuit.  In other words, there is just too much draw on the amperage, the circuit breaker trips and off goes the current.  Everything stops until we can either reset the breaker or reduce the load and start over.  Too many simultaneous or diverse thoughts at the same time will do that and so, we start over.  We can back up, find out where we were and go at it again.  Actually, there are times when that’s a good idea anyway, to get a fresh start or review where we have been so we know where we’re going.  It’s really quite clarifying!
Here’s my last example and I hope you will think of your own obstacles and how you deal with them.  Or have a discussion with your “team” and discover what others may struggle with that prevents getting to where you want to be with your thoughts, ideas and activities.  I keep a mental list and sometimes write down what I am working on in terms of projects, things to do, what needs attention and who I need to contact for this or that.  When there is a lot on that list, I seldom reorder the priorities.  I just try to plough on the best I can.  I think there may be a better way!