The Perfect School 

Jim Rosborg, Max McGee, and Jim Burgett

authors of What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know  
 

If you wanted to create a perfect school,

these are the kinds of things you’d need to define: 

 

Perfect Teachers

Perfect Staff

Perfect Parents

Perfect Principals

Service

Character / Perception

Curriculum / Data / Diversity

Finances / Academic Gap

Hiring and Firing 

They are also great places to start perfecting the school(s) you have. 


Everybody wants a perfect school, but what does that really mean? If you could start over, what could you do to make your school perfect?  

That’s what three top award-winning educators from Illinois asked each other, then dug into their respective areas of strength to answer. The result is a no-nonsense look at perfect teachers, perfect staff, perfect parents, and perfect principals, plus the features and steps required to spread perfection throughout any K-12. 

Rather than spend time defining an educational utopia, here is a book that provides a roadmap for every teacher, principal, superintendent, School Board member, parent, tax payer—and you. This is the framework the three veteran authors provide:

  

Table of Contents 

  • A Perfect School?, 1
  • The Perfect Teacher and Perfect Staff (McGee), 11
  • The Perfect Parent (McGee), 29
  • The Perfect Principal (McGee), 43
  • Service Makes or Breaks the Perfect School (Burgett), 57
  • Infuse Character, Build Characters (Burgett), 73
  • Perception is Reality (Burgett), 87
  • Eliminate the Weakest Link (Burgett), 105
  • The Devil is in the Details (Rosborg), 121
  • Gathering Data to Help Improve Student Success (Rosborg), 137
  • Bridging the Academic Gap (McGee and Rosborg), 145
  • Financing Education (Rosborg), 161
  • Total Curriculum (Rosborg), 175

 
 

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Who most benefits from looking hard

at school perfection? 

The School Board, the administration, the teachers, the kids, the community, and just about everybody else! 

But it’s no surprise that The Perfect School is used most widely as a textbook at graduate education classes, and the students (when they graduate) take its contents and its methodology back to their lucky schools and leaders.  

What is a “perfect principal” like? 

Let’s take a sneak peek into Max McGee’s opening of chapter four....  

The perfect school must have the perfect principal, or at least the “practically perfect principal” because no principal can be or should be everything to everyone. The practically perfect principal (1) builds a perfect school around a shared vision, (2) is a terrific communicator, (3) is highly resourceful, (4) compiles and analyzes data to share with his or her staff, and (5) leads a balanced life which includes having fun at work. 

Diogenes’ search for the honest man is quite literally legendary. His quest, however, is arguably less daunting than our search for the perfect principal. In fact, the perfect principal is a paradox, for the leader who is perfect for parents is frequently far from perfect to most of the staff. Principals who are perfect for the staff by definition cannot always be perfect for all students. And a perfect principal to one teacher can easily be a lousy principal to another. Like beauty, as the following examples illustrate, perfection is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Overbearing parents believe the perfect principal is one who does their bidding, like acceding to demands to change a class placement, intervening in a minor classroom disciplinary incident, or absolving their child when he bullies another. This principal is likely to be perceived as a less than perfect “soft touch” by his teachers. Likewise, the perfect principal to one teacher may be one who is working hard to remove an incompetent colleague, yet to that colleague, his group of friends, and most likely the teachers’ union, the principal is a rat. To an insecure teacher, the perfect principal backs every disciplinary decision, right or wrong. That principal, however, would undoubtedly be labeled as “unfair” or, more accurately, “wimpy and clueless” by the students in that teacher’s class.

One of my favorite memories as a principal was when a rascally fifth grader was sent to me for, in the words of the teacher, “serious disciplinary action.” My secretary told me that the teacher sent him to be disciplined because he had been “mouthy” with her and should have a detention. Though Jim was full of personality, I didn’t picture him as one to get into a confrontation with a teacher. Arming myself with my sternest principal face, I sat him in front of my long desk. Trying to appear as tall and imposing as possible, I peered over it and gruffly asked, “What are you doing here, young man?”

    “I got in trouble,” he answered.

    “Yes, you did. What did you do wrong?”

    “Nothing really.”

    “Nothing? Mrs. Dour said that you were rude to her and mouthy. Just what happened?”

    “I asked if I could go to the washroom, and she said in front of everyone, ‘What’s the magic word?’ So I said, ‘Abracadabra’ and everyone started laughing.”

    I tried to keep up my game face, but then I cracked up. “That really is funny,” I chuckled. So much for “serious disciplinary action.”

   And so much for being the perfect principal. Taking a student’s side rarely wins points with teachers, especially ones who cannot laugh at themselves. I decided that Jim did not deserve a detention but rather an audition as a stand-up comic for our next talent show. He went back to class, and Mrs. Dour got mad at me and complained to her friends. Though most of the others in the school would have handled the matter exactly as I did, they naturally clucked and shook their heads to her face. Then they went on about their business as did I, the less-than-perfect principal. 

    A serious hunt for perfection among principals depends so much upon perception that it is fruitless. That said, there are some distinguishing characteristics, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes/dispositions that are possessed by better principals—which we define as those who have a sustained positive impact on teaching and learning. They aren’t perfect, so for our purposes in this book let’s call them “practically perfect principals.” Those we can find. 

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And does service make or break the perfect school? 

Jim Burgett’s opening words of chapter five say that  

The perfect school (1) understands the difference between ordinary and quality service, (2) develops and implements a set of basic service guidelines, (3) doesn’t leave service to chance, but provides extensive training for all employees, and (4) promotes an organizational ownership of service through empowerment, a common language, and a clear and meaningful mission. 

Nothing can break a school system, deflate morale, or diffuse the excitement of learning as much as poor service or a general lack of character. With all the right ingredients you will be on the road of excellence to a perfect school, but even if you have the best staff, the most effective processes, and great facilities, if you lack the desire to serve, you will be average at best. This section looks at the two critical pillars of a strong educational climate: serving others and exercising strong values. 

Service

In this chapter we will compare the schoolhouse to any company, business, or organization known to provide service, and then we will follow an example of one of the leading service providers in the world. Since we know that schools can (and should) be outstanding service-providing institutions, let’s also consider ten doable steps to becoming a service model that others will envy. 

What do others say about The Perfect School? 

The Perfect School is a perfect read for aspiring as well as practicing administrators. This is a valuable read for everyone interested in the education of our children.” 

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Executive-in-Residence, Cleveland State University

(and former Superintendent of Cleveland and New York City)  

“Aspiring and current school leaders should be required to read The Perfect School. Compelling reading with straightforward comments about what our schools can and should look like. Any leader will find the chapters thought provoking and timely.” 

Clayton M. Wilcox, Ed.D., Superintendent, Pinellas County Schools, Pinellas County, Florida 

“For any of us to achieve absolute perfection within America’s schools may be an impossible task, but these three successful, experienced educators certainly provide the concepts, strategies, ideas, and practices that can greatly assist us in our attempts.” 

Joseph J. Cipfl, Ph.D., President and CEO Emeritus, Illinois Community College Board 
 

Who are the authors? 

Jim Rosborg—Program Coordinator for External Graduate Programs and professor at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, Jim recently retired as Superintendent of Belleville Public School District 118 in Belleville, Illinois. Jim received his Doctorate from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He was named Illinois Superintendent of the Year in 2004 and currently serves on the Illinois State Board Task Force.

Max McGee—Former Illinois State Superintendent of Education, Max is currently the President of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. With a Ph. D. from the University of Chicago, he was the Superintendent of Wilmette School District #39.
Jim Burgett—Jim has served in almost every educational capacity during his 38-year tenure. Named the Illinois Superintendent of the Year in 2001 and Administrator of the Year in 2002, Jim retired from the Blue Ribbon Highland Community Unit School District in 2004. Burgett is a nationally recognized educational speaker and consultant.

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SATISFACTION GUARANTEED:

If this book isn’t more than we promise,

send it back for a full refund, no questions asked.  

Is $24.95 ($20 in digital format) too much to pay for perfection?   

Can you think of a better goal in your quest for betterment? 

Can you afford not to have somebody in your school

asking—and answering—these questions? 

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