Thursday, June 28, 2007


Moorhead School District Superintendent Larry Nybladh is upset that Moorhead City Manager Bruce Messelt--soon to be president of Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo--sent an email to parents of Moorhead students asking their input and opinions about the possibility of a Spanish immersion program at Oak Grove that would pick up where the Moorhead program leaves off. Mr. Messelt has two children in the Moorhead program.

Mr. Nybladh was quoted in the June 26, 2007 Forum, “It’s very unorthodox and unusual for any school system to communicate with the parents of another school system."

Mr. Nybladh said the way Mr. Messelt communicated with Moorhead parents is "very troubling, not only to parents but also to the school district" and that parents considered the e-mail communication a breech of ethics.

Mr. Nybladh's comments reflect the paternalistic attitude that is the root of the educational problems in our nation today.

I think it was wise of Mr. Messelt to ask the advice of people whose experience and opinions would benefit other students in the larger community. Mr. Messelt contacted people who are citizens of the broader community as well as parents of Moorhead public school students. The parents are free and responsible adults fully capable of responding or not responding to his request, as they wish. They are not minions of the Moorhead School District nor should their experience be the intellectual property of the Moorhead School District.

It may have been politically correct for Mr. Messelt to inform the Moorhead School District of his plans ahead of time, but he did not need their permission to communicate with other adults in the community.

Calling Mr. Messelt's actions unethical is a cheap shot. Parents who were contacted should be flattered that he valued and asked for their opinions. I wish more leaders did so. What is unethical is the selfish hoarding of experience and knowledge to the detriment of our larger community. Servant leaders give their experience and knowledge freely to others because they recognize that what is good for the large community is good for their small portion of it.

I understand if people felt threatened by Mr. Messelt's email and plans for Oak Grove, however, we need to rise above our selfish emotional reactions to do what is right for the larger community.

The educational system in the United States is a disaster. I encourage Mr. Messelt to embrace the unorthodox and the unusual as he begins his new role. If he does so, people in the entrenched culture of our educational system will resist change and try to teach Mr. Messelt the rules of”how things are done around here."

I hope Mr. Messelt is a force for rewriting the rules of our educational system. I always did my best work as a leader before I knew what the rules were.

Mr. Nybladh owes Mr. Messelt an apology.