Archived Story

It takes whole community for real change

Published 10:11pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Disney Way consultant Bill Capodagli, who visited Dowagiac last year, is still talking up our town while writing about Holland.
In his April article in Hispanic Retail 360 Magazine, “Misguided Perceptions … Dare to Make a Difference,” the management expert and bestselling author describes “misguided perceptions” in Holland, a town ABC News announced as second on the list of “Top Ten  Healthiest, Happiest Places in America.” Unfortunately, many Hispanics in Holland seem to have been overlooked in this national accolade.
In December 2010, Michigan.gov reported Holland hosts the largest and fastest-growing young Hispanic population in Michigan. Yet, the perception that Hispanics are second-class citizens is manifested in many of Holland’s institutions.
As a consultant to business and schools alike, “I believe there is no longer any question of whether or not to change our education paradigm, but rather whether the conditions and support are adequate to enable the process to be successful. I have come to the realization that schools cannot do it alone … it takes the entire community working in collaboration to accomplish real change.”
Capodagli said “this realization was solidified in my mind” during his Dowagiac consulting engagement.
The school district, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, Southwestern Michigan College and city government came together to form a Disney Way consortium based on Walt Disney’s Dream, Believe Dare, Do success credo.
“Their goal was not only to transform the educational system but to revamp the community culture to become ‘customer-centric producers’ of their own ‘shows.’ ”
Dowagiac Union Schools’ education dream “is a great dream for any community. Imagine a place where students have a passion for learning, the focus is student-centered, students achieve personal goals, each person is valued, our whole community is an educator, children work together and learn from each other and education is one in a hundred.”
Statistics are compelling when it comes to rewards of real change:
• A high school dropout contributes $60,000 less in taxes over a lifetime.
• If the male graduation rate rose just 5 percent, the nation could save $4.9 billion annually in crime-related costs.
• U.S. businesses spend $25 billion annually on remedial education.
Maybe The Disney Way beats on in the hearts of participants, maybe it faltered in the scope of the persistence necessary to exact real change or maybe the jury’s still out.
Parents are quick to blame schools and schools are quick to blame lack of parental support or government regulation. Capodagli would say both are correct, plus, schools’ methods of delivering education still need to change.
Father Kevin Covert’s pet peeve with blame games resonated with me and I enjoyed covering recent Edwardsburg school board meetings to witness a high level of citizen involvement in a district already recognized for excellence expend energy on solving problems instead of pointing fingers.

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