School chief makes the grade as role model

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You can tell the best and worst public servants, business leaders and educators by the priorities they set.

Some in top positions will do anything it takes to get ahead. They would never concern themselves with the wellbeing of those around them. Advancing their own agendas is the singular objective, no matter who they crush or how disproportionate their gains are compared to those they rely upon every day.

Some leaders realize there are times when benefits for an organization must come before personal advantage.

The most outstanding leaders, generally producing the best results individually by motivating those around them by example, are those who realize how their personal choices do set a standard.

We saw such a model this week when Terrebonne Parish School District Superintendent Philip Martin turned down a proposed pay increase of $11,500.

Even as the school district faced a $2 million budget reduction for the 2012-13 academic year, the Terrebonne Parish School Board executive committee recommended Martin’s annual base salary be increased from $143,500 to $155,000.

The matter was to be voted upon at last Tuesday’s school board meeting, but was circumvented by a two-line letter from Martin to board members requesting, “the issue relative to superintendent compensation be pulled from consideration.”

Some might say that Martin was simply practicing damage control by bowing to public criticism. Objectors could easily complain about Martin’s pay grade in comparison to other public school district employees.

There were even some present for the expected vote who were outraged that the school board would even consider such a significant increase to any superintendent’s compensation while all Louisiana public schools face a budget crisis.

Martin explained that for him it was a matter of priorities. “We have so many things we need to take care of that I did not want this to become a distraction for anyone,” he said during a telephone conversation.

We believe people in positions of great responsibility and accountability should be compensated accordingly. We also realize there are many times in government, commerce and even education when greed leads to disproportionate personal compensation at the expense of organizations involved.

Business management consultant Robert Greenleaf is credited with originating the philosophy of servant leadership. The characteristics of his administrative style have been identified as including empathy, listening, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community.

By practicing servant leadership and looking beyond his self-interests, school superintendent Martin earns an A.