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  • by Blaine Helwig

VALUES – It Determines Priorities

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

About 25 years ago, my University of Texas investment professor showed a picture on the overhead of an outhouse to the students in my finance class, “Would any of you pay 8 million dollars for this rustic old outhouse (i.e. outdoor farmhouse toilet)? Please raise your hand and explain, if you would do so?”

The students in the class, me included, did not raise their hands. I thought, “There is no way I would pay that money for a broken down outhouse." I worked the corn and alfalfa fields during the summer months when I was a kid. I was quite familiar with the physical condition of a rural privy.

When no one answered, the professor stated, “I would. I would pay 8 million dollars for this outhouse under the right investment circumstances, of course.” He waited. No student responded. He continued, “Today, let’s discuss value determination to either people or organizations from both a monetary and qualitative perspective.”

What is and what determines Value?

It is not difficult to determine if something is valuable to a person or an organization. As I learned decades ago, whether a person or organization, value may be highly correlated with regard to “where money, time and effort is invested.” Of course, not an earth shattering analysis or complicated to understand.

Let’s look at a couple situations.

I tell my friends that I am a NASCAR stock car enthusiast. But, is it a fact? If I spend threshold amounts of money, time and effort into various aspects on activities that support the initial premise, then it is true. If not, the stated value is not accurate. In this case, I do not spend any time watching racing on television nor do I attend car racing outdoor events. I do not know much about famous NASCAR car drivers. Hence, I do not place much value in that particular sport or entertainment. Others may value that sport, but clearly, I personally do not.

Organizations are no different than individuals. A corporation personnel relation’s director states that the organization places strong emphasis on employee wellness; however, the company has little to no support of physical activities during the workday, and it does not provide its employees a corporate discount to local gym memberships. Obviously, the company does not value wellness, despite an utterance to the contrary.

Measuring what an elementary principal values?

Based on the above two examples, determining a person’s or organization’s value is not complicated. What a school principal values is critical to all stakeholders and it must also be evident via practice. Hence, I believe principals should answer the following question to determine if their stated values to stakeholders or supervisors are aligned to their campus daily efforts or results.

“What are the three happenings at your campus that you value most?”

I asked this question last year to an elementary principal. Without hesitation, he replied, “academics, fine arts programming and relationships.” A quick review of the campus local and Title money budgets corroborated the first two of the three areas. I investigated to determine if there was further evidence to support his statement. I reviewed his Title 1 School’s academic performance and discovered the campus’ results were similar to non-Title 1 schools in his district. With regard to fine arts programming, the principal established and promoted campus creative learning activities with schoolwide student participation. Finally, all school stakeholder relationships on campus were amongst the highest in his district according to the annual parent, student and teacher surveys. Hence, the principal’s three stated values are accurately and objectively reflected in daily practice at his campus – stated values match programming as well as both qualified and quantified performance.

In general, if a principal struggles to answer this question or what is stated as valued is not evident or practiced, then the principal should reevaluate campus operations in relation to purpose and function – and administrative reflection and reordering is necessary and overdue. In a word, a principal’s stated values determine both financial allocation and organizational priorities, and as expected, if the principal is unclear in their own priorities, then the only campus outcome is uncoordinated efforts and depressed student academics.


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