By Mary McGarr

March 4, 2011

Elsewhere under Katy ISD  in the category labeled the “Katy Plan” I address the process endured in 1995-1996 when Superintendent Leonard Merrell constructed his "strategic plan."  The months of tedium had no positive result in my opinion,

For example, one of the results of that endeavor was the creation of a “mission statement.”  The committee worked an entire evening wordsmithing that statement.

Before addressing the statement, it is useful to understand what a “mission statement” is.  In the jargon of Total Quality Management, that management scheme devised to manipulate and control people, a mission statement sets out the goals of a group or an organization and is actually supposed to be for a business, but since government schools like to pretend they are a business (it makes them feel more important), they have all adopted this faddish management tool.

The mission statement originally came from the word "missionary," a Christian religious term designating one sent out by the Church to Christianize native peoples:  the "mission" specifically was the sending out of Jesuits for this purpose.

So the “mission” includes the purposeful actions that move an organization forward.  The “mission statement” then becomes the definitive words that say who the organization is and what it intends to do.

Originally, KISD’s mission statement  originating under Dr. Merrell that was approved by the board in April of 1996 was as follows:

“In cooperation with parents and community, the Katy Independent School District, as a premier district in the state of Texas, seeks academic excellence for all students through a balanced, dynamic curriculum.  The district prepares students for the changes and challenges of the future, enabling them to pursue productive and fulfilling lives.”

If one has to play the game and have a “mission statement,” this one was OK.

Originally part of the argument regarding this statement was my insistence that it say “in cooperation with” instead of "in partnership with” as I knew that the word “partner” has certain legal connotations. The word partnership legally means that something belongs half to one entity and half to another.  My point that I made was that children ONLY belong to their parents, and they cannot be shared, legally, with the school district! 

I’m not sure why that matter is not understood by most, but it is not.

After I left the Board in May of 1996, no one ever heard much again about the Katy Plan, which fact was just what I thought would happen.  I had to, in fact, write a letter to the editor of the Katy Times, to point out that many months had passed since the Board had approved the new mission statement, but there remained in the Board room the old mission statement that should have been replaced.  I suggested that if money were short, they could write it on a chalk board and wheel it in every month!  It was not long before the matter got fixed! The Mission Statement, whatever it is, resides on the wall behind the Board in the Board room.

I had quit paying attention to what they were doing, but after a few years, I noticed that they had changed the mission statement back to what the committee had rejected!  And never mind that two members of the committee, Judy Snyder and Robert Shaw, were now board members who should have stopped that change, unless, of course, they had not been paying attention in the first place.

So the nicely worded, although useless mission statement was changed to read, “In partnership with parents and community, the Katy Independent School District,  a premier district in the State of Texas, seeks academic excellence for each student to pursue a productive and fulfilling life through a balanced curriculum aligned with quality instruction and assessment of achievement.”

Words matter.

Notice that the revised mission statement doesn’t really make much sense at all as the sentence has places where the necessary connecting words have been omitted.  Obviously they were just determined to get the word “partnership” in it again. (The change back to the previously rejected mission statement proved that I was on to something regarding the word "partnership.")

The words “aligned,”  “quality,” and “assessment” all have very specific meanings to purveyors of outcome based education but are words the lay person/parent would not realize have double meanings. Hiding what one is doing is par for the course with Katy ISD.

Now comes Mr. Alton Frailey with his “Katy Plan.”  Here is the new “mission statement” :  “Katy Independent School District, the leader in educational excellence, together with family and community, provides unparalleled learning experiences designed to prepare and inspire each student to live an honorable, fulfilling life – to create the future.”

So, let’s parse that sentence.

First, it should be THE Katy Independent School District.  What's there is like saying “Plate is on the table.”  Leaving out the definite article  just indicates ignorance of English language usage.

Second, looking at content, “the leader in educational excellence” does not tell us much.  Where is KISD the leader? Do we have the best test scores? The most National Merit Finalists? How about the most students getting a college degree?  Perhaps it's the fact that we have the most new and expensive school buildings. Who decided that KISD was the "leader in educational excellence"?  Does our only “Recognized” rating, as opposed to an “Exemplary” rating make us the “leader”? Where is the proof of that "leadership" position in the scheme of things?

And what, pray tell is “educational excellence”? Does that phrase take the place of “academic excellence” as existed in the first mission statement?  Does “being the leader” supplant merely “seeking” excellence?  That phrase sounds pretty arrogant to me, but then I guess I should consider the source.

Notice that “parents” got wiped out by “family.So who constitutes “family”?  I thought one’s parents WERE his family.  Does family include brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, maybe a cousin or two, or is this perhaps a sly way to include alternative "family styles"? And when did the school board publicly decide that such a designation was OK? Even Supreme Courts are having trouble with that matter! And is this part of the wider effort to eliminate "parents" as the prime authority over their own children?

I didn’t like the “community” business the first time around in 1995, but I lost that argument.  In that era we were dealing with Hillary’s “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” nonsense.  I totally rejected that notion.  As the parents, my husband and I raised our children, and the village didn’t have a single thing to do with that.  In fact how we raised our children was none of the "village's" business! Thankfully, they turned out so well BECAUSE the village didn't raise them!

Regarding the phrase “unparalleled learning experiences,” I would have to say that this is the crux of the matter.  For certain, what students are being taught is unparalleled.  Every day at school is supposed to be fun, adventuresome, colorful, pleasing to the senses, sustainable, and documentable, and all those other silly words and phrases that have been slipped into public school parlance.  Please notice, however, that nowhere is the word academic a part of the “experience.”

As for being “honorable”  or “fulfilled” or “creating a future,” I would say that those qualities are not the purview of government schools.  I also believe that the allusion to "creating a future" links to the Futurist movement, but that's a subject for another time.

If the mission statement does not address or foster an academic education so that students will be educated, not trained; if the mission statement totally ignores the original and well-defined purpose of a public school system; then the mission statement is worthless and so is the “educational excellence” being provided.

As I said, words matter.

Putting my money where my mouth is, here is MY mission statement:

The Katy Independent School District, accepting its role as educator and seizing the opportunity to serve its students, their parents, and all taxpayers, seeks to deliver a well-developed academic liberal arts education utilizing well educated teachers and a purposeful knowledge based curriculum, so that students may graduate prepared to enter their chosen realm, qualified and confident that their public school education has been the best available.

That took me five minutes and is ever so much better!  Just about anybody can now understand the proper "mission"!