How to Turn Around a School System

Published July 1, 2002

Turnaround specialist A. “Jack” Clegg, chairman/CEO of Nobel Learning Communities, Inc., offered the following suggestions for turning around a failing school system.

“I think they’re going about it the wrong way. They’re always starting at the top and they should be starting at the bottom, in the classroom.

“I’ve turned around a lot of companies in my life but I never start in the president’s office. I start somewhere on the floor. In a manufacturing company, I start with the machine operators. In a school, I would start in the classroom and look around. What is in that environment? What does it look like inside? Is the teacher capable?

“What you’re going to find is that some children just disrupt the class. They don’t want to be educated. They should be in another classroom. Then you’ve got to look at the tools. For example, do they have books? You start by solving one classroom. Then you look at the school, and then you look at the district.

“If you do it that way, you’ll find a model that will work—and I’ll bet you ten to one you won’t have a budget deficit at the end. I still think it’s not a money problem; it’s a money management problem.”

Nobel Learning Communities is the largest operator of non-sectarian private schools in the United States. The company is consistently profitable. (See the interview with Jack Clegg in this issue of School Reform News.)