Point of View: OKC superintendent can't do it alone

December 19, 2018

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Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Often called "soft skills," these traits determine an individual's ability to be successful in any setting, and are critically important for an effective leader.

Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools Sean McDaniel continues to exhibit his emotional intelligence in many settings. He showed his emotional intelligence as he listened and responded with empathy at recent community meetings where he discussed the Pathway to Greatness process. Community members were, understandably, concerned and frustrated and they looked to McDaniel for answers. He promised at the beginning of each of the five meetings that he would stay until the last question was answered, and he did just that. Some of the comments and questions stemmed from years of pent-up animosity, dating to long before McDaniel even started his career in education. He never showed defensiveness, and treated every person with respect and dignity.

When challenged by an angry sounding woman at a recent civic club presentation, McDaniel responded to her question about what he was going to do to improve failing schools with the same poise under pressure. He circled back to remarks he had just made, and reminded the questioner and the audience about the need to address our students' social emotional needs along with their academic needs. He didn't make excuses, he simply pointed out that sustained academic success won't happen, no matter how innovative the curriculum or program, without addressing these foundational needs.

As Oklahoma City Public Schools heads down our Pathway to Greatness, improved emotional intelligence is needed for the entire community. Creating, responding to and accepting the change we all know we need for OKCPS is going to take a calm, measured approach. Optimism, collaboration, self-regulation, empathy and motivation are all required to build the school district our kids deserve. We have these traits in our superintendent, but he cannot do it alone.

Melon is president and CEO of the Oklahoma Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Read Mary Mélon's original NewsOK editorial.