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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

Michael Flanagan: Well, Brian, you know we have three great kids. We are very lucky. They all are married now. Brian got married two years ago and our other two got married almost back to back this summer. Of course, Brian’s I think I want to show you first thing, because, this is…I am proud of him because of his work ethic, the fact that he is team player. He is already a leader and ahead of where I was at that age, but this is why we are most proud of Brian right here. [clapping] Our first granddaughter, Ella Grace, and I got that on my Blackberry, you know. We rushed over to be there for this great event, and it was a Saturday night I think, and it turns out it did not quite happen as quickly as we all know. It takes a while sometimes, and I think it was 20 hours later or whatever, and we finally got up to the room and saw Ella Grace, and we are just so proud of Brian. Brian comes to a state like I did. I grew up in New York City, and in New York City, everyone is a Notre Dame fan. I mean, it did not matter what religion you are or anything else, it is partly because there is no football team there. Just think about it. There are 8 million people and no football team. So, I went there as a young person and thought everyone loved Notre Dame. Came to Michigan and realized, not so much. [group laughter] Brian has worked hard. He has his Master’s degree, and I know he loves working with Gleaves, and I just have to say, you know, leadership is all about having some heroes and then trying to be like them. I know you are to him, and you have become that to me also, I mean, just knowing your story and having the privilege of sitting with you today, I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration you give to all of us, so… So, Brian asked me to speak about a couple of things. He thought if you kind of talked about background a little bit it might be helpful, and I would say this, that I guess the first thing would be this New York City story. I’m a kid who is definitely going in the wrong direction, and I had a teacher who put me in a special program, and I probably looked at that time. I just turned 60, so to give you kind of an era picture. I looked like people from West Side Story and my dad, who was a very hard worker, worked for years at night on the GI bill to get a degree. And overnight, I remember hearing them. I remember my mother crying. We were in this little tiny place in Brooklyn, New York, and I heard my mother crying and I thought Nanny died who lived upstairs, and it wasn’t that. What it turned out to be was she was almost crying and giddy at the same time because once he got his college degree, we got to move out to Long Island first of all, which was a good thing, and secondly, he went from $2,500 a year to $10,000 a year overnight. So those of us who moved out, I mean, we kind of got this right away, that you go to college, you live on Long Island. If you don’t go to college, you suffer here in Brooklyn. But I had a really difficult transition time because we looked like kids from West Side Story, and I would go out to Long Island, and these guys are wearing madras shorts, for those of you in my era who know what those are, and wing tip shoes. I mean, I thought, this is not going to work. I think it is fair to say I was a problem to say the least. So when this teacher came up and said we are going to be in a special program, I thought, they are going to put me in special education, you know, I didn’t really care. And instead she said, no, but we have the money for you and we are going to put you in the 89’er program. And so the 89’er program. She said, eighth graders doing ninth grade work. And I thought, I’m not doing seventh grade work, but you know, go for it. [laughter]

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

But honest to goodness, in the spirit of Brian’s introduction, which I very much appreciated, it changed my life because it told me that particularly now I wake up every day, I feel responsible for the 2 million kids in the state, and it told me at that point in time when I took this job, speaking of the high school requirements, that we are not going to keep having a hypocrisy that is in most schools today, that all kids can learn. We all say it to each other, all kids can learn, but what we really mean is maybe not those kids, and sometimes those kids have racial implications, sometimes it has implications related to special needs, special ways to learn, and I mean, I felt compelled when I left my cushy little association job at more pay to take this job, I thought, you know what, we are going to push the envelope here, and we are going to make it clear that all the kids can learn at higher levels. And, by the way, if we don’t, we are going down. This state to say the least has serious troubles right now, but if we don’t get much larger numbers of kids at higher levels of achievement, economic development is not going to happen. When we get some of these businesses that we get, it is partially because, I’m a little embarrassed to say this, I have been asked to be part of teams to get new businesses here, and they want the state sup to kind of give an overview, and they think that already all of our kids are proficient in algebra 2. Now, we require that, and it is just kicking in this year for this year’s seniors, but it has not happened yet. But I am a believer because of what happened to me. When they believed that I could do that, and I had great parents as you know, but when someone else believed that I could do that, I believed I could do that. Half of it is that simple. And when we are talking about high school requirements, which at the very beginning Governor Granholm and the legislature were all shaky about the board, you know, people are going to criticize us, and then they started to get good editorials, and before you know it, within a matter of my first six months, we had it done, and not every kid. There are some kids that are so cognitively impaired that they are not going to be able to become proficient in algebra 2, and there is a little bit of a way out called the personal curriculum, but if we open the door too wide, trust me, we will go right back to the same old thing where those kids really can’t do it, and then we are going to agree on. It is just that simple. And so, I am just so proud to watch the last few years’ examples. I was given an award yesterday of a school in Bay City, very low, in high poverty area, this was an alternative school, and these kids are flourishing and a lot of it is because they believe that we believe they can do it. So, kind of my own growth, it’s funny how these things all link together. My 89’er program is still in the back of my head. The other thing in the back of my head is, you know, my mother was French protestant and my father was Irish Catholic. When you have the name, you know, you perceive yourself to be kind of all Irish, and so when Kennedy got elected, probably for what may be happening for lots of African-American kids right now, there is an issue that finally the barriers are at least psychologically taken off. That was a big deal to us, you know. As I said, I had basically a Protestant and Catholic tradition, but there was still something about… See, it never occurred to me that a Catholic had never been elected president, and so I think tied into education, that is another piece. We have to have kids actually believe that the system allows them to get right to the very top, and I think we pretty much have it, but we have one more thing to do and it is gender, the gender thing at some point.

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

Speaking of Obama just for a minute, I am not a republican or a democrat. I voted about 50/50. I mean, if I went back in my life, I introduced a senator the other night at an event where I was speaking, and I thought, for those of you who know on this side of the state, he is a tremendous leader on the education side. He is a republican, and then there is another guy who is on the house side as an education leader for the house, super great people, and that is why I think that my job you have to be careful not to be part of this and try not to be. I think it is the reason I have very much appreciated your comments, but I felt a kinship with Engler and I do with Granholm, and I think if we can get folks to get over some of this other stuff that I don’t get. It is why I am at odds with the Governor right now on health insurance. The MEA owns the insurance company, I am being a little blunt here, this is supposed to be lighter, but they own the insurance company, and we can save hundreds of millions of dollars right now if we have a pool for school employees and a health insurance pool that will save a ton, but I digress. Let me just show you this, or listen to this little clip… [Film clip:] Planning Michigan State superintendent of instruction led statewide efforts to get a reading in struggling schools. The state developed new vigorous high school course requirement, vigorous elementary and middle school standards, research based on school improvement. The state has supported high needs schools for the establishment of principle academies. Follow up coaching and support, school monitoring teams, targeting bus to schools and sub groups that need it most. It strikes me that part of the struggle that Mr. Flanagan is referring to with his daughter and my sister is a teacher, so she went through the same thing, is needing that mentor. There are some other outfits as well. Flanagan: So, my friend, Barack and I [group laughter]… This actually was kind of interesting because I had a chance to testify for my national organization on what was called the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind, and they only had one hearing and then they put it on the side and it has not been re-authorized yet, but Senator Kennedy happened to be the chair of that committee and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were members, and I can remember coming in. They came down from five seats and actually sat with us. There were three of us, a Harvard professor, me and a principal from Chicago. I sat there and this guy who Brian had clued me in the next day that he was going to announce for president at Lincoln Springfield, and so he is not listening the whole time. His head is down, and I am thinking, this is really rude, you know, and what is he listening to. And then, I though, well, you know what, he is getting ready for tomorrow and I need to just let it go at that. Well, I think I spoke first before the others did, so it got to be a good hour before he made his comments and you suddenly realize he picked his head up, and he knew in detail everything that all three of us had said, everything. So, I thought, democrat or republican aside, smart is good, smart is good, and in this particular case, the one thing that also struck me is, I thought, I am never going to be here again, so I pulled

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

the camera out when they all sat down and I took a picture. And I mean the gallery is kind of laughing, they are not sure what to do. The Harvard guy looks at me and goes, tsk, tsk, tsk [group laughter], but then when we left, he said, you could email me that picture [group laughter]. And I said, no, I am not emailing you the picture, but I had it. So a little bit about leadership to what Brian asked me more directly like how maybe that worked out in my life. I think a lot of this is luck, just timing, I mean I think we work hard is a certain minimal characteristic that you have to have, and a lot of this is luck. I was thirty something. I was the local deputy superintendent at a local district, and this is the luck part. The superintendent retired, I wasn’t even interested at that time. Brian and the kids were all in preschool, and I did not apply, and all of a sudden the board comes in and says, well you know, we had a group that interviewed 17 interviewers. This was Farmington and Farmington Hills in the Detroit area, about 100,000 people in their community, 35 schools, and 15 of the 17 said, just hire Flanagan. Why are you going into the national search and everything, which was a nice surprise, stunning in a way, but I went home and talked and we decided, you know what, the kids are young… So we kind of had a deal that five years from now, there is no guarantee, but five years from now maybe they would come back and would try to get someone near the end of their career. Well that is the deal the last I know. The next day, a guy comes in who is a national figure in superintendent circles, and he was leading the search, and I did not know that at the time, and I suddenly see him standing in my doorway, I mean I knew him as kind of this revered superintendent nationally, and he said, are you Mike Flanagan? And I said, yes sir. And he said, so you are the fool? So you are the fool… I am thinking, this is like one of my heroes and he is calling me a fool. And he said, well, you know, I understand you were offered the job and you said, thanks but no thanks. I explained the situation that the kids were young and all. And he said, well, what do you think you will be doing a year from now? And I said, well, I will be deputy here in Farmington. And he said, no you won’t. And I said, well why not? And he said, well, once a new person finds out that there was that much interest in you, trust me, you will be driven out. It is just a matter of time. And I would like to think that is not true. I would like to think human nature is such that that would not be, but the more I thought about it, I was not going to take the chance. So, we ended up taking the job, and that is the part that is luck. And I will tell ya, I stumbled. For three years I think. I made a lot of mistakes. This was a big district. We were one of the top ten in size in the state, and I thank that board to this date because they came close to firing me probably in year two, and the reason was, I had written an article called confessions of a rich district administrator [laughter] which only meant to be like in the superintendent journal. Well, it got out, and I come in and Betty Wiesenberg was my “secretary” in those days, and Betty would have been superintendent had she had the opportunity to go to college. She was maybe 30 years old, very smart. And I looked at the agenda, and I said, Betty, what is the special closed session at the end of the meeting? And she said, it’s about you. And I said, about me? What does that mean?

So I go into this meeting and they are livid about this, and they really were thinking about, it was stupid on my part to not share this with them of course, but what they ended up doing is they cut

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

me some slack. They wrote it off to inexperience which all of us need to do for young believers. You need to let them know that it is okay to make some mistakes. We are going to make them. And in this case, to this day, I think I certainly would not have stayed superintendent. I probably would have been you know, gone, because once you are fired as a superintendent, it is pretty much over, you know. You can’t quite explain away what went on you know. Is it really serious, is it something that wasn’t so serious, so I thank them. But the guy who led the charge to get me fired, and he is actually a decent guy, a year ago I saw him at the Capitol. And he said, Mike, how are you doing? I am so glad... I always knew you would stay superintendent, he said, but no, no no, you are the one who tried to get me fired in 1989. So, there is some luck in this. I do think it has to do with what Brian was kind enough to say. It is a matter of also trying to exercise courage when you can. That is easier said than done. I am not even sure you always see your opportunities to exhibit that, but I wanted to show you….. The other thing I think you need to do is you need to be in a spot where you can not take yourself too seriously if you really want to be a leader. There is a collage that maybe shows some of that. [group laughter] Speaking of transformation, I don’t know if I like this look here. I’m thinking if I took this gown further [razor sound]… That was the only kind of dark era I had was in the middle here and it is gone now. I will clean this up later. I am not going to… Well, the reason I am doing this again is to burn in your brain a message that I look like Grover Cleveland or something... [laughter] All right. Jeez. This is the way I felt when I was in school a little bit. No don’t go, it’s me, it’s me, Mike Flanagan, State Superintendent. I know I must smell horrible, I was lost in the woods for over two years [laughter]. I do a monthly pod cast, and I can’t tell you. Like yesterday in Bay City, I would walk in, this is an alternative high school, and the kids come up and go, hey, the pod cast guy. What happens is because of the way technology is, we send the video to superintendents and principals—there are maybe 4,000 principals and there are about 500 superintendents—and then it goes viral and it is on YouTube I guess... But podcast, I find myself saying, we have to give a serious message, and if you are just too serious about it, people aren’t going to even tune in. And there is a lot of tension in education right now, and because our job is big, if we fail, the state is done. This is somewhat self serving, but I think that the education admission right now in this state is directly tied to economic development as I hinted earlier, and if we don’t have the economic development, we become Mississippi. And my job also is to help superintendents understand that the business community is not your enemy. When you complain about not having enough funding, the reason you don’t have enough funding is because we are not supporting the kind of entrepreneurial work that needs to be done

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

in this state so that we can rebuild an economy that is not just based on the Big 3. And so, slowly but surely I think we are winning that battle. Maybe this is the time, because I don’t want to run out of time for questions as I know that is the important part for this, and then I have some things to wrap up. Okay, make sense to do it that way… We will do that. Let me just pause for a minute… Any questions that you might have…? Male voice: While people are gathering their thoughts for a question, I have a question for you. At the table here, you were talking about having just been to Finland and a dramatic turnaround in Finland’s educational system and you used the word turnaround, one of the most dramatic in the word. What was the secret? Flanagan: Well, you know, and we stopped and you said, hey, if we talk about it here and maybe I won’t explain it to the table so you won’t be bored twice, but you know what I found… No state expense, but I was invited because I am on the board of the State Superintendent’s Association to do this international trip. And they had ministers from Finland, Singapore, Mexico, France, and then a couple of us were called chiefs. By the way, I go to my first socalled chief’s meeting, and they call us chiefs because some are called commissioners, some are called state sups, some are elected statewide. Crist who is the governor of Florida was a former state superintendent, so often the elected one runs for higher office. And just as a side, when I went to my first meeting, I didn’t actually think it was that good, and the executive director said, you know, Flanagan is the new chief here, what do you think? And up above me was a banner that had CCSSO which was Counsel of Chief State School Officials. And I looked up and I said, you know, I am just proud to be a part of the CCSSO association. They didn’t laugh. [group laughter]. And in being serious about this, I think one of the problems that we have is that we have people that get in to positions of authority and then they take themselves so seriously that they get nothing done, nothing done, and it is scary in terms of a national prospect. Right now we are completing with the rest of them, so I am actually hoping they all lull themselves to sleep and just do whatever they do and then Michigan will race right by the other states. But Finland believes if it gets right down to it, we visited the Nokia executives one night, we visited a number of school teacher lounges, and what kept coming up over and over and over again is they all use the word nation building – we are nation builders. And I think based on our conversation, your visit to Russia, I think it has something to do with they want to be independent, they don’t want to have this history that they have had in the past. They also realize there are only 7 million people and they could be swallowed up and they don’t have really resources anymore, I mean, half the country is in the Arctic Circle, so their thing is brain power and so to keep ourselves as a nation, we have to win the brain power. So that is the first part. The second part, when I kept trying to get teachers to tell me, now how do you deal with accountability? Like I am seeing, and probably am a little too strict on accountability, I think all schools need to be held to a standard. The one I love right now is called College Ready. We can tell college ready based on ACT scores, and there are some shocking things. There are some districts that are well thought of in this area that only have 25% of their kids college ready according to the ACT. The state average is 18. But anyway, so I am trying to get, now what are your measures? What you can see with the teachers is oh my God, we would be

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

ashamed if the superintendent or the governor or minister knew this. We fix it ourselves. So what you have is you have a sincere enthusiasm and pride that teachers are not, they are so ashamed if their kids are not doing well, they are going to do whatever they have to do to stay like that, and it is built in. We have pockets of that. In fact, I did a live interactive with the UP last week right after I had come back, and I said, you have a lot of Fins up there, right? And a bunch of them raise their hands. I said, you need to lead us out of this, because there is a culture there, and I am not actually kidding about that. If you came whenever I visit there, the superintendents are more, they see themselves more as community builders. So, translated to mean nation builders, community builders, and this is something broader than just reading, writing and arithmetic and hope we can capture… Male voice: Hi. I guess part of my question has to do with the strange sort of curiousness in your position having to constantly deal with the political thoughts and education is obviously kind of a political football. I am thinking about a $220 cut per people funding, Michigan Promise Scholarship, federal funds not being available to schools because we don’t have a budget set. Obviously you have a lot of political hurdles right now that hinder you from doing your job. I realize it is probably not the easy answer, but how do you deal with that. Flanagan: Well, that is a great question. I will give you an example. Just recently Brian inferred this. I mean, I am kind of on the outs right now not only with, I think the Governor is a good person, we just disagree on this issue, but also with some of my board members because I am speaking out, I did this morning on Michigan radio, whatever that Michael Patrick Shield’s show is, that this isn’t a time to be persuaded by people who can make the contributions to you, and in that case, this isn’t to pick on the EA, they do a lot of good things, but the EA spends a lot of money on elections, and the MEA the teacher’s union owns. The subsidiary of theirs is this insurance company, and I am trusting we can save hundreds of millions of dollars as a state if we will pool this. I had two board members visit me. I wouldn’t even mention this other than this got in the paper, so in at least southeast Michigan it is somewhat known. And, you know, if they get enough votes, they will do me a favor at some place, you know, I can retire. So to answer your specific question, I think to me it has to do with something I find myself trying to say to other people. You almost have to have clarity about what you are willing to be fired for, and you can get clear in your mind, you know, kind of what that feels like. I appreciate when Brian, of course being my son, saying this is very emotional, but to see that it is about mission, and I am not going to be for higher taxes alone. I do think there is a way to do something with taxes on services by the way, but I think that can only come if you do it in tandem with cuts, and if you are not willing, for instance, I just don’t understand the political lack of will to say, we are going to save hundreds and millions of dollars on this insurance pooling. I think you can save another hundreds of millions of dollars on consolidating services. You don’t even have to consolidate districts if you don’t want because that is a political football, but at least… When I was a superintendent at Wayne County, we did payroll, personnel and report cards for 150 districts in the state. We could have done it for all 500 districts in the state and should, so when we bought software for 5 million dollars that should have been it. So, I am really pushing hard right now on the legislature and an ICD superintendent, so you better really push hard to consolidate services and save money, because we don’t have the right to ask for new money unless we are talking about really whittling down and getting the economy

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

is where we can get 'em first. But the political... yeah, I mean, it is uncomfortable right now and may be fatal, I don’t think so. I mean, this little talk we had, I finally thought, you know what, these are two big board members, so the next week we had a board meeting and at the little lunch we have is a meeting, and I kind of called the question and said, you know, I don’t even need five hours really to be against me on this. If there are a couple that really think I need to move on, just let me know. But you know, there is also a little funny thing that since that happened, at least it did this time, reading about my firing in the paper, so this may be a little bit premature. I do think there is really something good in the nature that the people realize you are trying to do the right thing. You may not always agree. You will probably be allowed to get through this process. I am absolutely convinced that some of the changes we have made, high school requirements are not an unimportant one, it is forcing every teacher to focus on you have to get… If it was your kid and they were putting in a weak curriculum that would not make them ready for college, you would be upset, right? So, why should we settle for it for anyone? That as Brian said was a big political hurdle because people are afraid that they will look bad when they can’t make it happen right away. Well, we can over time. So, I’m rambling, I’m sorry. Politics, honestly I tend to not think about them. Let the chips go where they go, but on this case, I am not going to just be kind of a hired gun so to speak, I mean not hired by the way of special interests, but in a sense, you know, I want to support teachers, I want to support superintendents, but we have to make the economy as a scale. There is room for that to happen, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about a $218 cut because it would be taken care of under this set of changes. In terms of the Promise Scholarship, I mean, you know, the cuts we are making in higher ED at Grand Valley is an appropriate example. We have to make every other kind of change first before we make them here, and I think that would include the Promise Scholarship, because that is how a lot of kids get through college that would not otherwise. I will give you one little piece that is maybe a little bit more practical and direct. The reason we are having trouble in Lansing right now is in large part because a lot of the House members know that the Senate is all term limited, and they are all jockeying to become the senators in their area, and I am not even saying that in a negative way. There are a lot of good people in the House, but they are afraid to take a tough vote because they are afraid it is going to catch them in the primary and then they will never get to the next step, and that is why the timing is unfortunate a little bit. But I am kind of at the point where I am thinking, you know, I am going to do what we need to do and make some mistakes, but in this case, it is not a mistake. We should be pooling the health costs and we would save a lot of money, and it has become a political football. I will just mention one other thing. I did a hearing to that effect, and at the hearing I testified, and at the end, one of the house members asked me, well, are you getting pressure on this? Because they had read the article about two board members visiting me. And I said, are you talking about that? No, we are fine. We worked all that out. And he kept pressing, and finally I said, well, you know, I know the EA is calling my board members, and I know they have a…. but this is a democracy, and I am actually fine with that, and I actually am

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

fine with that. I think the teacher’s union has a right to call people and say we think someone is doing the wrong thing. I don’t think I am. I think we have to win this battle right now, otherwise we are going to go down. We have to get smart and not just keep throwing taxes on it when in fact we can also get the economy to scale. Sorry, that was way too long for that. Yes ma’am? Female voice: Thank you. My question is kind of connected to some expression as well. You were saying we need to get our students ready to compete internationally and not just nationally, because now we have to compete with people from all over the world for jobs. How do you get parents and community members and politicians to be on board with you on this point or how do you face their opposition, especially when it comes to the languages. Because I know people are like, why do you need to learn another language. Can everyone just speak English and we will be good. Flanagan: Right. It is interesting that you mentioned that because the first biggest controversy I have is over school standards and that all kids don’t need algebra. Most people don’t realize that even if you are not going to be an engineer, algebra helps you think. It massages your brain in fact. But the second biggest challenges was over foreign language. We don’t need language. We have a two credit language requirement now to graduate. And when you go to Finland and you realize before they are out of elementary school, they know two languages in addition to Finnish, so they know three languages by that time. So, we need to do this just to be able to compete, and we are going to stick to that, and we are going to stick, you know... There is some prediction a local superintendant here has been nagging me a little bit and impressed that we are getting all these dropouts that are going to happen. Planning it won’t back off on the requirements. Well, frankly, if dropouts happen, then you need to be accountable to your community that what didn’t you do to help your kids be successful. Because all I can tell you is if they don’t learn language, if they don’t learn math, if they don’t get the higher levels, we are done. And as you have just said beautifully, this isn’t about competing with Indiana anymore. You can be an engineer for Ford in India, in England, and with technology, so this is a matter of us really taking this seriously, and I would say this, four years ago, this is another little tip on leadership maybe, maybe it’s not, I don’t know, but every interview I have ever had, I always say that the toughest thing that I would do knowing that they may not like it, and you know what? If you don’t like it, I don’t say it quite this way, but if you don’t like it, then don’t hire me. And in this case, it was in effect trust made. If you hire me, we are going to raise these standards and we are going to make sure the superintendents and principals and teachers pull it off. And you know, it is kind of like the idea of digging a hole. Then two months later when I said, here we go, it gave me a lot of license to do it because they are honorable people and they knew that is what they were getting. It did not work so well a year ago. I was the finalist for president of Eastern Michigan and on Saturday morning had the votes from what I understand, and then there was a swing vote that morning which is actually a blessing in disguise maybe, but what ended up happening in that case is that later one of the trustees told me, well, if you hadn’t said what you said the day before in that public forum, and I said, what was

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

that? He said, that we probably need to consider closing one of our schools… I guess it wasn’t quite that direct. What I meant was that as we change as a state with 14 public universities, everyone maybe does not have an ED school. Everyone doesn’t maybe have a business school. We just can’t afford this superstructure. So I wanted to be in on record that if you hire me, we are going to be smart about maybe we aren’t in all of these, but of course, it didn’t work out. You know, I mean that was one where I think it there is a somewhat legitimate fear frankly, because I am not sure anything at Eastern should necessarily close, but I think at some point it should be studied, and this is one state that it is hard to do as you guys know who work here because you don’t have a chance with it as everyone is independent. But back to one other point. The polling of the Detroit News in 2005 showed that only 27% of the parents believe their kids need anything past high school. That is when I knew we have a big problem, and how am I going to sell high school requirements when they don’t even think they need college. And why? Because what has been the bonus, especially in southeast Michigan that has pretty much stayed for the last fifty years as auto. When I first came here from New York and found out, I come out and my wife’s cousin is driving a Lincoln and I have a Pinto, and he dropped out at 15, and he has a place up north, whatever the hell up north was at the time, I had no idea [group laughter], and all this stuff, and I am thinking, oh my gosh, and he is a line worker…. Smart guy, you know, very smart guy, but the culture here was you don’t need any of that and we are still fighting it. We are still fighting it. I think there is still a denial and some people think it is going to come back. It is like, you know, have you been reading the newspaper. What is going to come back is building a new economy, having a smart work force. Sending a message to the nation that we are number one and we are going to do it. I really believe I am out on a limb now as of this morning. You are going to see a bump in the ACT scores next year that is going to make us a national story, I hope now, but I think it is because it is not rocket science. If you expose more kids to the course work, you are more than likely to have more kids do well on the ACT. And again, I hope, if we don’t, then I don’t know what happens. Male voice: Mike, just one last question…to get off the substance of what you do and maybe the style of leadership that you bring… I note through your videos and also your presentation today the importance of humor in your presentation. I am curious how deliberate you are with respect to humor and how important you think that is to leadership generally and some of the leeway you have been given over the years. Flanagan: That is a great question. I have some criticism of these podcasts that I get from you know a board member or two as an example who think that the position should be more official and formal. But number one, that is just not me, so I couldn’t do it if I wanted to do it, and I am fine if next time around, which I guess as I said could be next week, but I think I am going to be here for five years honestly. I think I am going to be here through the first term of the next governor, or would like to be. But, it is deliberate on pod cast, because I am thinking, how do you…someone just show this isn’t all about official business. And I think a little bit is when I am trying to remember, particularly 20 years ago, thinking about a state superintendent, if it seems too formal, I don’t know that you can relate to what we are asking to be done. At least, that is the way I look at it. So we try this, and a little bit of it is

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

corny, you know, I probably should have thought more, but sometimes we just do it at the last minute, so I mean, they had it all set up and said, oh, do you want to do your…and I said, well no, and grabbed the bus and just… It is kind of dumb, I mean, in some ways [group laughter]. And probably there are some people who are totally offended by it, but I think it is essential but it can only be if it is kind of natural and that is why they use it a little bit maybe and not appropriate, I don’t know. I do think that most of us don’t want to just have serious business all day long. If you do, it is hard to function. I appreciate humor in other people, you know, it makes the time go, it helps people get less edgy, but I don’t know other than this piece where we calculated a little bit. I am not good at calculating it, you know. But I think if you look at a lot of good leaders, they found a way, I think. Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, and I am talking in terms of the presidential folks, they all found ways to show some of their natural sense of humor. Could I end maybe with just, I know, this is supposed to be right about now, so… You know, I did want to mention one thing. Brian mentioned in the interim, but if you want to talk about, I had not felt more out on a limb about anything than putting a famous manager in Detroit. Partly, that was very painful as you know because this ended up changing, but in the very beginning of people who did not want that to happen, just went painfully at me about, he must be a racist, and that was tough. That was a tough couple of months. It has turned totally because the leaders there know that something dramatic needed to be done, and that community has ended up, I don’t know if you see much of it on this side of the state, but a guy named Robert Bobb, we put in and is doing an excellent job. It is not a long term solution, but it is one that makes some quick decisions that needed to be made that are hard to make with the board if you can’t get enough votes. So, I would just say, if I had decided to get off on some other ones like the high school requirements, but that was the one maybe that I had to suck up the most, take a deep breath and said, this could really be trouble. And I want to tell you the one thing that a lot of African-American leaders in Detroit told me, and I didn’t recognize it at the time, so I am sharing it with you just in case you have a related type issue… They said the single thing you did that made this work more than anything else, which surprised me, was you suddenly showed up at the Detroit board meeting after you announced it. I actually was going to the airport, and instead, said, you know what, something is not right here, and I kept driving to Detroit, ended up at their board meeting. It was very uncomfortable in a way because they were very upset. But I think what it did was show that I am respecting them as a board, because I do by the way. I think three of them are outstanding people. They just could not get the votes to be what they needed to take on. But I just mention that in passing. I meant to put that in earlier. But I think sometimes you, it is a matter of showing respect not as if you were some Lansing person who is above others and therefore you don’t have to put yourself on the line. And even though they were very cordial, the folks there were cordial, I think they knew that I did not know that is the way it would turn out, so it helped that transition. And here is the thing I want… to me, leadership, especially for the fellows here, attitude is a big chunk of everything. So I thought I would show this very briefly and then just finish with one comment.

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership Leadership Fellows program – October meeting

10/07/2009 Meijer Regency Room

[Film clip:] I am part of a lost generation, and I refuse to believe that I can change the world. I realize that this may be a shock, but happiness comes from within is a lie and money will make me happy. So in 30 years, I will tell my children they are not the most important thing of my life. My employer will know that I have my priorities straight, that work is more important than family. I tell you this... Once upon a time, families stayed together, but this will not be true in my era. This is a quick fix society. Experts tell me 30 years from now I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce. I do not concede that I will live in a country of my own making. In the future, environmental destruction will be the norm. No longer can it be said that my peers and I care about this earth. It will be evident that my generation is apathetic and lethargic. It is foolish to presume that there is hope, and all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it. There is hope. It is foolish to presume that my generation is apathetic and lethargic. It will be evident that my peers and I care about this earth. No longer can it be said that environmental destruction will be the norm. In the future, I will live in the country of my own making. I do not concede that 30 years from now I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce. Experts tell me that this is a quick fix society, but this will not be true in my era. Families stayed together once upon a time, and I tell you this. Family is more important than work. I have my priorities straight because my employer will know that they are not the most important thing in my life. So in 30 years, I will tell my children money will make me happy is a lie and true happiness comes from within. I realize this may be a shock, but I can change the world, and I refuse to believe that I am part of a lost generation. Flanagan: So for new current and future leaders, you can change the world. It is based on if you see it this reverse way which I hope you can. It has really been an honor to be invited here and a pleasure to be with you. [clapping]

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Mike Flanagan on Leadership