The Name Game

Hey, what's in a name?

NT: Or for publicity!

Baracy: Yeah. But I did this five years ago in Tempe and there wasn't a single newspaper article about it. We didn't seek a single article. But this is Scottsdale.

NT: What's the response been from parents?

Dr. John Baracy and the Woman Formerly Known As Receptionist.
Emily Piraino
Dr. John Baracy and the Woman Formerly Known As Receptionist.

Baracy: Those who have questioned this are those furthest away from our district. Those who've called to tell me I'm an idiot, I've called them back to explain the history and why we did it, and they seem to understand. The first thing they want to know is how many thousands of dollars did we spend on that?

NT: I'd like to know, myself. Because letterhead and business cards and those nice name plaques must have cost the district a pile of money.

Baracy: We actually saved $100,000 in administrative costs, and redirected those dollars to support teaching positions. We had high-paid administrative positions open that we decided not to fill, and we redirected the money to the classroom, which is why we did this -- to support the teachers and create a new culture that isn't a top-down bureaucracy.

NT: I wonder if the different subsets of children -- I mean "learners" -- won't start adopting new names. I see a future filled with prepubescent cheerleaders who want us to call them "life coaches," and stoners who want to be called "differently adjusted students of higher learning."

Baracy: No. Our purpose is to create a culture among our staff that creates a more nurturing, supportive environment for teachers, students and parents, one that provides better experiences for them. I'm not hung up on titles.

NT: Here's my favorite new title: "Transporter of Learners."

Baracy: Well, they aren't just bus drivers. Okay? When you were in school, they were the first person you saw in the morning when you went to school. They're transporting our most precious resource. There's nothing more precious than our children.

NT: Does this mean that the principal is no longer our pal?

Baracy: No. He is still your pal. We haven't gotten to renaming at the school level.

NT: So what's your new title?

Baracy: I'm still superintendent. Unless you've got a better suggestion for me.

NT: I wouldn't dare say. But I would sort of like a new title myself.

Baracy: Yeah, okay. All right.

NT: I was thinking Omniscient and Sovereign Emperor of the Universe would be a good title to have. And according to your theory, it would lead to everyone eventually doing whatever the hell I want them to. Right?

Baracy: Well, my theory is this: When we place children in the center of our universe and allow people to take risks, it creates a culture where everyone is pulling in the same direction. People tell me that they see a difference. And people aren't afraid to tell me anything. I get e-mails and phone messages that tell me to take a flying leap, that I'm an idiot or all the other things they like to say. I hear a lot of that.

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