Dr. Maurice Ghysels

The new superintendent of the Menlo Park City School District, Dr. Maurice Ghysels, is making the rounds of the four schools he serves. We caught up with him during an appearance at Oak Knoll last week where he mapped out his management style and discussed some initial thoughts on district goals this year. He’s scheduled to be at Hillview on Sept. 14 at 7:00 pm, Encinal on Sept. 15 at 8:30 am, and Laurel on Sept. 22 at 8:30 am.

Ghysels cited the challenges of the district’s increasing student population juxtaposed against flat revenues. “We are maxed out when it comes to economies of scale,” he said. “We are very optimized.”

“Plus, in my initial observation, I’ve found out that this is a school district that is managing things, not leading. The difference between districts that make it and don’t make it is based on local control. In Menlo Park, you’re going to expect a return on investment when you write that check [to the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation].”

Ghysels stressed that he believes in teamwork and collaboration, with a “strong focus on the kids — that’s my brand.” He is also a proponent of performance management, which includes one-on-one reviews and “moving to a more common language about who we are.” “I really embrace performance measures,” he said. “We have to have dashboards, classroom data centers. They’re absent currently.”

The superintendent described himself as a “systems thinker” and an adherent to the “science of organizational development” with “professional development tied to goals.”

“I believe in the word customer,” he continued. “We’re here to provide a student-centered experience for your children. The attitude of a service organization is near and dear to me. We are a service organization, and that’ going to be different for some folks.”

Ghysels outlined what parents can expect this year, including the following:

  • Implementing a district-wide measurement dashboard
  • Developing a strategic financial plan
  • Looking at best practices in instruction
  • Coming up with a common definition of what a neighborhood school is
  • Determining how to select the most talented instructors

“You’re going to see may different types of leadership,” he concluded. “You’ll hear a lot of talk about service and operational excellence. You’re going to see district staff on school campuses. The key to success is a transformation from management into leadership.”