When is a teacher also a businessperson? That's the question Greg Scheinman asks on this week'sProfile (which airs tonight at 10:30 on Channel 8, Houston PBS). The answer? When that teacher is John Long, head of The Post Oak School.
"John I had an easy time getting in touch with — my 6-year-old goes to the school," Scheinman says. "He's a super-interesting, kind of intellectual, quirky man who, when you speak to him, you feel like he's out-thinking you, yet you're drawn to his whole philosophy about education and support and diversity and that there's another way besides traditional education to be able to raise and teach your children."
Scheinman followed Long through a typical school day and came out somewhat in awe of the different challenges.
"What John had that was different than a lot of people I spoke to is that his product is children — they're our children. Spending the day with John at the school, his responsibilities go from directing traffic in the morning to meeting with parents at 8 o'clock at night, and maybe meeting with board members in between. It is a long and draining day. And at the same time, when kids see him walking around the school he's got to have a smile on his face. He is the face of the school.
"It's a pretty amazing juggling act. It's a different role to balance leading the school and teaching the kids, and as a private school you have to deal with the board and with parents, many of whom are accustomed to getting their way," Scheinman says. "Running a school of over 1,000 children, with board members, faculty, staff ... this is running a business.
That's not very different from running Memorial Hermann or being Patrick Henry."
Long joined The Post Oak School in 1995 and has 36 years of education experience, starting when he was in the Peace Corps teaching children in Kabul.
"John's management style and how it differs between staff, educators and the board, and the experience of the students is really interesting," Scheinman says. "If the students aren't having a good experience, then you lose customers — and we don't call them customers, but you are paying to go there.
The accountability is very different in that regard, how he balances a budget of millions of dollars — should they grow into a high school? What do they need to do to grow and build business? The questions don't change, and the answers for the most part don't change. This is about the risk John took in coming to the school and the risk he's taking now to grow it and to expose the Montessori method to the Houston community."
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