Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, collaborated with statewide educators and delivered the headlining speech at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 58th annual Cooperative Conference for School Administrators in Osage Beach, Missouri, July 30.
“Military leaders and school administrators have a few things in common,” she said. “The military protects and defends our freedoms, but educators provide the tools to use those freedoms.”
She made further connections between schooling and the military.
“We are entrusted with the sacred duty of caring for America’s sons and daughters,” she said. “We are charged to develop, mentor, and, sometimes, parent them. We are expected to prepare them to be successful in the future in their own lives and to be productive citizens who will make the world better.”
Waynesville Superintendent Brian Henry expanded upon the connection between the post and education.
“We feel like we play a critical role in supporting the mission of Fort Leonard Wood and providing the best possible education we can for military kids,” he said. “The only way you can do that is through working together.”
Martin emphasized the importance of forward-looking leadership.
“We, as leaders, must have a vision for our organizations,” she said. “In the absence of a vision, people will work aimlessly and lose sight of why they chose service in such a great profession. Vision should be positive and powerful; it should energize and permeate every aspect of an organization.”
She challenged administrators, no matter their locale, to empower their employees, trusting them to fulfill their role in a greater picture.
“Whether you lead a rural, suburban, or urban district, capture the energy of your employees and leverage their passions — let them plan and lead the workshop, or draft the handbook, or the survey you were going to develop,” she said. “Find ways to show them they are valued.”
Martin concluded her speech by issuing the educators “homework” of their own and reminding them of their similar responsibility to the public.
“Go home and create a plan to lead — not your district improvement plan, your personal leadership plan, with a purpose to inspire your teams to success,” she said. “The trust of families and of the public resides with us.”
Henry commented on the significance of Martin’s presence at the event.
“Her being able to come in and share what she has learned through over 30 years in the military — it’s priceless, because a lot of our folks just don’t get the opportunity to meet a high-ranking officer like this,” he said.
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven placed a spotlight on military families, as well.
“The one thing that I think was really, really powerful for us to see is the importance of our military families, and the importance that our military families place on high-quality educational opportunities,” she said.