It's amazing what some people will say. Some things just spill from their lips like water from a faucet. The words they say are so natural to them that they have no clue that their left foot is rapidly about to follow their right one into their mouth. The April 20, 2000 meeting of Central City Association was a classroom in waiting with regard to this need for awareness of what one says and what it tells about the philosophy of the company the person represents.
Carol E. Schatz is the President of Central City Association, a downtown Los Angeles business association. Genethia Hudley Hayes is the President of the Los Angeles School Board. Hayes was one of the two keynote speakers at this meeting called "... For All of Our Children." The forum was billed as an opportunity for members to discuss redevelopment issues in the District with Hayes and Chief Operating Officer, Howard Miller as well as hear what Hayes had to say about education reform in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Hayes and Schatz made no secret of the fact that they both grew up in South Central Los Angeles. They openly talked about their high school careers at John Muir High School in the 1960s, a school that at that time provided good academic results and is now ranked among those within the tenth percentile of academic rankings in Los Angeles according to the Stanford 9. Both spoke frequently of their lifelong friendship with one another, their and their siblings' interactions. Make that friendships. Among the childhood anecdotes they spoke of was the secret nicknames they and their siblings had for one another during their junior and senior high school days. Carol is white; Genethia is black.
A Hint of More to Come
As it turned out, Hayes was just ahead of me as we made our way to the meeting banquet room. Someone walked along with me and observed that the woman just ahead was a person of note. "That's Rita Walters," they confided. Hmmm. Well, Rita's changed quite a bit since the last time I saw her, was my thought. But I dismissed the comment because Rita was the President of the School Board from 1985 to 1988. It's easy to get names mixed up.
I caught up with the woman identified as Rita to chat and catch up on what she'd been doing. (Please note. I'm not smug, just extremely outgoing.) No, that was definitely not Rita. That was Genethia being escorted to the meeting by her liaison.
Once seated at one of the dining tables, the occupants chatted with one another and performed the obligatory business card exchange. Stories about one another's businesses were discussed and interesting projects. I piped up with my identification and association as the Operations Manager of an executive search firm.
Where I thought we would discuss copyright matters and the inner workings of their business, the conversation kept going back to a constant theme in spite of all of the topics I attempted to discuss: A relative had taught at one of the inner-city schools in South Central Los Angeles (I never said where I'd been educated), the program the company sponsors for at-risk youth in South Central Los Angeles, and an astonished exclamation when I explained my understanding of Public Relations compared with public information services.
The food was good. The keynote speeches were enlightening. We were reminded several times of the long-standing relationship between the two presidents. The Question and Answer session began.
One member of the audience asked about the District's plans to improve education standards. They continued that question by asking whether the District had any plans to follow the Military Model in creating standardization of education so that disparate quality of education is reduced. The Military Model of education is a plan for using a universal textbook, curriculum and standard of measure so that quantification of learning uses the same known basis. You know what to expect of the end product no matter where its source.
The brief summary of the response is, yes, the District has plans for requiring more accountability and qualification of their instructors both in the hiring phase and on the job in addition to requiring a standardization program very similar to that of the Military Model. The question was more than adequately answered.
The very next question came from a manager who asked what the District plans to do with regard to standardizing education and testing as well as requiring instructor accountability in the hiring process and on the job. Okay. "Military Model" is a rather esoteric term. Ms. Hayes paused for only one second and then discussed the District's plans. She did not use any words or descriptors that were used in the immediately previous answer. Her response gave even more substance to what she had said.
The Questions and Answers period continued. One manager rose to raise an objection. Concern was expressed about having to choose from candidates who come from inner-city schools (This term is usually used when referring to schools in South Central Los Angeles. The majority of students who comprise the population of inner-city schools are black and Latino.) who traditionally do not have as good an education as students and candidates from other parts of the District and therefore are not good choices.
You know, by this time there was a lot about these companies that everyone knew by inference. I'd started thinking about a lot of the nondiscrimination in screening, interviewing and recruiting training and laws. I was formulating a plan for creating a workshop the firm could do on good diversity sensitivity and fairness of opportunity -- matters on which our firm could and should counsel clients. Whatever the response was, it was good.
Another Day, A Few More
There was another day when I heard two more conversations. I just kind of numbed out when a twenty-something junior executive made a comment to a forty-something executive about things that a person of their generation does.
A male executive wanted to know if their company really needed to provide health insurance for the female staffer if she and her boyfriend were getting married in the near future. After all, as her husband, he could take care of her expenses. I whispered to the woman sitting next to me, "Why does it matter?" She was a bank president. She shushed me; then whispered the reply, "It doesn't."
We both sat in silence and continued to listen to the language.
Today's column is dedicated to the memory of
6/20/26 - 12/18/79