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Father and Son #3

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

It is great to have children whose minds are like sponges. They absorb everything I have tried to teach them. Sometimes they utilize these lessons and sometimes they blow me off. I have no trouble with that.

Today’s story about Brad will be a lesson in leadership and self reliance.

One evening at dinner, when Brad was 16 years old, one week before school started in his senior year in high school, Brad said he and his friends had a scheduling problem. I asked; “What is the problem?”


Brad Before Senior High School Prom

Cecelia and I are firm believers in public school education for many reasons. We wanted our boys to go to public school. All of our “peers” kids went to private schools.

Brad told us at dinner that senior honors students had 7 honors classes to choose from. The problem was the honors classes were all given in the first period. I told him I thought the solution should be easy.

He said when the kids discovered the scheduling error they all went to the Principal to ask him to do just that. The Principal said it was impossible to change the scheduling program. The computer program had already been set by the school district and could not be altered.

I said that sounded like bureaucratic nonsense. We would try to fix it. Brad said he and his classmates were very familiar with the school district’s software and could fix the scheduling within one hour. In 1982 they all had personal computers.

I thought it would be an easy problem to solve as long as we had all the parents and students involved in the request. I had met the Superintendent of the School District previously at a function. I felt he was a reasonable guy. He would help the honors students achieve their goal.

After dinner Brad got on the phone and started a telephone network inviting all of parents and students to our house the next night to discuss the problem and sign the petition.

Sixty parents and students were invited. All sixty accepted and sixty showed up the next evening. Obviously, everyone wants the best for their kids. After the discussion I presented the strategy.

Everyone needed to sign the petition requesting permission to allow the students to change the scheduling program. The students would reprogram the schedule so everyone could take any the honors courses they wanted.

I volunteered to make an appointment with the Superintendent of schools for Brad, Cecelia and myself the next day. I cancelled my patients for the afternoon after I made an appointment for 2 p.m.

Brad presented the students’ case to the School Superintendent. He outlined exactly what the students were going to do without threatening the school district’s computer system. The School District IT person was called in. Brad explained the plan again. The IT person agreed that the students knew what they were doing and the computer system would not be threatened.

The Superintendent of the District agreed that the students could reprogram the scheduling program on Thursday. On Friday they could select their honors courses. On Monday the school year would begin. They would be scheduled to take the honors classes of their choice.

The Superintendent had one more hurdle. He had to get the Principal of Brad’s school on board. I was off the next day. He said he would speak to the Principal that afternoon and we should make an appointment with the Principal on Thursday morning.

Brad invited all the students to come with me to the meeting. It was very civil. The Principal somehow came to the conclusion that it was his idea to allow the students to change the scheduling program. At 2 p.m. a delegation of students lead by Brad went into the scheduling office and reprogrammed the scheduling computer in less than one hour reordering all the honors classes and teachers’ schedules as promised without harming the computer system.

The students were happy, their parents were happy, and the Superintendent was happy. Scheduling was fixed to everyone’s satisfaction without disruptions to the school or utilization of the school’s unavailable assets.

I am sure Brad remembers this episode to this day. I know he applies these principles of leadership and self reliance daily in his very successful venture capitalist firm, the Foundry Group.

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