Mr. O’Day: About His Resignation and More

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Mr. O’Day: About His Resignation and More

El'ad Nichols-Kaufman, Author

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Shane O’Day, principal of Shortridge ever since the IB program arrived and principal of Gambold before that, will be resigning at the end of this school year. He recently talked to the Echo about why he’s leaving and the process for choosing his replacement.

Why did you decide to resign?

Mr. O’Day: “I came to Shortridge High School, I came to Indianapolis Public Schools in March of 2012 for a very specific purpose; to build and establish a high quality, high performing school. Since that time, I’ve been able to lead. I’ve been fortunate to lead the growth of a school of about sixty students to now a school about nine hundred and fifty. Through that period of  growth and growth management it required a great amount of leadership; including entrepreneurship marketing and communications, systems analysis- essentially building a complex system of moving parts. That’s one of my strengths as an educational leader. One of my weaknesses as an educational leader is that I like to be on the ground floor. I like to be in the nitty gritty. I like engaging in students one on one. I like teaching classes. But as we grow as a school, those are elements I am no longer able to do, because with the growth of the school requires a leader, in this case me, Mr. O’Day, to take upon new initiatives.

My strengths are that of an entrepreneur; building, establishing. What I’m not good at is the elements in regards to management, as we approach a critical threshold. We’ve now reached that threshold. I love Shortridge High School. I love my job, I love what I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be coming to work every day. That being said, even though I love this, I recognize that now its we’re at a juncture that’s now outgrowing my skill set as a leader. Because it’s outgrowing my skill set, I don’t want to hinder the growth of this school simply because I want to be here, not because I have the skills to lead.

There’s a great talk written by Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler and his wife were the founders of lonely planet. My wife and I are big are big travelers. Because we like to travel, often you need a guidebook. For us, we use the guidebook lonely planet. While the Wheelers started, initially they actually wrote a book where they talked about when it’s time to transition out of the role of being a founder to the role of being a support. A lot of very successful small businesses that ultimately fail; mainly that’s true because the leader- the entrepreneur- remains the figurehead, the leader of the organization. Being an entrepreneur is a different skill set than ultimately running a big business. My skill set is being the grassroots foundational pieces.

Last year was going to be my last year at Shortridge. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but every year I allow the staff to vote whether they want me as their principal. They actually vote, they submit an index card. This isn’t actually a vote on whether they like me, but it’s do I have the skills to continue to further our mission and vision. There are certainly staff members that believe “no, Principal O’Day no longer has the skill set that we require and I actually publish the reasons why for my staff to read. That way we are open reflective and transparent to my strengths and weaknesses. This year, however, I notified the faculty that this year would be my last year. The reason being is that I have extended my skill set. Is that sad, yes. Am I sad to leave, yes. But I leave because I believe in the staff and in Shortridge.”

How will Shortridge’s new principal be chosen?

“I am a believer in transparency, I am a believer in empowered voice. So that takes the form in a couple different ways. One; I will not knight or select or pass on the mantle to somebody of my choosing. The reason is that Shortridge isn’t about Mr. O’day. Shortridge is about a community, and we want to seek community voice. So, once I resign and the position is posted, we hope to garner a large number of applicants. We will then screen those applicants, looking for those that have the skill set to continue to lead Shortridge. From those applicants, we hope to do a series of interviews and then invite those candidate onto campus to meet with students, to meet with parents, to meet with staff. I say this a lot; it’s important that we talk about time and place. And even though my time and place at Shortridge is coming to a close, we want to ensure that the next school leader of Shortridge understands their time and place.”

Where will the new principal come from- internally from Shortridge, IPS or elsewhere?

“Great question. I don’t know. The reason I don’t know is the position hasn’t been posted yet. Do I believe there are fantastic candidates perhaps with Shortridge, within IPS, the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, with in the United States or even abroad? Yes. This institution has been established since 1864, and that legacy has always been important to me. I am not focusing on where the next school leader comes from, my focus is to make sure that the next school leader of Shortridge shares many of the same values that we have as a community.”

Mr. O’day will now be heading off to travel the world with his wife. We wish him well, and hope that his next stage in life is as successful as his time at Shortridge. This school will not be the same without him.