Deming Podcast with Dr. Bret Champion, Superintendent of the Leander Independent School District

By John Hunter, founder of

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Dr. Bret Champion, Superintendent of the Leander Independent School District (ISD) in Texas joins us for the latest Deming Institute Podcast (download the podcast). Bret discusses Leander ISD’s efforts from the perspective of his 22 year journey as a teacher through his current role.

In describing the Leander Way he says

[We try to make sure] decisions are made at the most local level possible and work out from there.

When I became superintendent, one of my big things was we need to continue to tear down silos (the notion of barriers between departments).

We’re in each others business… because we are all in this for the same reasons… shared vision (every student exits our system with the same passion for learning they had when they entered our system, without economics determining success). If we are all centered on that, if that is who we are, then it doesn’t matter who is in charge of what, we just need to get the job done.

This vision of teamwork sounds so easy on paper. But it requires that there is a strongly shared management vision, with respect for people, and that is not easy for most organization to pull off. It usually takes quite a while to build such a system and such trust. That long term effort over 2 decades, of course, is one of the reasons Leander is in the position to be able to have this work so well today.

I really like Leander’s vision.

The aim of education should be to preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that a child is born with. Grades and gold stars destroy this yearning for learning.

W. Edwards Deming, in a letter to David Bayless, 6 February 1992.

Bret also discusses the gemba (though not using that word) of a school, the classroom, and how they focused on what the classroom experience should be. They insisted on having the focus be what the behaviors were for students, not teachers. They were focused on what is important for the “users” of the education provided by the school – the students. As he said, “the teachers aren’t the ones doing the learning.”

With each step students take on their educational journeys in Leander ISD, they are encouraged to model the Seven Student Learning Behaviors: to state the learning objective, assess their learning, plan for intervention or challenge, use strategies and tools to help them learn, interact and engage with their peers, set and track goals, and produce evidence of their learning.

Related: Monta Akin on The 20 Year Deming Journey at the Leander Independent School DistrictDeming Today: Leander Texas Independent School DistrictDr. Deming Video: A Theory of a System for Educators and Managers

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