The Adventures of Craig & Trudy, Chapter 3: Community Trusteeship and the Early History of the Chamber Foundation
By Trudy Fitzsimmons and Craig Rider
The Early History of the Huntington Township Chamber Foundation:
Leadership Huntington was founded by members of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. Longtime Board Member. Ken Christensen attributes the very beginning of any mention of a leadership program to Dick Bornstein a fellow chamber board member. Dick traveled to a national chamber training program every year. He brought home news of a leadership program he thought they should consider. No one took up the idea until sometime later, although The Chamber did run a one-time program called “Practical Politics.”
At that time, The Chamber’s board included a number of members who were passionate about serving the community. One big idea they had was to start a childcare center. In order to do this and other things, they needed a mechanism by which they could accept donations, essentially a 501(c)3. So, the Chamber created “The Chamber Foundation.” It was chaired by Libby Hubbard, assisted by Ken Christensen, Jill Tane and others. While Libby was forming the foundation, Dick Bornstein suggested applying for a state grant to help get the childcare center started. The grant application needed a total list of everything a child care center would need to start operation and a budget.. Libby contacted Katie Roach, a local child care center owner, who was able to give them all the details for the grant in very short order. That contributed to the success of the grant.
With receipt of the grant the Foundation hired an Executive Director, Dianne Parker, to put together this child care center, as well as a health care facility for the community and other work. At that time Arthur Goldstein, a local attorney was the Chamber Board President. For the Health care facility Arthur and Dianne were looking at a warehouse on Pulaski Road used by Huntington Hospital for storage. Long story short, Arthur negotiated a variance for a bathroom which helped make the space suitable. He was so successful in selling the idea that, next thing you know, they were ordering an MRI machine. He also found a state grant and county money to move this along, and convinced two people from Huntington Hospital to be on the new health care facility’s Board of Directors. This is how what is now known as the “Northwell Health Dolan Family Health Center” came to be.
To say Arthur was a catalyst for good is an understatement. I wish I had more interaction with him. What a wonderful human.
The Power of Community Trustees
This group of people, some whose names I have mentioned, some I haven’t and never met, had a vision for their community. These people were and are Servant Leaders, or Community Trustees.
By that I mean they took seriously the notion that community leadership is:
This approach reflects a life-transforming attitude for both the individuals and communities that embrace it. With the advent of the over 1000 Community Leadership programs it has inspired, it has strengthened and transformed communities nationwide by encouraging lifelong learning across interests and perspectives, and by actively strengthening relationships throughout communities.
Community Trusteeship has changed attitudes and helped participants become more effective local leaders. By focusing on exploring the deepest values of participants, it improves both sense of self and empathy for others. It advances clarity of purpose, deepening and broadening awareness, respect for diversity on multiple levels, and both the desire and ability to serve the community for the common good.
The phrase “Community Trusteeship” identifies a key ingredient that is fundamental to a healthy community, and is too often lacking today: TRUST.
Greed, dishonesty, divisiveness, corruption, and acting exclusively in one’s own self-interest without regard to others destroys trust. Even without theses being actively perpetrated, lack of human connection fosters disbelief, skepticism, and suspicion. Lack of trust destroys relationships, undermines institutions and makes it difficult if not impossible to bring about effective solutions and public goods.
Trust requires honesty, mutual understanding, faith, predictability, and integrity. Earning trust is an act of the heart. Giving trust is an offering of vulnerability in good faith that it will be honored. When demonstrated by individuals who act in an unselfish manner to consider each other’s interests as fundamental to their own, it is a powerful benefit to society.
Community leaders who hold their communities in trust model commitment and caring competence. They recognize that each of our self interests is bound up in the health and well being of the whole. In this, Trustees provide deep service and leadership to individuals and organizations. At the same time, they empower the development of these people and organizations who comprise the communities they serve.
Community Trusteeship is an act of caring commitment that transcends narrow self interest to serve the whole community; taking responsibility for and acting on behalf of the common good, and endeavoring to help individual interests find a healthy place as part of the whole.
The concept reminds us that leadership is not about us; that our communities are complex organizations that existed before us and will continue long after we have moved on. It honors those who came before, endeavoring to understand their triumphs and tribulations, and the issues overcome and still before us. It recognizes the contributions that created and preserved the amenities we value today. It recognizes our duty to protect and enhance these resources effectively holding them in trust for those who will follow.
Community Trusteeship is more about personal commitment than specific skills, even as its execution is much about identifying strengths and then coordinating and putting them to good use. In this, it is at least as much about interaction as it is about individual action; a commitment to continued learning, relationship development, and endeavoring in service to the whole.
I am grateful that those who formed the Huntington Chamber Foundation and participated in all its good works took these concepts to heart. I hope that you will, too.
It was his passion for the arts, his appreciation for teachers, and his firm belief grounded in personal experience that the arts are fundamental to a good education that first led us to be intrigued by Roger Tilles. He has seen that children in struggling schools blessed enough to have an exceptionally committed educator can succeed in many ways. He has felt it himself as a product of the Great Neck public schools.
If you ask, he will tell you that a third grade teacher is a primary reason and focus for his and his siblings having music make a substantial difference in their lives, “In no small way was this great teacher, never knowing what the results of his efforts would be, just doing what he loved and doing it well, responsible for there being the Tilles Center. Teachers never know the result of their efforts but they can change the world.”
Roger Tilles boasts a rich resume that includes a law practice, and serving as Director of Tilles Investment Companies. He has taught at the University level, and been involved in one way or another with government for decades. He is possibly even better known for his dedication to philanthropy as the founder and/or Chair of diverse organizations, including the Long Island Arts Alliance, Association for a Better Long Island, the Long Island Regional Planning Board, the Long Island Association, WNET/WLIW Public Television, Long Island Philharmonic, Tempel Beth-El of Great Neck, and multiple interfaith projects most notably “Project Understanding” with the late Monsignor Tom Hartman.
When we sat down with Tilles in December of 2019 the current situation, while already manifesting, had hardly begun to register on Long Island. He started out daydreaming about wonderful places where he could retire and then announced he won’t do it, at least not yet. He’s got unfinished work as Regent for the Tenth Judicial District of the New York State Education Department, where he has served since 2005.
This work has often been a frustrating, uphill battle, but he’s a passionate, committed advocate. He’s grateful for local administrators whom he sees as truly dedicated to education, such Robert Dillon of Nassau BOCES, William Johnson of Rockville Center, Thomas Rogers of Syosset Schools, Lorna Lewis of Plainview-Old Bethpage, and Jack Bierworth of Herricks and Hempstead, with whom he has consulted regularly for 15 years
Now, COVID-19 has caused everything to shift dramatically. There’s an in depth interview here, conducted by Newsday Columnist and Editorial Writer Lane Filler of Newsday with The Hon. Roger Tilles and Dr. Thomas Rogers, Superintendent of Syosset School District. Another insightful conversation was led by News12's Elizabeth Hashagen. It included TIlles and nationally renowned educator and activist, Nicholas Ferroni:
Much remains murky, and while some systems like Syosset are better equipped to plan ahead for multiple possible circumstances, even the best districts on Long Island are gravely challenged. What does seem clear, is that the issues Tilles spoke of a million years ago last December remain relevant, perhaps even moreso than they were back then…
A Looming Teacher Shortage
When we sat down with him in late 2019, the most important thing Tilles wanted us to know is that there is a pressing, critical need for teachers. Over 100,000 are projected to retire within the next 5 years. At the same time, enrollment in schools of education is down 40% due to, among other reasons, the loss of morale from the disastrous roll out of the Common Core. State and Federal support is insufficient.
He shakes his head, “The implementation of common core was so discouraging …what they really need is to let educators be educators.”
Tilles then goes on to talk about how he thinks Regents and other tests distract from important things we ought to be teaching: How to live a healthy and fulfilling life, financial literacy, problem solving, information literacy, civic engagement. He agrees that math and science are important but will also insist: So are the Arts and Humanities.
He is determined to stay in the system until legislation cements those aspects of learning into the curriculum
We spend a little bit of time talking about the challenges inherent in funding our schools, the problem of excruciatingly high property taxes and how 2% tax caps do so much harm to our schools while doing so little to address the real problems inherent in the system. We touch on a much more deeply researched, nuanced approach to addressing the school funding issue that had been promised but was abandoned by New York State when the Great Recession demanded budget cuts.
When we say the words “Unfunded Mandates” he bristles.
“Many want those who have little opportunity to even decrease their chances of success.” Like any good businessman, Tilles agrees that reviewing policies to reduce waste is important. As a man with decades of experience in public service, he is well aware that the system requires a lot of revision to be healthy, and is painfully aware of the shameful things that happen when people have corrupt motivations, a lack of understanding, or simply seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
“The testing regime is a problem. It wastes tremendous financial and human resources on all the preparing and grading, and quite frankly undermines actual teaching. Those who demanded this suffered at the polls thanks to the Opt-out movement.”
He blames no particular party, “Bush started it. Obama doubled down. Cuomo and Republicans passed legislation together. It’s a bi-partisan nightmare.”
Still, Tilles is deeply concerned that too many people use the phrase, “Unfunded Mandates” as an excuse to devalue special education, teachers, and the arts, “I chaired a special education review of mandates. We went through 130 of these so-called ‘unfunded-mandates.’ Of those, four seemed questionable. Upon further review, only one was deemed unnecessary.”
This doesn’t mean his thinks the systems are perfect. “Unfunded mandates” and “Accountability” are charged words that don’t reflect reality.
Tilles has been a direct target of this, moving to another topic, where his choice of words in the past have led some to accuse him of racism.
Like every human, Tilles can’t prove the purity of his heart. We he did offer was this: “The organization Erase Racism is honoring me at their upcoming Spring Gala at the Garden City Hotel [now scheduled for November]. As a Regent, I have to be very careful about conflicts of interest. I can’t solicit funds. I told them that. Even so, they said they want to honor me anyway. That’s quite an honor.”
We agree – It’s very hard to imagine that if the Board of Directors of that particular organization didn’t think Roger TIlles was part of the solution, much less that he was part of the problem, they wouldn’t do that.
We won’t get into the particular choice of words that sparked the controversy. He’s found better ones to express his studied opinion of the leadership of the Hempstead/Wyandanch school district:
He will further explain that the blame goes much further than the particular district. As former Chair of the LI Regional Planning Board, he saw that the train of events that led to this situation was easy to discover: Long ago, zoning was deliberately drawn on economic lines circumscribing the highest unemployment areas. Not only did this put the district itself at an inherent disadvantage to its neighbors, it, among other factors, demoralized those within it, empowered those who would take advantage of the situation, and generally invited poor behavior.
School Board Members were elected based on their willingness to hire family members and friends, and to pay them outsized wages, “The kids came second.”
Tilles notes that one of the biggest priorities in education in NYS is local control: Democracy. He agrees with this. Still, he firmly believes that in certain cases there should be mechanisms to supercede local control. He is happy to report that recently a bill has been signed by the governor to appoint monitors in those districts.
He offers his review of another situation, Roosevelt: “They had a State takeover. For five to six years there was no improvement. The State is in no way qualified to run a school, but it still worked. Eventually, the community got fed up and elected good governance. There were 90% state funded capital improvements. They basically replaced every school and inched up.”
Getting to the Roots of the Problems
Tilles believes deeply that public oversight and intervention is required to deal with acute corruption within these districts. Still, as he learned looking at the history, there are broader driving factors. The whole mess is, in fact, a product of long-ago established systems that are racist, classist, corrupt recipes for ongoing disaster.
While the socio-economic status of the individual residents has an impact, it’s not the only thing driving disparity, “The tax revenue in these challenged areas is based more on personal income than other areas, simply because there are so few commercial properties. In Great Neck, 35% of the school taxes are paid for by retail and offices. In Roosevelt, less than 5% are.“
He goes deeper, “Nassau is the only county in the state where the county often assesses property taxes too high. This fuels tax attorneys who engage in multi-year appeals, knowing they will get some reduction and money will have to be given back. That money then comes back from the County and not the school district that spent it. So, basically, the people of Roosevelt end up helping to pay Great Neck’s refund.”
Those that benefit from this system are not going to allow changes to it.
THE POWER OF ART AND SOMEONE WHO CARES
This is my 16th year as a Regent. You know how I get paid? I get to go to elementary schools four or five times per month. I read them poems. I’ve visited about 100 districts, spending a half hour at a time with the 3rd or 4th grade class.”
“I learned something very quickly: In my first school visit to Central Islip, I went to read poems to the 3rd and 4th grade. When I asked, all raised their hands that they were excited and want to go to college. The kids were smart and enthusiastic. They got the meanings. They memorized. They interacted. Then I visited them in 9th grade….you can’t believe these are the same kids. Out of 30 or so, a half dozen planned to graduate. Two planned to go to a local college.
What happens between 4th and 9th grade? They don’t have someone to mentor them, to guide them in choosing courses and figuring out what direction to take. Overall there are few positive role models and lots of gangs filling the void.”
He reflects again on the disparity: “In Great Neck, there is a far greater ratio of counselors to students than in Central Islip.”
He talks about how the teachers from elementary to middle school seem to lose faith, too. How discouraging and hopeless it all seems….and then…his eyes light up…
“As I was leaving Central Islip High School, I heard a choir. I love music, so I stuck my head in….I figured it must be a college choir. It turns out it is 20 high school kids singing their hearts out getting ready to perform in Salzburg, Austria, for the Mozart Bicentennial!
They are SOOOOO GOOD!!!”
He stuck around. Finally, they noticed and invited him in, “I asked how many planned to graduate. Every hand went up. Half are planning on college!”
I ask, “Why you and not your peers?”
A girl answers, ‘We LOVE music. The choir teacher says we can’t stay unless we do our work. He calls us once per week to keep up on us.’
THIS IS THE POWER OF MUSIC, OF ART, OF SOMEONE WHO CARES!”
Still, the Corruption
We’ve mentioned Dale Lewis and his passion for arts education before. Someday we will profile him directly. Roger, in fact, was the first person to recommend we do so. Dale is amazing. Dale loves to work with kids and has volunteers ready to help. He is able and willing at times to basically bring music programs to schools for free.
On at least one occasion, according to Tilles, he seems to have run into opposition because an administrator wasn’t in charge of the program. Other stories Roger shares involve opportunities to be involved in major regional programs, worth $3-$400,000 that administrators pulled out of for similar reasons.
He is intensely frustrated at the lack of attention to these and other actions that he asserts, quite frankly, are almost criminal and hurt our children and taxpayers.
Endeavors Beyond the Formal Education System
Among Roger TIlles’ extracurricular activities is the Long Island Arts Alliance (https://longislandartsalliance.org/). The mission there is to serve as “an alliance of and for the region’s not-for-profit arts, cultural and arts education organizations. LIAA promotes awareness of and participation in Long Island’s world-class arts and cultural institutions. Formed in 2003, LIAA offers leadership and diverse support services to arts organizations, serves as an advocate for arts education in our schools and collaborates on strategies for economic development and community revitalization.”
It’s not easy to get organizations who are generally competing over insufficient funds to work together. Tilles wonders if part of the challenge on Long Island is that, while some places have some sense of this, historically Long Island as a whole is not known for its loyalty to community.
“It was a delicate situation,” reflects Tilles, “We had to be very careful. It’s an endeavor to get those in the arts community to work together, but they didn’t want us to cannibalize the limited funding for the arts.”
The LIAA endeavored to foster collaboration, but were met with resentment, so they changed the model and did no fundraising. For 3-4 years there were grants from NYS and others for tourism and such, but it was impossible not to lose money. The whole effort appeared to be a losing proposition.
Then they found something folks could agree to get behind: The Arts Map
The collaborative map concept works,” says Tilles, talking about this map of Long Island that pinpoints arts and cultural organizations and offers targeted advertising that they then distribute from Penn Station to Montauk Point, “The budget is tiny and the map self-sustains.”
The LIAA also prepares education and management forums. They are very careful not to do anything that infringes on the art funding pool, nor to set up anything that has various organizations competing against each other.
Another success has been the Scholar-Artists program
“The arts community likes it. Newsday covers it. What’s really great is that it raises the profile of arts students. It’s not just Scholar-Athletes having their awards up on the wall when you walk into a high school. Now there are Scholar-Artists. It helps reduce the stigma that art kids are somehow not mainstream.”
It’s a relatively inexpensive program. The kids are nominated by their school art teachers. A panel that includes 15-20 teachers and others volunteer to evaluate. Twenty winners in Nassau and Suffolk counties are announced. They celebrate with a reception that offers a wonderful opportunity to highlight the kids and raises $15-20,000 to support the program.
They are still accepting applications for the 2020-2021 program, though now all the galleries and theaters are closed and no-one’s sure when such receptions may occur again. The primary thing the LIAA is promoting now is resources. It’s assisting artists and arts organizations in surviving the panedemic.
Most all involved in the arts feel deeply for kids across Long Island – especially our High School Seniors -- who are missing out on their performances, art receptions and other deeply meaningful end of year events. In response, another organization that Roger is fundamentally connected to, The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, began soliciting videos of young performing artists. Recently, they started posting them online. You can find them on the Tilles Center For the Performing Arts YouTube Channel and their Facebook Page.
They can’t hear the applause or feel the energy of a crowd…but it’s something.
For Schools, Now What?
Schools like to have data to drive their guidance. Teachers like to work with curriculum developed over years. Since we met in December, they have had to completely change the way kids are taught.
A current task now, being conducted by Robert Dillon of Nassau BOCES, is to survey all of the schools in Nassau County to more formally assess which have the proper broadband/wifi and hardware, and whether there is actually communication going back and forth between teachers and students.
Are the teachers able to deliver? Are the students able to receive? What kinds of online teaching have been happening? They already know this ranges considerably, with some districts capable of providing full zoom classes to houses of children who have ample space and equipment to sign in. Others have simply been providing a link to homework, with no real teacher interface. Others, still, don’t even have the equipment needed to possibly have any such exchange.
Tilles wonders: What is happening to student morale, much less their mental health? The virus and quarantine alone are traumatic. What happens when teachers and students are unable to make the social/emotional connections that are such a large part of education? What is the impact on parents? Teachers?
Then, there are these looming funding cuts that are coming at the same time schools are forced to implement a Plan B. Will the federal government offer assistance, or are we looking at 20-50% budget cuts? How will these be distributed across school districts, a few of which rely on the State for less than 10% of their funding, and some of which for more than 70%. Those more reliant, of course, also have the kids least likely to have Wi-Fi and the most likely to have language and other learning barriers. Still, the more self-sufficient schools stand to lose a lot, too.
What happens when school board and budget votes, which usually have a 10-15% turnout comprised largely of those who have kids in the district, are suddenly conducted via ballots that are mailed directly to voters?
Colleges have concerns, too. Why pay for the first two years of a prestigious school when an online service that has much more experience in the digital arena will offer that basic education for so much less? Then there are the broader economic impacts…schools are important to the economy.
Even more, there are questions on the efficacy of remote learning, especially among younger students. Some research is pending. Anecdotally, it’s likely there are major concerns regarding stresses on even the best equipped of families. While those who are enthusiastic to begin with are likely to remain so, Tilles fears that overall engagement will suffer.
As though the virus were actually an earthquake, gaps in education that were gaping before are now becoming widening chasms. Noone knows when schools will physically reopen. Kids, parents, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, so many others have real concerns. For many parents, their economic challenges are compounded by the sudden removal of a safe place to keep their children enriched. For too many students, even with the virus, school was the safest, most nurturing place to be.
How do we keep providing adequate services to those with developmental challenges or language barriers? What happens to art, music, and physical education which, anecdotally, people seem to finally be remembering are important because we’re seeing the impacts of cutting them?
Are we going to continue to progress with 21st Century learning skills that are critical to our society and simply navigating adult life, such as information literacy, financial literacy, critical thinking, civic engagement, problem solving? These were important discussions that are now being put off. It’s really important that we get back to them.
One benefit Tilles sees is that we might begin to realize that all the testing is fairly expendable; that there are better ways to assess students and the efficacy of teaching practices than spending so much time and resources on what have become unreasonable, high-stakes games.
And then…what happens when we try to go back? What about the suggestion that maybe it’s more cost effective NOT to go back? Safety – for the students, the teachers, and everyone else – is paramount. Still, we must also remember the important role school buildings themselves play.
Tilles notes that the buildings themselves are not the major cost drivers in education, especially not when the value they provide is taken into consideration. Can we/should we get better at online teaching? Of course. Can it replace the in-person experience? He can only speak anecdotally – these studies are still being done – but he suspects that even as there may be an increasing blend, the actual in-person learning remains the most effective.
This is a lovely thing: Thank you, John Krasinski and all involved in “Some Good News”!
We are even more grateful that, while there are very special aspects unique to SGN’s own scale (say…that Hamilton thing a few weeks back, or more recently those amazing commencement conversations), these bits shared from across the country are but a small sampling of what’s happening right here, right now in our own backyards.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
It would be overwhelming if not so uplifting … and so deeply required.
We do not deny the difficult aspects of reality. The crisis is surreal. The challenges are enormous, multi-faceted, and often products of our own human shortcomings. We pray for healing, enlightenment, practical solutions and… frankly… miracles… offering our all in spirit and service, knowing our best chances require every bit of truth, love, humility, dexterity, faith and grace that we will muster.
… and not just to overcome the specific dire crisis now dominating our attention ... we weren’t exactly on the best, most hopeful track before this…
Is this a demand to join in some new frenzy? No…though we pray a critical mass use this opportunity -- the kind that only happens when surging momentums of the status quo are disrupted, and becomes extroadinary when so many people suddenly get to pause and think -- to initiate new, more honest, more compassionate, more healthful ways of moving forward.
Please…do first what you require to care for yourself. It’s not selfish to do what only you can do for yourself, especially if you encourage and empower others to do the same. Breathe. Heal. Center. Tend to your own bit of the world…the things you love, best understand and are responsible for. That’s important. When you’ve got that covered, see what moves you next…
We see EMT’s, nurses, doctors, service members and so many essentially hands-on others bravely giving their best to tend to others. Incredibly, so many of these are somehow still going above and beyond …
These folks have always been heroes. Now, we need a new word … thank you …
We see others endeavoring mightily to feed, equip, and lobby for folks on the front lines, and for any others who require it. So many are going to such exceptional lengths to give, create, collect and deliver things where they may be of good use ...
We are embracing our children. We hear teachers giving their very best to educate and embrace our children -- executing the most extraordinary shift in process, completely revolutionizing education, at times with exceptional ingenuity, creativity and heart, all while dealing with all they have themselves at home. So many others are also rising to educate, inform, encourage, inspire, enlighten, heal … to help others rise above or simply carry on…we see folks making us laugh and think, and reminding us to cherish all we can give thanks for…not to gloat about it, but to kindle the light… so many artists living some sacred obligation to feed our souls
We see rainbows manifesting all over the island and now well beyond, as champions of Main Street and other small businesses – both owners and patrons – endeavor to serve and support one another, often in incredibly heartfelt, creative and thoughtful ways.
We see folks digging into their toolboxes and supply closets to see what they may apply to the current situation. For some, it’s good business. We are grateful. For many others, whom we pray will receive what’s required to thrive, the reward at the moment is simply being able to do what they do to serve others. People are better appreciating where food is grown, how things are made, who gets it done…the people who have for so long quietly been the fulcrum of our communities…
We hear sirens blaring, hons honking, people yelling and shouting….in support of heroic neighbors they may have never met, and yet love and are grateful for. We see drive by museums, hear soothing songs, and are certain children aren’t the only ones taking in the bedtime stories. Folks are offering prayer and healing intention… People are suddenly aware of how grateful they are for honest reports and loving care…for the sun on their face, breath in their bodies…
Sososososo much more….
We see people checking in with each other, giving their best to share the best they can, doing whatever bit they can to bring light and warmth and nurturing – casting aside false oppositions and endeavoring instead to learn together – to work together – to put their different pieces together to better understand and engage with the situation before us.
And even better? We realize that we’ve seen this all along; The pieces, the desire, the potential has been there all along. Now, gratefully, they are getting some focus.
May we keep feeding that, building that, appreciating that… Who knows what wonders may follow?
We send you love, light and healing.
We pray that you count many blessings, and accomplish something wonderful today.
We hope you take time to simply breathe;
To pace, to stand, to sit somewhere,
To lie flat with your eyes closed
Taking in the quiet, the birds, the sounds of home.
To listen, deeply and intentionally to some song, some story, some sermon on some mount that lifts you.
To find within yourself all that you require…to appreciate all that assist from without….to be a part of some synergy of life.
What would you do with an extra $300? Pat and Craig Rider used it to make a dream come true. During their honeymoon on a sailboat they discussed starting a business. Within a year they had established a consulting company with $300 bucks Craig earned teaching an extra college course. The Riders’ personal and professional journey now spans more than three decades.
Craig and Pat Rider are co-founders of The Rider Group, Inc. which specializes in team building, leadership development and retreat facilitation for organizations throughout North America. Their work with city, county and state-wide community leadership programs has earned state and international awards of excellence.
Craig holds an MS in Counseling and Guidance and a BA in Psychology. Pat has a BS in Political Science. Active community advocates, both have chaired major fundraisers. Pat’s extensive volunteer work earned her recognition as a YWCA Woman of Influence and as one of Dayton’s Top Ten Women. What a dynamic duo. The preceding excerpt was taken from the book they wrote entitled “300 bucks and a dream,” which you can purchase online. Permission was given.
Thank you Craig.
Remembering Where we Started
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.” ~ The Talmud
By 2014, both the Rider Group and I had been involved in Huntington’s Leadership program for almost 20 years. I thought the history should be told, or at least recorded somewhere. In my desire to capture the history of Leadership Huntington, I arranged a dinner to include Ken Christensen, Libby Hubbard, Dianne Parker, Lou Giordano, Craig Rider, Kate Laible and myself.
During the course of the dinner Ken piped up saying “This needs to be on the record.” So this story goes:
Craig was hired to conduct the first class retreat for Leadership Huntington in 1994. Everyone was nervous and wanted to make sure the retreat would go smoothly. Ken, feeling responsible for the program asked Craig, “What are you going to do?”
Craig replied, “Stuff.”
Ken immediately became concerned and exclaimed “STUFF!?!” He then said, “I am not a stuff guy. I don’t do stuff! I want to know what you are going to do in detail. I am not going to trust you to do ‘STUFF.’”
Craig calmly replied, “As I evaluate the class and see what they are doing I will adapt. I need to know who the class is, what their collective personality is and their situation. I will accommodate whatever it is they are doing.”
Ken said that didn’t make him feel much better but he did go to all the retreats because, “Craig’s STUFF WAS GOOD STUFF!”
At those retreats, Ken learned that he is a Beaver. To understand what that means, keep reading.
The Chairman of Leadership Huntington, the unflappable Lou Giordano also spent time speaking with Craig at the retreat. Craig commented “I don’t know if you knew I was a native, but it means so much to be in my hometown working with Leadership”
Lou replied, “Don’t you think I checked your references?”
Craig replies, “You mean my Aunt Neeta and Cousin John?”
Lou’s eyes opened wide. That was a gotcha moment. Craig has a keen sense of humor and, fortunately, so does Lou.
Lou is an Owl. If you have been through the program with either of them you may get the humor of the situation.
The main purpose to these little pieces of information is to introduce you to some examples of Temperament. When Craig evaluated the class, he used an instrument called the “Myers- Briggs” assessment tool.* Later, he replaced this with something he felt was simpler for folks to understand, called “Temperament.”
“Temperament identifies the basic needs and core values that drive our behavior and our choices. It is an interdependent, self-supporting system” ~Linda Berens
The class would take the assessment to bring them to an understanding of how different each of us is, and what our learning styles are according to the Temperament Summary. I will share just the basics with you.**
Understanding temperament patterns is a crucial part of developing key leadership skills. Having an awareness of why and how you and others communicate and perceive information opens the door to more effective relationships and productivity.
During the retreats, Craig would offer many exercises -- “STUFF” -- to help understand how all this works. The following short descriptions, while not complete, provide an initial understanding of the patterns of behaviors, values, talents and needs. We are each a mix of temperament types, typically with one type as our preferred, or dominant type. Temperament is a language of how we are wired; the “deck of cards” we have been dealt.
Basic Characteristics of the 4 Temperaments:
“No one temperament can be said to be better than another. Each one contains strengths and richness, yet each one is fraught with its own weakness and dangers.” ~ Tim LayHaye
The Beaver values being part of a group; having membership. Beavers are the cornerstone of society, establishing and maintaining standard operating procedures. They tend to protect, serve, stand guard and warn. Looking to the past and tradition, they may focus on the conventional. They pride themselves on being dependable and hardworking. They are generally serious, concerned and often fatalistic. Often they are skilled at getting everything in the right place- information, people and objects.
Time Orientation: Past
For those familiar with Meyers-Briggs, Beavers fall under ESTJ ISTJ ESFJ ISFJ
The Owl exhibits knowledge and competency. As the problem solvers, they tend to focus on complex systems of the world. They analyze how something works and then how to make it better. Seeing everything as conditional and relative, they trust logic and reason. Driven to accomplish their goals, they work tirelessly to complete projects. They are often fiercely independent leading some to think they are cold or distant. However, they are more likely simply immersed in the problems they are currently solving.
Time Orientation: Infinite
Meyers-Briggs Profiles: ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP
The Dolphin tends to be authentic, kind and empathetic. This is the self-improvement temperament. As a visionary and idealist, the Dolphin wants to make the world a better place, searching for identity, meaning and significance. They focus on similarities as a way to find integration. In whatever field they are in, they work well with people and groups of people. Their drive for self-knowledge, along with their general loving demeanor is inspiring to those around them.
Time Orientation: Future
Associated Meyers-Briggs profiles: ENFJ INFJ ENFP INFP
The Fox has an innate ability to excel in the art of their choice, whether it is business, athletics, military, or industrial. They trust their impulses, and seek to have an impact and get results. They are optimistic yet realistic, unconventional yet focused on the here and now, often getting absorbed in the action of the moment. They want freedom to move, seeking adventure and stimulation, and seizing opportunities that come to them. They will often take the road others feel is too risky, doing whatever it takes rules or no rules.
Time Orientation: Present
Associated Meyers-Briggs Profiles: ESTP ISTP ESFP ISFP
* Myers–Briggs typology as categorized by David Keirsey. This document is a summary of the four temperaments based upon the following sources: Berens, Linda V.,”Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction 4.0” Radiance House, West Hollywood, Ca., 2010; Keirsey, David, Please Understand Me II, Temperament Character Intelligence, Prometheus Book Company, Del Mar, CA, 1998.
** Please understand Myers-Briggs is a complicated instrument. It is not intended in this short writing to evaluate anyone, only to produce an awareness and understanding that people have many ways of processing information.
Next month: Leadership and Community Trusteeship
I think it’s safe to say that both Passover and Easter felt surreally REAL this year, though on a very human scale: The plague. The grim reality of how foolish we can be. The potential, even, for a fundamental shift toward something…better…
How do we ensure that the damage being done by both the virus and its cure are not in vain? How do we use this experience to be better stewards of each other and this planet we share?
This is not a demand upon those on the front lines, upon those for whom healing is the task at hand. Getting better at valuing and tending to ourselves and each other is part of the point here.
I have heard from some very successful folks that it’s best to see every crisis as a learning experience…every fall as an opportunity for a “bounce”…shall we give it a go? How will we rise?
There are certainly unintended consequences here — some, even, really good ones in terms of communities coming together, spirits of giving and cooperation, incredible innovation and air that is more breathable than it’s been in decades.
While the nonsense hasn’t stopped entirely, there does seem to be renewed interest in truth, overcoming false oppositions, tearing down unnecessary walls and giving our best to foster healthy systems. I know that, for me, this experience has filled my heart with gratitude for those giving it their best and for things I may have taken for granted before almost as much as it has wrenched it with the lesser stuff — I have cried more than once at the sound of a voice that echoes the hope and care I have for others as we stumble our way through this all together.
I’m not really whitewashing any of this, though I choose very deliberately to focus on what seems helpful, I realize clearly that we are suffering grim losses, and have enormous tasks before us.
It’s more that I think it’s deeply imperative that — if we are to make our future any better — we have to give it our best to use every opportunity available to make it better…That, as our EMTs, doctors, nurses, so many essential others are going through hell on Earth, it’s incumbent upon all who can to make coming out the other side the best it can possibly be.
They are doing exceptionally heroic things — every life they save, every life-saving system they save from collapse is a victory in its own right — still, we should do all we can to help ensure they don’t have to do this again. That we are healthier and better prepared as a whole.
The status quo — while filled with a number of delights I am more grateful for than ever — was not our best path forward. The Millennials have been righteously pissed off for a while now. Much of Gen Z, on many levels, seems grimly resigned to the hell we’ve been marching toward. X’s are known for long rolling our eyes in similar frustration at the futility of it all, while most Boomers resigned themselves to the status quo a long time ago.
Now, that status quo has been about as disrupted as it can be without actual physical destruction of the machinery. Apparently, in some ways, even as my downstate area struggles with having more cases than any other COUNTRY in the world, we’ve also managed to exceed statisticians expectations regarding how we’d behave — in a really good and hopeful way…heck, the biggest challenges seem to have involved people who simply want to be together. We’re coming out of this economically devastated, that’s for sure, but it’s almost more mental than physical…again, not denying reality, but…you saw the pictures after Sandy right? Or Fukashima? Nashville? Puerto Rico? This is not quite like that…While there are deeply practical aspects, the challenge is, I guess, more…spiritual….in a way…
What IS our best path forward? What, of these things we have “paused” might it be best to just “stop”? How do we reinforce and carry the good stuff — like a better baseline respiratory situation for EVERYONE — forward? What, dear friends, will we do next?
I pray we give it our best, offering humbled, grateful thanks for all who are already doing so, and who have been doing so all along. You guys are the reason we’ve gotten this far already, and that we haven’t yet fully let the turkeys get us down.
I hope we get better at focusing and building on your positive momentums…