This is the third article in our series looking at what we’re calling the “K-12 Enterprise.” We’ve defined the K-12 Enterprise as a public school district that is more secure and better able to thrive in an increasingly competitive and often threatening environment by adopting certain traits of successful for-profit organizations, such as engaging in systematic product innovation, paying close attention to customers, and expanding community ownership of the district. Today we’re featuring a podcast by Nick Polyak, superintendent of Leyden School District 212, northwest of downtown Chicago near O’Hare International Airport, Geoff Luther, president of A1 Tool Company, a highly successful manufacturing firm in located in District 212, and Frank Holthouse, Leyden’s Careers and Community Outreach director.
Nick, Geoff, and Frank talk about the partnership between Leyden and A 1 tool, one of several that Leyden maintains with companies located in this manufacturing-rich part of Chicagoland, as part of Leyden’s longstanding two-year Metalworking program, which is one of only six Illinois school districts that have been accredited by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. A-1 Tool and other Leyden business partners are a perfect example of what we might call indirect customers of the K-12 Enterprise. A 1 doesn’t – like a direct customers would – cut a check directly to Leyden to pay for the preeminent product Leyden supplies: well-trained, highly motivated, work-ready graduates to fill A 1 jobs (almost a fifth of A 1’s current workforce). But you can be sure that A-1 and other Leyden business partners pay in less direct, but highly important ways.
For example, Leyden’s customer-partners provide expert technical advice that helps Leyden keep its Metalworking program on the cutting edge, help Leyden obtain up to date metalworking machinery for its metals labs on its east and west campuses, and contribute to the tax base that supports the Leyden enterprise. Leyden’s customer-partners also serve as vocal advocates for public education in District 212, countering today’s widespread skepticism of the motives and capability of public institutions. Listening to Nick, Geoff and Frank, you’ll have to agree that the Leyden-A 1 partnership is truly a win-win situation for both partners..
By the way, as Nick explains, in addition to supplying A 1 and its other business partners with a high-quality product, Leyden meticulously manages the customer relations function, staying in close touch with its business customers (including a regular monthly meeting), visiting manufacturing facilities employing Leyden graduates, and publically recognizing its partner/customers for their contribution to the K-12 Enterprise.