Ernest Fleishman Profile
Dr. Ernest Fleishman
On June 12, 2007, Dr. Ernest Fleishman, Senior Vice President of Education and Corporate Relations, met with the Scholastic CDF Fellows and discussed the importance of career development, education, and teamwork. At Scholastic, Dr. Fleishman oversees company-wide strategic programs involving schools, school districts, major educational organizations, government, and community agencies. He is also responsible for business and education partnerships with states, large school districts, corporations, and industry groups.
Dr. Fleishman joined Scholastic in 1989, and is dedicated to bringing quality books to children who need them the most. With a keen calling to urban education, the Boston native began his career as a high school English teacher and later went on to serve as Superintendent of Schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut for twenty years. A graduate of Williams College, he holds an MA in English and an Ed.D. in Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Below is a highlight of the Q&A session between the Fellows and Dr. Fleishman.
Q: When you were a teacher and a superintendent for 20 years, you had face-to-face time with children, parents, and administration on a daily basis. How have your relationships with schools and school districts shifted since assuming the role of a corporate executive?
A: A lot of school leaders feel removed because they don’t always get much time to speak to their students. So yes, I was a little worried that I’d feel removed from the field when I accepted the position at Scholastic, especially during the first few years. I’m here because I believe in the mission of the organization—inspiring kids to read, learn, and develop a love for lifelong learning. I soon realized the value of interaction, and I had to compensate by getting out to schools. I try to constantly talk to teachers about what’s going on in the classroom. What do they need? What do they want? How can Scholastic better meet their needs? If I didn’t do that, I probably wouldn’t be at Scholastic today. I do miss being directly involved in children’s lives.
Q: Right now we’re reading a book by John C. Maxwell, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. The first law Maxwell outlines is the Law of Significance, in which he argues that one can’t achieve anything of great value alone and that collaboration is key to long-lasting success. Do you find this principle to be a large part of your job? How do you assess people’s fit for the job and place them accordingly?
A: When I interview people, I look for technical skills (knowledge) and whether or not this person can work well with in a group. This requires the ability to listen, a skill I learned very quickly at Scholastic. What can this person do? Can he work well with a variety of people? Can he see the big picture? People need to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses. They must find themselves before they become concerned with externals. A lot of school leaders fail to achieve because of a lack of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are very critical. I used to think that I was a great interviewer, but I talked too much. Now I understand the importance of listening and, on top of that, going to where people work to see them in action. To know if the person can teach, you must see them teach. Talking about it isn’t enough.
Q: What are some guidelines to follow with regard to partnerships between businesses and schools?
A: That’s a good word—“partnership.” It’s heavily used in business these days. A partnership means that you’re not leaving and coming back over time. The “partners” are participating in a continuous, consistent relationship with one another over time. It’s a conversation, not a sale. I have to customize our products for schools and teachers—have to stay with them, help with maintenance, and implement initiatives. It’s very much a partnership. We are a long-time service provider.
Q: What advice do you have for the Fellows?
A: Introduce yourselves to people. Ask them, “What do you do? Do you like it?” Offer your help to them. Another thing I recommend, I don’t know if you do this already, but journalize your experience here. It’s good to reflect. What did you learn about yourself? Then share what you wrote and communicate it with each other at the end of the program. You’ll definitely learn from each other by doing that. I’ve always believed that one of the tests of a good organization is whether it allows new people to speak up, actually listen to what they have to say, and respond to it. So speak up now! You’re only new once!