Squirrels, beavers and geese

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

May 29, 2012

Dear SAISD Staff,

I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and were able to take time to remember those who have served and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. It’s to these people whom we owe our freedom and gratitude.

Today’s topic is about serving and the ways in which we do that within an organization. I’ll be drawing from the book “Gung Ho!,” a parable co-authored years ago by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. In the book, Andy Longclaw, a Native-American, worked at a company that had been in the red for more than six years and was on the brink of being shut down. Andy’s was the only division or department that seemed to function at a higher level. When asked why his division seemed to work better than the others, he shared three secrets he had learned from his grandfather: the Spirit of the Squirrel, the Way of the Beaver and the Gift of the Goose.

The Spirit of the Squirrel – In the book, squirrels worked feverishly to gather nuts for a long winter and realized the consequences of not being committed to the mission. Everyone understood the importance of the job and their purpose. They did not have time for distractions and maximized their time to the fullest. The squirrels were motivated because they understood the importance of their jobs. Actually, it went beyond importance – it was worthwhile. We must understand that our jobs are worthwhile and truly make the world a better place.

The Way of the Beaver – Beavers did not have a leader, a coach or a manager in the water, as they rebuilt their dam after a heavy rain. They did not need one, for they understood their roles in working together as a team. Their goal was to ensure that the dam had a constant water level, and they were in control of achieving that goal. As leaders, we must identify the goal, but ultimately, our teachers, staff, and students must execute the mission.

The Gift of the Goose – Geese were always honking to encourage one another as they flew to a destination hundreds of miles away. They didn’t just honk to encourage each other when they were in the lead position – they motivated each other all of the time. The true test of character is when things are not going well. How do we respond? Do we still maintain a positive attitude?

This company, like school people, learned these best practices and applied them to the entire company. Needless to say, in time, the company flourished and was not only saved but was outperforming its competitors. Before Andy died, he encouraged his boss to never forget the ways of the squirrel, the beaver and the goose because life is too short.

“Too many spirits die at the office door,” he said.Don’t let your spirit die at the office or classroom door. Know that you can change the world and improve lives every day.


Best regards,
Dr. Sylvester Perez
Interim Superintendent