A Case Study of the Educational Reform Efforts of Former Mississippi Governor William F. Winter
While serving as governor of Mississippi from 1980 until 1984, William F. Winter envisioned education as a key to moving Mississippi away from poverty. He championed educational reform as the means for improving schools with low student achievement. From the beginning of his tenure, Winter's goal was to improve K-12 education by implementing three needed improvements: public kindergarten, compulsory attendance, and a lay board of education. During the first two years of his administration, Winter struggled to gain support from within the legislative body itself. Mores of Mississippi, which relegated African-Americans to a lesser role of social status, were difficult to overcome without causing a great deal of social upheaval. Winter's goal of educational reform was inclusive and not just aimed at the Whites of Mississippi. This necessitated carefully calculated planning. It was not until a controversial ending to the 1982 regular session that Winter began to explore options of calling a special session and promoting the goals for education to the constituents of the legislators. Through a series of nine public forums that were carefully crafted to explore the issues and spotlight the legislators for that particular venue, Winter and his band of young supporters, called the "Boys of Spring," were able to bring about a paradigm shift in attitudes and beliefs. The focus of this study is to examine Winter's leadership style, relate the story of reform, and highlight one man's dream for his state. Winter was a master at surrounding himself with a high quality and high energy staff, designing a plan for success, and knowing what changes needed to be made and how to bring them about effectively.
Specifically, this study will highlight hard work with purpose. It will also illustrate that those closest to a problem or issue should always be part of the solution to the problem, and finally, the study will show how a leader is only as good as the people that he or she surrounds themselves with. The efforts that resulted in this study could and should be used to solve other problems of this society, especially those related to education.