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Podcast Transcript

The Phoenix

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey as we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, welcome back to another video one and Kathy, welcome. So we have a guest today. And I'm gonna let Marsha introduce our special guest today.

Marsha Clark  0:32  
Well, so I've known Kathy now for 12 years, can you believe, and I met her as a participant in the Power of Self Program. And Kathy came in. She was a, I don't know, what would you call yourself, headmistress of the Hill School of Grapevine or something along, the principal or something, but she was the top dog is what she was, and came into the program as a part of sponsorship from a woman who does a lot in the educational space. And Kathy's work in Power of Self was amazing. She is one of the best storytellers, which I'm sure you will experience here in this broadcast today. This episode, if you're listening, and if you're watching, and we hope you are watching as well as listening today, and Kathy's work is amazing for children. The benefit that Kathy brings to the child, you know, as simple as she talks about things as learning differences rather than disabilities and I've always appreciated that, that we all learn in different ways, in different styles and Kathy's support of in one helping a child gain greater competence and confidence, and the relief from the parents - I mean, that's what I think about whether it be parents, grandparents, or whoever primary caregivers are. And so I'm really excited about having you here today.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:00  
Awesome. Awesome.

Kathy Edwards  2:01  
Well, I'm excited to be here.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:02  
Yay! Well, I'd like to jump in and get some clarity on the title of this podcast, "The Phoenix". So I'm assuming we're talking about the mythical bird here and not a city in Arizona, right?

Marsha Clark  2:15  
Yes, it is the mythical bird. And I don't know how many of us remember all of that. But you know, I love the title of this because it is about rebirth and recreation and that sort of thing. So I don't know. Kathy, if you want to talk anything about why that speaks to you in that regard and I can fill in maybe.

Kathy Edwards  2:33  
Sure, so when I made the decision to open the Novus Academy, every school has a mascot. And I decided that the best, most appropriate mascot would be the Phoenix. And there are so many legends about the phoenix, all of which tend to come back to life and and re-emergence and growth and those sorts of things. And one of the things that I really loved about it is the Asian version of the Phoenix because within Asian culture, the Phoenix is actually made up of different parts of birds that come together (I did not know that) and the best parts of the birds, they come together to form the Phoenix. And there's one legend that says that the Phoenix as long as the leader is brave and true and honest, the Phoenix remains. If the leader ever becomes dishonest, or leaves, the Phoenix flies away. And so that's why I chose the Phoenix.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:37  
I love that.

Marsha Clark  3:32  
I love that too. Now, the more traditional and I'm gonna read it here because I want to get it right. But it's the, it does exist in many cultures. And I'm more familiar with the American culture, obviously. And it but it's lived a very, very long time. And so this Phoenix bird, it builds its own nest, beautiful nests filled with spices, and then in a spark, the whole nest and the bird are consumed by fire. And that is when the new baby Phoenix emerges from the ashes of the previous bird. And it represents renewal, rebirth and resurrection. And you know that that's a part of why we wanted to do this. But I'm also thinking about the genuineness of what you're describing in the Asian version of that and to me that adds a whole other very rich dimension to the to the myth.

Kathy Edwards  4:26  
Yeah, I think it so beautifully describes culture and the thing that we all can bring the things, the best parts of ourselves, that we bring together. So yeah, I love the Phoenix and a little bit later, we'll talk about how the Phoenix helped me move through the process.

Marsha Clark  4:46  
And I also want to say if you ever saw Kathy's school, Kathy had people come from all around the country and dare I say the world. I don't know if you've ever had anybody... but there were lots of people that would come visit her school. So the beautiful nest part, if you saw her school, you would not know that it was a school.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:59  
Oh wow, wow.

Marsha Clark  5:02  
Amazing sparklings, it had animals, it had everything.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:05  
Excellent. Excellent, true. So Kathy, who was one of your first strong woman role models?

Kathy Edwards  5:13  
So the first was absolutely my mother. My mother was a strong woman, and she was in many ways. She is from New England so she had that the way that she carried herself and, you know, her beliefs. At the same time, my youngest brother, I have two siblings, two brothers younger than me, my youngest brother ended up being identified with some significant learning differences. During a period of time, that's in the late 50's, early 60's, parents were advised to place their children in institutions, and my parents would have none of that. And so I watched my mother as my middle brother and I we, I said, we were drug to therapy appointment after therapy appointment. And my father was in the Air Force and so the moves that we made had to fall in line with services that my brother and his brother would need. And so I saw my mother as an advocate during a period of time in our history that there was no such thing as an advocate for that type of challenge. And so she was definitely the first.

Marsha Clark  6:17  
And that's something that Kathy and I share, because I too, as you know, had a sister who was mentally retarded. More than learning differences, she never, you know... take a bottle until she died at the age of 18, wore diapers, the whole thing. And my mother also went through the system in a home and my mother would have no part of that. And all of them, dare I say harshness, the main spiritedness of what people would say, with a child who looked different, sounded different, had differences was pretty... For me, I was appalled by it even as a child and you know, thus you and I are advocates for those who might be a little different.

Kathy Edwards  7:03  
Yes. Well, and the words were so horrible.

Marsha Clark  7:06  
Yeah they were. Retarded. Oh, yeah, you know, that sort of thing. I still I have to say, when somebody calls somebody retarded just because they don't do something that that person thinks they should do, it boils my brain.

Kathy Edwards  7:19  
Those that know me know you don't ever say the R word in my presence. (Yes. Yes). And if that mistake is made, it's only made one time. And it never happens again.

Marsha Clark  7:29  
Yes. That's right.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:29  
So mom was a big role model model for you. Who else?

Kathy Edwards  7:33  
So the truth is... the when I was, the second person, the second female, that as I look back would have been modeling strength in a woman - I didn't realize it at the time, but it was, I was in my early 20's. My husband and I got married when we were in our early 20's. I had not been successful in college, I had no idea why because school was easy. I never studied, I never needed to, and I was fine with a C, or a B. College was a whole other story. I actually had to show up for class and do the work. And so I struggled and decided to go back. And so I went to Brookhaven Community College, Dallas. And there was a woman I don't know her name. She was teaching English. This is the basic freshman English that you took in college. She worked for Highland Park ISD. She was a high school English teacher. And it was the first or second class that we had. And she just made the statement. And what she said was, there are a few among us that have the pleasure of having our profession aligned with our passion and our purpose. When she said I didn't quite understand what that meant. It didn't take long though, for me to realize how important that statement was. And I've lived my life according to those principles because I have had the great fortune of having my passion/purpose beautifully aligned with my profession.

Marsha Clark  9:01  
Wow. The P words.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:02  
The P words. Exactly.  Professional, powerful...

Kathy Edwards  9:06  
I just knew it also did as it reminds me of the fact that especially as educators, but people, just people, we have to be mindful that a single thing we say in a certain way, on a given day, could stick for a life time. And that's a just a beautiful, beautiful moment.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:18  
They can stick in a good way or a bad way, unfortunately.

Kathy Edwards  9:30  
It was many many years before the next strong woman came along.

Marsha Clark  9:33  
So I want to hear the story, though, about how you weren't quite sure, but it struck you. How did you make that connection personally and sort of at a deeper level to know?

Kathy Edwards  9:44  
Okay, so what had happened is I mentioned my brother earlier. Well, I was when I was 14, we were stairsteps - 14, 13, 12 - my youngest brother that I had spoken of, got leukemia, and he lived with leukemia for a short period of time. And then one night, we got my brother and I, my middle brother and I would get home from school and the house was locked. And that had never happened. And so we both assumed, well, they'd taken Chris to the hospital. But then it started getting dark. And I was terrified of the dark. I'm still, I still don't love the dark, but I was terrified. And so we had bushes in front of our house. And so I hid inside the bushes. And I was in there and I was terrified. And of course, my, my other brother was making fun of me and doing the things that brothers do. But there was this moment, and I just remember looking through the, the leaves in these bushes, and I saw the stars. And in that moment, I knew my brother was dead. And it was good. It was this peaceful feeling that just washed over me because he'd been suffering so much. And I don't know how much time passed after that. But then I remember the headlights coming out. We lived in a cul de sac. And I remember lights coming and my parents, garage going up and all. The only other thing I remember from that period of time was my mother came into my room that night, sat on the edge of my bed and said, God sent him to us for a reason and took him for a reason. And our job is to figure out why. What was his purpose? So that's where the purpose connected for the first time.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:27  
Wow. Okay, we're totally off script. That's why we're floundering around over here. That's quite all right. So I have a note here about Kathy, you being in the hospital giving birth to your son. (Yes) Okay. Using your voice to stand up to another woman other than my mother. Yeah, let's hear about that.

Kathy Edwards  11:53  
First time I had ever done it. So I gave birth to this huge baby. It was 10 pounds, but he was short. And just, oh my goodness. Well, I died for several minutes, literally. (Oh, my goodness!) I just remembered that they had my, when I finally have any memory I had my head was below my feet and no one was helping me. There was nobody in the room. And so this nurse, remember nurse Ratchet? (Yes). Nurse Ratchet came in and they had this green jello, and I was trying to eat it with my fingers. And she wouldn't help me. Well, then a little while later, they brought medication for me to take a pill. I couldn't swallow pills. I couldn't. I took them with applesauce. So I said I can't I need some applesauce. And she tore into me about what kind of a mother was I, what do you mean, you can't take a pill oh, oh. And so I don't know why but in that moment I said, you'll need to bring me some applesauce. And then she came with the applesauce. And so I very slowly, so passive aggressive, ate that applesauce. So I didn't even attempt to take the pill till there were like two bites of applesauce left. And she couldn't leave until I took the pill because she had to know I took the pill. And so that's the first time that I realized, Okay, wait a minute. I don't have to just accept. (Right.) Just because someone says it's supposed to be a certain way doesn't mean it has to be a certain way.

Marsha Clark  13:14  
Whether it be a certain way in general or for you. (Exactly.) Some people can take pills, and some people can take it with water. That was not your story. And I think about how that aligns with the work that you've done with the children that come to you. Not everybody's going to do it a certain way. And then the beratement or the you know, embarrassment, or the shame that we try to put on someone because they're different. And then those things stick deep and hard.

Kathy Edwards  13:41  
And that it leads to who we become. Yes. And I choose to believe that most of the time, people don't mean to be hurtful or harmful with words and actions. Although I know there are plenty that are. At the same time, the more we can, which is one of the reasons I love education is the more we can help our boys and our girls find their voices and use them the better off we all are.

Marsha Clark  14:09  
Advocating on behalf of themselves as well as others. But I have to find my own voice  oftentimes before I can help someone else find theirs.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:19  
So I have a quote here. It's a Shikoba quote that feels kind of perfect for where we are right now. And the quote is, "The wild woman rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her life to become the heroine of her own legend." And now hearing a couple of your stories so far, Kathy, I think this quote's a perfect way to even open up even more of your stories to talk about the people whose lives you've touched with the work that you do.

Kathy Edwards  14:50  
I love that quote. I absolutely love that quote because it is what happens. All of this started back when I was in college and I was going through, because I knew I wanted to be a special education teacher and I wanted to do that at secondary level. But as I was being taught and trained, it wasn't making sense. The traditional Special Education methodology that we still use to this day in schools didn't make sense. And so from the get go, from the very first job I ever had as a first year teacher, I was pushing back against the status quo because you know, a tangible example is that one of the first go twos for every child who struggles is shortened assignments. Right? No human being gets better at anything by doing less of something. We have to do more. And so that was the first thing that just didn't make sense. And so my whole career has been built on people telling me over and over and over again why what I think could work won't work. And I, there came a point in time a few years in to my career where I realized my whole life has been lived based on this, these two foundational pieces. And that's, yeah, I hear you telling me no, but what if I could. And the next piece of that then becomes, am I willing to do the work that it takes. And so that's what I've been doing for 34 years is showing as many people as possible, what you were taught, doesn't work. And it's just it's not difficult and sure doesn't take any money to shift to what does work.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:26  
Right. Right. So share with us your, because what I'm hearing is a new model of education. Tell us how you shifted that and how that applies to your school.

Kathy Edwards  16:38  
So the first thing that I realized was that human beings are relational. And whether you love school, or you hate school, as a as a person, we want to be seen, and we need to be noticed. And so the first thing that has happened in any school I've ever run, had been just very simple. I have always been outside greeting the students as they come. And I'm terrible with names, horrible with names. But one of the first things we always taught in schools that I ran was we call them procedures. And the first one was how to introduce yourself to the person and pre pandemic is with a firm handshake and those things, eye contact. And even when your culture doesn't support eye contact, find a spot, find a place somewhere that you're you're comfortable with. And so all I would say to them, and to this day I do it is greet me like you don't know me. And so they would have to say, Good morning, Mrs. Edwards. My name is and so I do that until I get to know them. And I was using Novus to show other educators what can be done. And so I would tell administrators and teachers, it doesn't matter the size of your school, divide and conquer. Relationship is the first. When children feel seen, they know that they're they're loved, and they'll do anything.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:56  
What's Novus?

Kathy Edwards  17:58  
So Novus is a school that I started. (Okay.) I'm no longer with Novus. But it was something that came about because there came a point in time the organization that I was with, Hill School, we'd reached a point where we were a first through eighth grade satellite campus of the Hill School of Fort Worth. And we had 12 families that needed a high school and there wasn't a high school in the area that they felt would work. And it was too far logistically for them to take their children to the Fort Worth campus. And so what ended up happening was, and this is where having ADHD is a good thing, impulsivity piece of it, because if I thought about it, I never would have done it. But what happened was the the Board gave me permission to do a feasibility study. So I raised the money, I did it, presented it to the board. And at that time the Board said, you make a compelling case, we see that you need it. And then they took a vote. And there was only one yes vote, the rest were no's. And so I said, please help me understand this. I have to go back. Oh, before they took the vote I said, the bell you ring you can't unring. It's either yes or it's no. So I said I asked why. They said well, if we allow you to have a ninth grade of instruction, you'll come back to us in a year and you'll want a 10th and then an 11th and then a 12th. I said of course I will. Of course I will. So anyways, because it was a no that was a Tuesday night before Thanksgiving break. I did what I teach. And what I teach is, when terrible things happen, you allow the emotion to wash over you. Let it just consume you for a brief period of time. (Mm hmm.) And then you switch to okay, what's the lesson? What do I do? So I cried all the way from Fort Worth to my house, my house in Arlington. And then my husband said it's time to start your own school. So literally, that was a Tuesday night, Wednesday morning I went in and told the assistant principal I'm going to start my own school. No clue how. But there were 12 families counting on me to do it. It was a sense of duty and obligation. (Wow.)

Marsha Clark  20:02  
Well, it goes back to your purpose and passion. And it goes back to your commitment to what if it could be done? And what do I need to do? And, and when I think about all of that, that to go to her school and to meet those students and to see how they treat each other, how they treat the teachers, how they treat guests, parents of other children coming in, she has all of them believing that they can. I mean, that's...

Kathy Edwards  20:32  
Absolutely, absolutely.

Marsha Clark  20:34  
When they've heard most of their lives, what they can't do, you shared with them, and let them know, in no uncertain terms, and loved and supported and affirm them, of what they could do. And the other thing I want to tie around Kathy's work to what we've learned in the book, and these podcasts is every single human needs to be valued. And so you had the, they need to be seen, they need to be heard. And the valued part is what she gives to them that so many school systems don't. And anyone with learning differences gets sent to a special school that has a whole stigma attached to it. And it's not a good one. Right. So that's what I love about the beauty of what you've done. And it's not just in Kathy, it's an every person she hires. They have to have that same purpose, passion and magnetism that makes it real. (Right.)

Kathy Edwards  21:30  
Yeah and the other piece of it is, it has to be built upon genuine success, not artificial success. You know, people know, you know, if I tell you, you did a great job, Marsha, you know, you haven't, right. And so it's all based on one of the pillars is it's genuine success, you can do more than you believe you can and you're not getting out of here until you do more.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:51  
Right. So since this model was new and different for everyone, how did you get people to go along on the journey with you of this new school? Like, how did you sell it? What was, how did you get started?

Kathy Edwards  22:09  
That's an excellent question. As far as people within the profession, convincing them, and convincing some of the teachers that I was working with at the time that yes, we can do this over the top thing, it wasn't as difficult as I expected it would be but I've learned that I've always had to lead by example, always, always had to be a true instructional leader. And so it wasn't as difficult with the people present in the school as it was with educators outside the school. And educators are tough, tough audience and I knew that the whole goal was to create a model of what could be in our country because I created nonprofit "What if We Could". And what if we could was the mission is or was I don't know how to put it now that they took it, is What if we could use the principles that are here at Novus, what if every school in our country was doing this? It's a game changer. It's a game changer. And so very quickly, what I quickly discovered was bringing educators in to see it for themselves was all it took. It's all it took for them to see what could be, what's possible. And then it just grew from there. Educators would come see it, and then they would go back to their schools or districts and tell someone, okay, you need to go see this, you need to see what's happening.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:44  
So what were the core principles?

Kathy Edwards  23:47  
So the core principles were based on relationship. There's no such thing as you can't. The words try and can't are off limits because when you say it...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:58  
I love that. I hate the word 'try'. I tried...

Kathy Edwards  24:03  
If somebody says I really tried to get my work done...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:05  
I'm channeling Yoda from my husband, right now. There is no try. You will or you won't.

Kathy Edwards  24:09  
Or did you not? And so, that piece of it. The next is that it's important that every day of our lives we actively seek opportunities to leave whatever part of the world we touch better than or we found it. And then it becomes work ethic, perseverance and tenacity. And then beyond that, it just flows, flows. It's difficult to really explain the culture, you know. It's something that you almost had to feel to really embrace it and really get it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:49  
Another thing that I'm hearing underlying all of this and you haven't said this word yet, but I'm gonna throw it in there is that there's an underlying expectation of taking on responsibility. But when children are expected to take on a responsibility that therefore gives them A) a sense of pride, but B) a sense of okay, other people are expecting things from me, whether that's behavior results, you know, actions, words, emotion, you know, channeling emotion in a positive way, all of that just that word responsibility.

Kathy Edwards  25:26  
I'm glad you mentioned it because one of the Novus-isms (they call things that I say) and one is 'no one's responsible for you but you'. Right. 'No one can make you do anything but you.' Right. And one of the things that I learned from you, Marsha, was the idea of choice. There is no such thing as no choice. We all have a choice. And so that's exactly how I started working students and families was based on the concept of you always have a choice. And what I would say to the students was, you need to make a choice. Choose well because you're going to live with the consequence of your actions.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:02  

Marsha Clark  26:03  
Well and I want to say one other thing. So Kathy did everything in the beginning from testing students who may or may never have been tested or tested as thoroughly as she did. So her ability to test and diagnosis was top class, okay, and gold standard, all of those kinds of things. She had kids in her school with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD Tourette Syndrome, you ran the full spectrum, autism, gifted and talented.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:31  
I was gonna say, okay, we were talking about the low, just the low end, or this right end of one scale. So there were gifted and talented at the other end. So you were literally dealing with society.

Kathy Edwards  26:47  
Yes because my goal was for educators and school administrators to buy into this model. I needed to replicate traditional classes, public school classrooms as best I could. So I needed that. And the the other piece of it is different children need different things. And so individuals with autism, high functioning autism, they need great social models and great language models. And so it's this balance to be able to show educators when they came, look at this classroom, this mirrors the society that you work with. (Yeah, exactly.) And look what can be done, is possible.

Right. So your academy is up and running. What made your this new model so appealing and successful for the parents, the teachers? Like, what was it that was really the appeal factor?

So, um, I just, you know, I want to own it. People (there you go), thank you, people have called me the child whisperer. And I am, I really am. And I have the unique ability to sit at every seat around the table, because I am the sibling of someone, I have two children with learning differences. I have learning differences. I've been a school teacher, a school administrator, educational diagnostician, I have a private assessment practice and I spent six and a half years exactly working with adolescents with severe emotional behavioral disorders. And so what I'm able to say to students is there is nothing, and to parents, there's nothing you can possibly say or do that's going to shake me. (Wow.) Nor is there anything possibly you say or do that's gonna get me to turn away from you. I understand what's going on here. And so, and the parents, I don't, I don't understand it. But parents love spending time with me. And I think it's I think it's because I sit at every seat. I have the ability to empathize, not sympathize. But the most important piece of all of this is now you know, okay. Now what do we do, right? That's the most important thing is, you normalize it, but you know, and helping families understand, your child isn't broken. Your child's not broken.

Marsha Clark  29:13  
I want to say something about that. That's one of the things that Kathy taught me early on was if your child is struggling, there are options or ways in which you're going to know it. They're going to act out, they're going to withdraw, or was a class clown kind of thing, or they're gonna get help, right? I mean, and that was the... most parents had gone through a lot of the acting out, you know, and it could be anything from eating disorders to cutting to 'class clown' to you know, depression to you name it. Well, they had seen all of that. The one thing they hadn't seen was or get help. And to me, part of the attraction for parents, grandparents and so on was oh my gosh, here's an option that no one else has offered up in a way that sounds like it could really work and you and the longer you've done this, the more examples you have. Her kids go on to college. It's not like we're just getting them through the high school graduation program to, you know, hopefully succeed in living alone. And what I mean by this is being successful by all the traditional...

Kathy Edwards  30:21  
Yes. And what I've always told families is, if when your child's smile returns, you'll know it's working. That's the first thing a child loses is their smile. Yeah, they know it before you know it. And kids are kids. And so your children that struggle in preschool and kindergarten, in first grade, they're being called those things on the playground, they know it, and they lose their smile. But at Novus when I was there, it never never took more than two days. And that was the first thing the parent will say is I don't know who this child is because he or she couldn't wait to get here. And that's the hallmark, I believe, of what a school should be.

Marsha Clark  31:04  
And those are non traditional metrics. It's not or is it not, you know, stars test, tac tests, whatever all those things are supposed to, but you do, but that's not the sole metric that you know, keeps you motivated to keep doing the good work.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:19  
So how long were you at the school?

Kathy Edwards  31:20  
So I started the school in 2013. And I was there until November 1,  2021.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:27  
All right. And reasons for leaving? Do you want to talk about that?

Kathy Edwards  31:31  
My choice. So you know, I'm, the first thing that comes to mind is victim of the pandemic. I'm not a victim of anything. The pandemic certainly contributed to what happened. And so what ended up happening is that we were on the last cruise to come into Galveston, Texas, the beginning of the pandemic. And so at first, I thought we could have another week off, it's spring break. Well, it didn't take but a couple of days to realize, okay, wait a minute. Yeah, this is not just a second spring break. And I had a parent in the school who's an epidemiologist and a public health professor. And she was helping guide me along the way. And so what ended up happening, my husband was the IT director in the school and so on that Monday after spring break, in 2021, March, we, he and I were at the school nonstop seven days a week from six or seven in the morning till after midnight, straight, no break, no vacation, no nothing. And so, but that's what it took. It took that because we weren't just carrying students, we were supporting families. There was a lot of support that had to go to the employees, the staff, it was a tough, tough time. And there came a point where I just, I pushed back. I wasn't getting the support that I needed from a group of, actually, the board. And I just rose up and said, I can't deal with this dysfunction anymore. My words were I'm not confident that you can lead this organization where it needs to go post pandemic, and then I was terminated that night. I said that and then I was terminated that night, as was my husband. My crime was I spoke up. His was he was married to me. So that was horrible. It's almost, it's difficult to even describe it because it was, Novus was the manifestation of 34 years of my career and frankly, my life because it all goes back to the night my brother died. And my mother saying, what was my purpose? And so in the first like, you spoke to me not long after it happened (three days after that) three days after, yeah, and in those first moments, I just, I was lost. Novus had consumed me since 2013. And it was like I had nothing (it was your identity) completely. And it was that coupled with, what about the kids? What about, because in the mix of all of this, we hadn't started succession planning yet. There was no one in the building that could pick up and take over although these three individuals thought that it could happen and, you know, quickly discovered it wasn't working.

Marsha Clark  34:47  
Three individuals being the board members.

Kathy Edwards  34:49  
The board members. And so what kind of happened is that the first person, of course, people... actually I did something. I posted on Facebook for two hours, I just put a message saying that I had been terminated from Novus because I needed people to know it to avoid the gossip, and then of course I pulled it. I pulled it off and the right people saw it. And it was just horrible. Just horrible. Well, then, Marsha, you were the first person that I spoke with that was helping me understand. I wasn't broken. But the other piece of it was like this would have made sense if I'd done anything that should result in termination. I still feel it would have been hard but I hadn't done anything.

And you asked. Did he tell you why?

I asked him and the answer was, you know, when the board member came into my office that night and said, we've made the decision to terminate your employment effective immediately with a police officer to escort me out immediately. I'm not dangerous. So I turned to this person. And I said, okay, why? And the reason I was given was there is no reason. There doesn't have to be a reason. Texas has a right to work and there doesn't have to be a reason. So obviously, they have the right. You have fired me, but I haven't done anything to be fired. That's correct. There is no reason. It was like, what do you do with that?

Marsha Clark  36:19  
Well, and I also want you to get that these, because most of your board members were either parents or past parents or grandparents of children that they had entrusted their children to her.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:30  
Yeah. Right.

Marsha Clark  36:31  
And now all of a sudden, she's not fit to be the head of the school.

Kathy Edwards  36:34  
Yeah. And I even said, in the board meeting before they did it, I said to two of them, I said, you know, because one of them said if I choose to fire you, I can fire you. And I said you can and what happens to the school? And this person said, Oh, it'll go under. And I said, so the message I'm receiving is you can choose to fire me and yes, you can. Absolutely. You believe the school will go under if you do it. But here's the larger message. What I'm receiving is you and your family got absolutely everything you could out of me and you needed for your family and the hell with everybody else and all of the families that are walking in the shoes you used to walk in. That's the message I'm receiving. And about 30 minutes later, I was fired. So anyway, Marsha, you were the first one. And then I have, I have great friends, great system of support. And it took me several weeks to hear it, then begin to believe it. And what the it was is that they took what wasn't theirs to take. But all they got was the physical manifestation of my work. They didn't get Novus. They don't own me. (Right.) And that's when I started to heal. That's when I started to realize okay, well, wait a minute. You know, you got the stuff.  But stuff isn't, that's not Novus.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:04  

Marsha Clark  38:05  
Well, and I want to reiterate to your point about you teach the children to let the emotions wash over you. And then say, well, yes. And that's what you had to go through.

Kathy Edwards  38:14  
I had to do it, I had to do it. And you know, I have learned through life we have to fail. We have to have those moments that we crash and burn. And it goes to how resilient are we?  And so, you know, my takeaway is that I'm not quite sure what I'm gonna be when I grow up. I know that I am an important voice in the field of education, particularly for students and families that have children that struggle. I know that I so badly miss school community, I need community. At the same time, I'm just this person, you know, this is in the rearview mirror now. And so I'm ready for something much better based upon what I've learned, which goes to what I do now.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:11  
So now's where the Phoenix title kicks in to the story. So after all of this that happened, you decided to reimagine your dream. So what's next?

Kathy Edwards  39:24  
So I started a company and it is because there are other reimagining education type programs. And so in the beginning of this, I guess I started it was November, December, January, late December, early January is when I started doing this. And at the time, I had a non compete, a one year non compete in my contract, and so I could only provide services that Novus doesn't. (Okay). So, right now I provide evaluations, academic evaluations, advocacy work, some consulting work. I'm in the process of becoming a certified ADHD coach. I've been doing the work forever, but going through that process at the moment, and I'm at the crossroads right now, where I don't know if I want to align myself in some way with an existing school program, or I want to do the work that it takes to open another school. I'm not sure where I, where I'm headed with that. I love the freedom I have right now. I didn't realize how exhausted I was from several years of doing what we were doing. But I'm pulled back. I'm just, I'm drawn to that passion and purpose. And so that's the big question is.

Marsha Clark  40:57  
Okay, and I want to leave our listeners and our viewers with a couple of messages here. When Kathy and I talked on day three, whatever it was, night of day three, the big message around power is don't give your power away by letting someone else define you. And when you're in the throes of something like this, it's like your guts have been ripped out, your heart's been ripped out and you are a shell, right? You're, it's emptiness, it's loss, it's grieving, it's hurt, it's disappointment, it's anger, all of that is a wash, which is why you just have to let it come all over you. And yet, if we allow that to stay with us or stick as victim or as poor pitiful me, this idea of I hold on to my power by not allowing others to define me. And that's where you've gotten to, is that there's nothing wrong with you. It's no, right. So that's a huge lesson. Second lesson I want to leave our listeners with is sometimes there has to be a breakdown before there can be a breakthrough. And even when I think about me leaving my corporate life, and it was my choice, and I resigned and all that, but the circumstances were so bad that I didn't feel like there was a better choice for me to make. And I agonized over it for months, and on and on and on. What I know and what I have told you and I want our listeners to hear is big things often happen because something bigger is waiting to emerge.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:39  
Big bad things. Yeah, big bad things happen.

Marsha Clark  42:41  
And so this idea of the breakdown before the breakthrough, I want to give our readers this analogy. If you break your arm, and you test the strength of your arm, if it's set correctly, heals properly. When the, when the two ends of the bone that broke knit back together, that is stronger than it was before you broke it. Now, I think the other part of that lesson is if it is set correctly and heals properly, right, and that's the healthy part of it. So set correctly says I have a great support system, set correctly says I'm not going to make a boneheaded decision in a time I'm not emotionally really prepared to do that. Healing is doing the work which only we can do. So it's working through the grief, the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, the hurt - all of that. And then I'm stronger on the other side of it. And so I want to say that and I purposely said the second one second because I think it is a nice segue into the whole Phoenix rebirth breakthrough thinking that you're thinking about.

Kathy Edwards  43:52  
And it's also the analyzing okay, what was working, like for me is what was working with Novus well, what were the things that just weren't sitting so well with me, and what would I do differently? What will I do? And that's turned into what am I going to do differently?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:13  
Wow, well, this journey is still unfolding. I love it!

Marsha Clark  44:16  
It is and we often talk about being and doing. And Kathy, her being is solid, right? You know who you are. But it's taken a minute for you to get there. Right? It did. It was from November to January before you were ready to take a next step. And so the being is still there solid, clear, purposeful profession, all of that. It's the what, the doing part, being in the doing part, it's the doing that is still emerging and unfolding.

Kathy Edwards  44:46  

Marsha Clark  44:46  
You're rebuilding.

Kathy Edwards  44:47  
I'm rebuilding, exactly. It's what is that nest going to look like now because the fundamental mission is still there, changing education for as many educators, children and families as I can across the country. Yeah. And so it's there. I just and the nest is, it's got a foundation. And you know, my nest is gonna be full of color and sparkle.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:11  
Glitter and ribbons. Spectacular. I love it...

Kathy Edwards  45:17  
Right now some of those animals, I've got a tortoise living in my house, dogs in my house...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:17  
Oh, that's wonderful. Well, for those who are just listening and not watching, I have to describe Kathy has on a long gold necklace that has two what looks like Chinese symbols. Tell us what's going on there, Kathy, before we leave.

Kathy Edwards  45:40  
So one of these is my name. This one is my name. This one is my mother's. And so in times that I might need a little more strength I might just sort of be reminded, I wear this.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:56  
They're beautiful. They are two gold pendants, again, for those who are listening. They're two gold pendants hanging from this chain and they're beautiful. I just had to ask.

Marsha Clark  46:06  
I love everything about that. That when I need a little more strength, here's my symbol  right here with me. This is my reminder.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:13  
Totally love that. Well, Marsha, thank you so much for having Kathy on today. Yes, so all of us can now consider our opportunities to rise like a Phoenix. I know that as we were talking, I'm sure I mean, I was having, spinning up memories in my mind of lessons to learn and things to apply as you were talking. So thank you.

Marsha Clark  46:37  
And I do agree with that. None of us gets through this life without something right? Everybody's got a story and everybody's working on something is what I say often and frequently. (Well, that's the same thing.) But anyway, you know what I mean. And so, you know, this idea of how do I choose to respond to those things that are going to happen to me, and it goes back to the choice points of I do have a choice. I can play pitiful me and I say don't shortchange yourself on how you're feeling, just don't choose to live there (Right!) because that's giving our power away to let someone else define us. Yes, you know, if it's, if it's about authentic leadership, no one can have your exact journey or my exact journey or yours. You have your own. And hopefully you've gleaned some nuggets or tidbits out of today's stories and examples and experiences that we shared that gives you some additional insight that might serve you well whether you've gone through it, or in the middle of it, or inevitably it will happen. Maybe you'll harken back to the some of the things you heard here today.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:42  
Yes. Absolutely.

Kathy Edwards  47:43  
I've always told people, every one of us is an accident, an illness or a birth away from being directly impacted by a disability or disorder...

Marsha Clark  47:55  
That's exactly right.

Kathy Edwards  47:56  
So you know, we may be at a point in life where I don't, that's not really of interest to me. I don't want to be part of that. You are just an illness, an accident or birth away from being directly impacted.

Marsha Clark  48:08  
Well I want to leave one other story. And this is the heart warming part of what my experience with Kathy. So my stepson's eldest daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. She wasn't diagnosed in her school system, but she had a brand new kindergarten teacher, she was going to a public school. Her new kindergarten first year kindergarten teacher said she was out of a class ranking of A B or C, she was a C. But her idea of consoling the parents about my granddaughter being a C level was "Oh, it's okay. It's just kindergarten. We don't fail anybody." Well, of course, the parents were like, but why was she a C? What are we going to do to help her not be a C as she moves through school? And so Kathy had just recently been in the program so I knew her, I knew her work. So we sent my granddaughter over to talk to Kathy, she gets diagnosed with dyslexia, she goes into a class with six students, and you know, so on and so forth. So she started school in the August, September timeframe, whatever it was. So part of her first, what I would describe as a more traditional metric was, here's a list of 10 words, three letter words, you have to be able to read them in 30 seconds, so I think it was. And so her mom and dad would drill her on these things. And you know, the way I always think about dyslexia is when we see the word 'and' AND, she saw it dan, right? the words and letters and she's also dysgraphic so she wrote letters backwards and all that kind of stuff. So every day she got, you know, drilled to learn these words and so on and so forth. And I remember her saying the day she finally hit, got all 10 words in the 30 seconds. And she said to her mother - I cried about this for weeks, you know, I did -  I'm so glad to know my brain's numb. And this is a six year old. And I just think about the variations and the versions of that Kathy, of I'm so glad to know my brain's numb and that people can love me, you know, regardless of all those differences I might have. And so, you know, I just invite our readers, if you're concerned and worried about some of those things, get things checked out. And we'll put Kathy's contact information if that's something that you want to know or learn more about. And I could not recommend her more highly because of the personal experience of my stepson's daughter, my granddaughter, and what she did for her and, you know, I saw her, has been a little while ago, and I said, you remember your teacher, Oh, I remember and she named every single one of her teachers because she went there for three years because and so here she is, you know, much older in today's world, but it's still a wonderful, loving, memorable experience.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:06  
Yeah, well, the biggest takeaway for me in this episode, and I don't have children, but has your child lost their smile? That is a huge... that's like, that, that you, when you said that that was like a hello. I know exactly what that means. And for our parents who are watching or listening. I do too. I hope that's a, if that's going on in your house I mean, we have resources here.

Marsha Clark  51:31  
You've got to check it out.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:32  
Thank you, everyone, for listening today, watching today. For those of you who have already downloaded, subscribed and shared, please do it again with your friends and associates, to this podcast wherever you like to listen. And please visit Marsha's website, for links, tools, resources here and check out her book. You know we always, today was a one off, we didn't really talk about the book at all. But that's all right, you know, it's there in its own way. In it's own way!

That's right. That's right. That's right, the book and magnets for sale on the website. Marsha, I'll let you close this out.

Marsha Clark  52:14  
Well, I too, want to thank you, Kathy. I mean, you know, when we were making the list, when we were just dreaming of doing a podcast, your name was on there and because of the great work that you do. And I think for women out there who are as you said, are mothers or want to be mothers or can be an aunt or a grandparent or a godmother or whatever all of that might look like if you have young girls and boys too, I don't want to limit it to that. But you know, I have one that's my hashtags is value women and girls and this idea of us being able to support each other as women knowing what you're doing for children is a no brainer. And so, valuing, hearing, seeing these people as human beings and God put them on this earth for a reason.

Kathy Edwards  52:57  
Yes, that's right.

Marsha Clark  52:59  
So I just will say, here's to women supporting women!

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