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Bringing Change to Education

Dr. James Calleroz White Photo By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune

Dr. James Calleroz White
Photo By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune

As Dr. James Calleroz White walks The Voice-Tribune through the labyrinthine corridors of Louisville Collegiate School, it’s obvious he has plenty of plans. More seating in one particular space, an extra floor in another. He is eager to invoke change in one of the city’s most storied academic institutions.

If there is one word that encapsulates Calleroz White it’s perhaps this: innovation. He talks of little else when quizzed on his aims since being starting as the Head of School this past July. The reason? Why should even a successful school like Collegiate rest on its laurels?

“If you take away how schools look, they all act and feel very much the same,” says the Hopkinsville native. “So if you go into any school, it’s going to look very similar. Feel very similar. Be very similar. Anywhere you go in this country. Now think about businesses. How do businesses stay on top of their game? They evolve and change, because if they stay the same, they become irrelevant. And if you become irrelevant in business, you go under because there’s a bottom there. So why has society allowed schools to look, feel and act the same for the past 100 years? In my mind, education needs to be relevant. It needs to be about what our kids are going to need.”

It’s this relevancy that Calleroz White so earnestly points to that will be the focal point to his new education column in upcoming issues of The Voice-Tribune. The goals are to comment on the the most current and pertinent issues facing those who work in education and propose ways in which Collegiate can help by working with the wider community.

“The way I envision this column is by asking, ‘how do I engage this community in the conversation around education?,’” he says. “Not the conversation of my school, but the conversation around education. Because if the system fails, we all fail, no matter how good one particular school is.”

One way in which Calleroz White feels he can do this, is by trying to shed the “overly privileged” image that schools like his find so ingrained at times, especially one that’s more than happy to offer financial aid to the students that need it most.

“We’ve got to strip away that sense of entitlement,” he says. “So my goal in the next few years is to put that message out there in the community in terms of who we are and who we’re going to be, not who we used to be. If you believe a certain way, and I haven’t done anything to disprove that, then that’s my fault.”

Another perception that Calleroz White feels needs to be banished is the type of education he has himself. The man with two degrees from Harvard and a doctorate from the University of Arizona happens to also be the first member of his family to go to college. He’s the product of the Hopkinsville’s public school system as well as  an independent high school. Coupled with close to a decade’s worth of experience working for educational nonprofits, Calleroz White can lay claim to seeing both sides of a system he’s intent on helping to fix.

It’s for this reason he wants to ensure any public schools who would like to work with Collegiate in any capacity need to know that he’s only one phone call away.

“If you want to partner with Louisville Collegiate School, I want to partner with you,” Calleroz White says. “If you need tutoring, I want to see if I can get my kids to help your kids. If you need space – any public school in this area who wants to use our space – all you need to do is give me a call and you can use our space. No questions asked.

“My goal is to be a partner, not this fly on the wall,” he says. “Private schools have gotten a bad rep because for too long we’ve sat on the side and held our noses up and said, ‘Well, that’s too bad you’re having those problems over there.’ For me, it’s that not only are we no better, we have an obligation to make sure that we can be better and we can help students in these different capacities.”

For now, Calleroz White has more pressing issues, such as how to create more space in a venerated old school built decades before 715 students had to be accommodated. But with his own children attending Collegiate, he has as much invested in the project as any fellow parent out there.