David L. Sharkis, 33°, is the new Director of Operations for the Children’s Dyslexia Centers, Inc. (CDC). He brings to the centers a varied and impressive background of more than 30 years in engineering, quality control, and talent management. He spent the last seven years in the technical arena at UTC Aerospace Systems.
Brother Sharkis and his wife Cheryl have been deeply involved with and committed to the CDC and its mission in the state of Connecticut for decades. In fact, Cheryl is the Director of the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Connecticut, and has held that position for nearly 20 years.
Brother Sharkis served the Scottish Rite as Deputy for CT, and remains an Active Member of the Supreme Council. We sat down with him to talk about his background, his history with the CDC, and his goals for the future.
As the new Director of Operations for the Children’s Dyslexia Centers, Inc., can you describe your responsibilities?
In brief, I’m responsible for all aspects of the operation of the Children’s Dyslexia Centers Inc. We now have 45 locations in 13 states providing high-quality multi-sensory reading and written language tutorial services for children with dyslexia. My role is to ensure we provide best-in-class tutoring and training programs in strict compliance with our IMSLEC accreditation in a manner that is efficient, cost-effective and aligned with the mission of the AASR NMJ.
How do you think your engineering background and experience in “continuous improvement” and talent management will impact your work at the Children’s Dyslexia Centers (CDC)?
I always think in terms of process. Whether your job is to design a new spacecraft, run a business or provide tutoring services to a child with dyslexia you follow a process. Continuous Improvement (CI) teaches you to measure both the quality and cost effectiveness of the processes you perform. I have been successful in leading large, complex and geographically diverse organizations and in driving a culture of CI – make an incremental improvement in what you do – every day.
I see many parallels with the CDC and have already identified a number of opportunities to improve what we do. With respect to my background in Talent Management, it is directly applicable. The CDC has over 500 very dedicated employees. It is my role to ensure they have the opportunity and resources to grow professionally. That is how you sustain a high-performance organization.
Would you describe your and Cheryl’s history with the CDC in Connecticut?
Cheryl has a unique gift in how she relates to children. This was recognized by the AASR Leadership in Connecticut as they selected her to be CT’s Center Director two years before the Center was open. I only became involved when the Valley was struggling to get the building renovated. I took the role of managing the overall construction of the Center in Waterbury. Who would have guessed that would have changed our lives forever? Eighteen+ years later, Cheryl is still Center Director and I still mop the floors, clean the bathrooms and perform all the facility maintenance tasks. It is a labor of love for both of us. It has given us a rather unique opportunity to work professionally together for a common purpose.
What do you think of the new branding? What do you think it will do for the centers?
I fully support the new branding. The CDC has been rather quiet in the last few years. The new Brand will draw attention back to the CDC and stimulate conversation. It will help us “reboot” the CDC and hopefully enter a new growth phase.
Looking out over the next two years, what are your goals?
To ensure we remain the benchmark for all other programs that serve children with dyslexia. To grow the program and operate it in an efficient and sustainable manner. To see the CDC benefit the AASR by drawing attention to the outstanding work we do as Freemasons. My local lodge and Valley have several outstanding members who were drawn to the Craft by the work done at the Center. That needs to become the norm across the NMJ.
Why did you want to take on the position? Why do the centers mean so much to you? What drives that passion for you and Cheryl?
I have been very fortunate to work for outstanding companies on a number of incredible projects that literally changed the world. That said, nothing makes me more emotional than when I witness the changes we make in the young people who attend our Center and the resultant impact we have on their families. Being given the opportunity to lead this effort is a dream come true – I consider it the crowning moment of my professional career.
I know Cheryl feels the same way. Neither of us can envision our lives without being involved in the Center. It gives us purpose. It gives us energy. It has made us better as individuals.