Monday, March 21, 2011

Expanding Leadership Capacity

One of a principal's most important roles is to nurture leadership skills among school staff. It involves creating a school with a variety of leadership roles, opportunity for inquiry and reflection, and the change to learn and develop new skills.

There are many ways to help others develop their leadership capacity. They include:
  • Inviting them to work on a project outside their area of expertise;
  • Asking them to help screen and interview new hires;
  • Encouraging them to attend district meetings with you;
  • Asking them to work with you to deal with a challenging parent or instruction issue;
  • Inviting them to lead a book study group;
  • Asking them to serve on the school leadership team;
  • Asking them to serve as a mentor for a new teacher;
  • Encouraging them to become a member of a professional organization;
  • Asking them to present information to the staff after attending a conference or other professional development activity;
  • Inviting them to maintain a journal and reflect on the "good," "bad," or "flawed" leaders they know and observe.
These ideas and others are discussed in Practical Suggestions for Developing Leadership Capacity (NASSP, 2009).

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you work to expand the leadership capacity in your school. I'm always interested in practical ideas I can share with my students and other leaders with whom I work.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dealing with Declining Resources

No school is immune from the need to plan for a future impacted by declining, or at the best, stable resources. Schools are caught between expectations for improved student performance and the reality that there are fewer human and financial resources to support the program. Almost universally the issue is one of how to be both efficient and more effective.

There are generally three responses. First, you can identify areas where you might reduce expenses by eliminating programs or reducing budgets. But in many schools these efficiencies have already been achieved. Second, you can consider alternative ways of doing things you're already doing. For example, some rural schools have shifted to a four-day week to reduced costs of transportation, food service, and office support. Some have begun to work together by combining programs, sharing teachers, or sharing central office resources. In Michigan one district contracted with a nearby district for a portion of the superintendent's time. Others consolidated human resources or business services. Third, you can prioritize what you are doing. This is often difficult, even when you use data, because it is often seen as valuing one program more than others. If you prioritize be sure to anchor your decisions in your school's vision and mission. Some schools have learned that reducing every program a little isn't very effective. It may be necessary to focus on fewer things and do them really well. Always be sure someone is advocating for the neediest students, those requiring the most support.

Some schools have begun to work together to share professional development. Others have worked with local business leaders to sponsor professional development. Or you might want to increase efforts to identify volunteers, such as senior citizens, to work with students.

These challenging decisions are almost always better when teachers, families and other stakeholders are included.

These are challenging times for schools and their leaders. I'd enjoy hearing form you about how you and your community are dealing with your declining resources.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Advocacy and Emerging Technology

Principals and other school leaders are advocates. They are always advocating for their schools and ways to improve the educational experience of their students. Advocacy can be an effective way to press for change. It is also an important part of our democratic system and allows ordinary people to shape and influence policy at all levels.

Technology has changed the way we advocate, the way we share information about our schools. A recent story in the NY Times discussed how parents increasingly crave timely information about their children's schools. While traditional media will remain part of any advocacy plan, emerging technology is increasingly used by schools to communicate with parents. Many schools have created Facebook pages and Twitter accounts as a tool to quickly share information with families and others about their school and its successes.

Here are some things you might want to consider as you assess your use of technology to advocate for your school.
  • How often is your school website updated? Is the information current and easily accessible to families?
  • Does your website include information about your vision for your school?
  • Does the website provide information that families can use to become involved in the education of their children?
  • Does your school have a presence on social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook)?
  • If so, what sort of messages and information do you share? Doe you use it regularly to communicate?
  • Do families and community know your school has a presence on these sites?
As I work with my friend Howard Johnston to finish our book on social media we are looking for examples of principals using emerging technology to advocate for their school. We'd enjoy hearing from you about your successes and your challenges.