In advance of the Trust’s March 26 Forum: Finders Keepers: Recruiting and Retaining High Quality Leaders, we are posting a series of research based best practices to enhance our collective understanding of the issues.
For the past 15 years the Wallace Foundation has focused its work on leadership. In 2013 they published a report titled, “The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. In it they state that effective school principals have five key responsibilities:
Jon Weinstein, principal of Bard High School Early College-Newark, with a graduating student. Bard has received support from the Trust's Funders Collaborative. Bard continues to provide a college level experience for Newark high school students, resulting in many students receiving an associates degree's from Bard College upon graduation from high school.
- Shaping a vision of academic success for all students, one based on high standards.
- Creating a climate hospitable to education in order that safety, a cooperative spirit and other foundations of fruitful interaction prevail.
- Cultivating leadership in others so that teachers and other adults assume their parts in realizing the school vision.
- Improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn to their utmost.
- Managing people, data and processes to foster school improvement.
Four of the five key responsibilities of principals read as self-evident and are not surprising.
One, however, stands out. It is the notion that effective school leaders grow leadership in others. Effective school principals empower all adults in a school to assume leadership roles to achieve their collective vision of success.
“Deus ex machina” is an ancient Greek expression meaning “god from the machine.” Today the expression is most commonly used to refer to a plot device in a story or an unexpected character who shows up in a complicated situation to manufacture a happy ending. It is also an apt descriptor of the expectations placed on school leaders.
What we learn from the Wallace Foundation report is that this “Deus ex machina” does not exist. There are no superstar school leaders who will suddenly appear and make everything better. The only leaders who will transform our schools are those who can unlock the leadership capacity in others. Only when all adults serving children are empowered as leaders, and their collective leadership is marshaled and focused, does our complicated story result in the outcomes we expect and our children deserve.
The question we pose is this: To what extent are public school leaders in Newark expected to cultivate and entire community of leaders when the actors- the leaders and the community- keep changing? Hear how the experts respond to this and other important questions.
Read more in our series on leadership