It’s Time for School’s to LEADright!

The Asian Proverb “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand” is central to the work of LEADright. 

LEADright is an educational entity that coaches and trains leaders for excellence. LEADright works with individuals, organizations, and business.  LEADright also provides professional learning and development for teachers, teacher-leaders, administrator, and boards. I have seen the work and benefits of LEADright in schools that I serve. This organization truly can help struggling schools turn around student achievement. LEADright supports educational leaders of struggling schools and districts in…

  • being different in their thinking (mindset);
  • doing differently in their day-to-day work (practices); and
  • having different breakthrough results for themselves and their schools and districts (outcomes)

If a superintendent wants to change the data narrative for their school district, LEADright supports the implementation of a readjusted and transformed data disaggregation and usage environment and experience. If a new principal wants to drive home the importance of observing, coaching, and developing teachers, LEADright is able to provide teaching and learning support, facilitate coaching conferences, design an online observation tool and teach teachers about a growth mindset. This allows school districts leaders to have the teachers conduct peer observations and debriefing throughout the month using a process they learned and an observation tool LEADright developed.  

Dr. Tony Burks, is a phenomenal leader and the LEADright Chief Learning Officer. He has facilitated an ongoing series for District-Level and School-Based Leaders across the Nation to equip them with the essential tools and resources for gathering and communicating stories about student and school performance data, humanizing student achievement data, and encouraging collaboration and innovation among educators to improve the educational outcomes of students. Below we hear from Dr. Burks and best practices from LEADright to help schools turn around academic achievement. 

District and school leadership are critical to student success : The greatest challenge of school districts is equity. It’s no secret that we operate a public school system that is still a tale of two districts:  The Haves and the Have Nots. Equity is just a big word for making sure students and schools get what they need to be successful.  Fairness and inclusion are key parts of equity.  Equity doesn’t mean equal.  For example, being equal would be giving everyone shoes to wear.  Those shoes would be “one-size-fits-all”. Equity would be giving everyone shoes to wear.  These shoes would fit each person (so my shoes would be Size 14 and yours might be a Size 10).  The whole point of equity is to remove roadblocks and barriers so our children succeed.  

The work of leadership at the school and district levels is about breaking barriers and removing roadblocks . When school districts are truly about continual improvement, their Boards of Education create conditions for those at schools to do their best work with students. Then district policies than enable schools to provide supports that are flexible, timely, and responsive to the intensity, length, and manner of support each student needs to succeed.

This leadership work can’t happen in isolation because none of us–not teachers and principals, parents and grandparents, the superintendent and her staff–can do this work alone. It’ll take us working together as an effective team.   When we are visible and transparent, we can connect families to help our students be their best.  Public education–at its heart–is about community.  We can have a great idea; however, if it isn’t connected to the community, it won’t be successful and it won’t last. In the end, schools succeed when the community is informed, involved, and engaged.

School boards can help morale and leadership in schools: I think the best thing school board members can do is always ask questions.  Ask questions of the superintendent.  Ask (and answer) questions at community events.  Ask questions of staff and students, parents and volunteers.  Then listen deeply.

I’ve learned lots by responding to questions from children.  Children are an often talked about and frequently ignored group. The great thing about children is that they demonstrate the power of asking questions. They want to know What Why When and so much more.  If we can’t explain it to a child, then what’s really going on?

An inquisitive six-year old, her four-year old sister, and their mother joined me at a Community Chat when I ran for school board. The six-year old wanted to know what it meant to “run for school board” and “be a school board member”. I started by talking about her teacher helping her and her classmates. Then I asked, “Who helps the teacher?” (hint: the principal). We continued with “who helps whom?” all the way to the school board. Of course, when I asked who helps the school board, she replied with confidence, “God!” It’s so important for us to look closer at what’s taking place within our school system.  Then we must ask  powerful, child-like questions that get at the heart of what’s really going on. It is through asking that we learn.   Ultimately, the question we are asking is “how are the children?”  If we cannot respond with “the children are well” then there is work remaining for us all.

Best practices to help improve school, District, student and parent leadership:

  1. INTEGRITY AND TRANSPARENCY:  I grew up in Dothan, Alabama. I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents.  They played a big part in raising me. Two values I hold dear go back to them: integrity and transparency. My grandfather believed we should mean what we say and say what we mean.  Whether in his work as a school custodian or in his service as a country preacher, my granddaddy didn’t mince words. My grandmother took care of children everywhere from private homes and to a local child care center. She was a school custodian, too. She was transparent and “kept it 100” long before today’s generation made it a popular catchphrase.
    The work of continual school improvement is rooted in integrity and transparency. This work isn’t about being perfect.  We are not always right and we aren’t perfect. We’ve made some mistakes along the way (and if we keep living, we’ll only make more).  It’s important to learn from our mistakes and missteps. It’s important to show children that we–as adults live and learn–and we adults are doing what we ask of them. In the end, it’s about listening and making better decisions each time.  This is how we engage and empower parents in schools.
  2. DATA USAGE: I’m interested in the continuous improvement of schools and districts. This means we use data as a flashlight to see what we can do differently; this means we don’t use data as a hammer to beat people up. When reviewing the data found in the state school report cards, it’s so important to remember there are hard-working people at our schools.  The work of superintendents and school boards centers on having policies in place that remove roadblocks and barriers to  school improvement.  When this is done right, parents are engaged as thought partners who help solve the thorny issues of continual school improvement.  This will require those in schools to move from behind the mask of education jargon and use plain language to discuss student progress towards goals.
  3. CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION:  As a high school student in Dothan, Alabama, I stopped taking honors courses my junior year and enrolled our local vocational center taking a class for half of the day. My counselor was stunned and couldn’t figure out why I wanted to take vocational courses. The assumption was my “gifted and talented”-ness meant I could not reasonably choose to do something with my hands or something considered to be non-academic. Also, at the time, the schedule was such that if I chose anything vocational, I could not participate in the limited gifted options they had (and I had the challenge of testing well, asking “too many” questions, and not always making “good” grades). I could not get into my first choice course (culinary arts with the incomparable Chef Lamar Black) so I went with my second choice: Graphic Communications. I learned the then emerging technology of computer design as well as how to operate a Heidelberg printing press. Year after year, I see so many times when I draw upon the lessons I learned in the course. Playbills for local theatrical performances, all of m my school board campaign graphic materials, and the LEADright website are a few of the many things I’ve created because of what I learned at DVC (the Dothan Vocational Center; now the Dothan Technology Center). We are diverse and are fully capable of the fullness of learning. Vocational education is for all students of all backgrounds. Don’t ever discount the power of Career and Technical (aka vocational) education! It’s an oldie and a goodie. We’d be wise to tap into the expertise of parents for deepening learning in this area.  Regardless if parents own business or work as staff, they can assist students in getting practical experiences with shadowing, internships and more.

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