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High quality systems seek high quality staff and invest in their development and success.  With the support of the board of education, in my role as a Superintendent, we were able to spend a significant amount of time and financial resources in developing the skills of our staff.  Highlights of our programs included:

  • A two-year new teacher program that consisted of training in curriculum development, high quality instruction and integration of technology. In addition, an experienced teacher mentor was assigned to each new teacher.
  • Instructional Technology Teacher Collaborative. This was a two-year, voluntary program for experienced teachers focused on problem/project based learning and technology integration.  In only three years about 1/3 of our tenured teachers participated in this program.
  • Tam Leadership Collaborative. This group included all administrators and teacher leaders.  Training has focused on developing the skills to facilitate the work of curriculum development and instructional improvement.

The investment in training staff is one of the best that we can make as we seek to improve our schools.  Teachers inherently want to learn and grow and sought a career in education to help others.  Most are eager to participate in development programs that will enhance their skills as professionals.

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The true measure of any superintendent or leadership team should be rooted in student achievement.  As a superintendent, I was fortunate to work in a district that was not only successful but more importantly, engaged in a process of continuous improvement.  State testing and measures showed a continued pattern of increases in student achievement and Advanced Placement passing rates were significantly above state and national averages even as the program continued to grow and access to non-traditional students expanded.  Similarly, student performance on the SAT and ACT measures grew over the seven years of my tenure. Although we celebrated our success, data were used primarily to plan for the future and to improve student outcomes.  If the purpose of a school district is the ensure that every student learns at high levels, then the best way to measure success of the individuals in that system is through student achievement.  When asked how we should be evaluated as leaders, the answer should always be that we should be held accountable for student growth.

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Leadership in education requires a collaborative, team approach. As a superintendent, it was my responsibility to create a team to lead in the direction set for us by the Board of Trustees.   This work began by assembling a team of individuals with a variety of skill sets and backgrounds but with a shared and unwavering belief that all students can learn at high levels and that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that it occurs.  Our leadership team cared about one another personally and professionally and were committed a collaborative style in which we brought ideas from conception to implementation as a supportive team.  Our meetings were focused on student learning and were a safe place to problem solve, reflect, share and give constructive feedback.  My own success as a superintendent was a reflection of my team’s growth and accomplishments.

School leadership should be inclusive of the teacher voice.  As a superintendent, I worked to establish a reliable system of teacher leadership.  When I came to the district it quickly became apparent that teachers saw themselves and their work as separate and distinctly different than administrators.  There was little understanding of leadership and no structures to work together.  In order to flatten the organizational structure, we worked with the union to negotiate new teacher leader positions so that we could have the power to work together to create a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum and improve instruction.  Once the structure was created and the positions filled, we invested in several years of significant professional development in order to build the leadership capacity of our teacher leaders.  The end result was a newfound collaboration between all staff members on behalf of our students.

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Is your teenager already in the too much screen time zone this summer?  A great solution is always high interest, quick and easy summer reading!  I found a great link to the hottest Young Adult books that are sure to please even the most picky reader.  Check it out at this link:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/84804-15-of-the-best-ya-books-of-summer-2015-youll-need-to-carry-from-beach-to

There is something for everyone on this list, which includes romance, fantasy, action, crime and mystery.  Many of the authors are well known in the YA realm and there are some newcomers as well.  Adults my be interested to learn that Sophie Kinsella, well known author of “Confessions of a Shopaholic” has released her first book for younger audiences.

Remember, all reading is good reading and summer is for fun and enjoyment.  No need to read textbooks or weighty subjects, just turn off the computer and read something that you like.  Parents, remember you can model by reading your own summer fun book!

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Seeing Jay McTigue at the ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence simultaneously reminded me of the wonderful body of work of his colleague, Grant Wiggins and saddened me that with his passing, the landscape of education research has forever changed.  Grant Wiggins was one of my first inspirations in the field of education and his work with Jay McTigue on the Understanding by Design framework transformed the way I thought about curriculum as both a teacher and administrator.  Because of my personal level of belief in the efficacy of starting with the end in mind and the goal of transfer of knowledge, when I taught graduate level courses in curriculum development, I required “Understanding by Design” as the mandatory reading.  It was also the basis for the coursework.

In later years, many of my colleagues and I faithfully made time to read Grant’s blog.  In fact, his was one of the few that I regularly followed.  His willingness to take on any topic and to respectfully but strongly disagree with some of the most prominent figures made my admiration for him grow.   I will truly miss Grant’s blog and his regular contributions to the field of education.  I will remember him as one of the most forward thinking researchers the field and someone who changed education for the better.  Thank you Dr. Wiggins.

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