In response to the post that combined Brezina’s and Brown’s advice, a reader writes:
“I totally agree with Cain on the issue of politics. However, the principal does not have the luxury of setting the priorities of the district. As Cain has mentioned, and I agree with him, we need to shift the focus from the Superintendents to the people who are leading the service, the Principals. But until this happens principals are at the mercy of superintendents, which in the vast majority of cases translates to politics. I am not suggesting principals should bow to politics, just that they must be situational aware, and every situation has its own DNA. There are certainly times I wish the State would come in and help, but I have yet to see it.
As another Brown guy, M.L., once pointed out, he would just LOVE to see the State of Texas actually do something, just once. Of the recent times the State of Texas has taken direct action, it seems governance and money were the issues, not kids. With the two most blatant examples being Wilmer-Hutchins ISD and North Forest ISD.
I will say to everyone, pay special attention to Cain’s take on speed, especially items 2 and 3. Those are real jewels, that will make or break you.
Two points that I want to add.
1. You are right about the Superintendent setting the priorities of the district. But the principal drives the priorities of the campus (refer to Brown’s rule on the principal’s role). Depending on your skills, past success, and willingness to get bloodied and bruised, as a principal, you can bend district priorities to best meet the needs of your campus and your students. Brezina not only tolerated this, he expected it. When he moved me up to run all of his schools he told me, “A good principal is difficult to manage. A great principal is damn near impossible to manage.”
That being said, you can only fight central office for as long as central office let’s you fight them (Brezina expected it, that’s why he hired you. 96% of you don’t have the luxury of working for someone like Brezina). There are school leaders who can work for organizations and there are school leaders who can work for individuals. Take my career, I worked for individuals. The skill set I bring to the table is critical for speed and change. Qualities that some leaders appreciate and most organizations are uncomfortable with. The key is to understand who you are and put yourself in the situations where you are most effective.
2. In regards to the State of Texas taking action against bad schools, yes, the the pace is entirely too slow. And the process is driven by politics. However, sanctions and closures do occur. With your example districts, WHISD and NFISD, money and governance issues were the levers that let the state act. But, it was the disservice to students that got the state’s attention. Also, this is the perfect illustration of the individual vs. organization orientation I discussed above. The organization, T.E.A., has long had the authority to address cancerous districts and campuses, but still doesn’t have the organizational will. Dr. Neely had the will.
Think. Work. Achieve.