In response to the recent posts, a reader writes:

“Sean, I have been reading, enjoying, and learning from your blog a for few months now. I had the opportunity to hear you at the Rigor, Relevance and Relationship conference as well, and fortunately for me, I have a mentor that is philosophically in tune with the things that you write and say.

I have to humbly admit that I’ve never felt like jumping out of my seat before and yelling ‘YAH BABY,’ before today’s posting. You hit the nail on the head with your points made, and it’s that exact leadership philosophy that ‘young’ (in terms of years of leadership experience) leaders crave to lead them and the rapidly changing schools we serve.

In the everyday working school environment, the reality is that the principal HAS to step up to the plate and at least take a whole hearted swing. And when they don’t; whether they can’t or won’t lead in the style that is necessary; the Superintendent needs to do his or her part in recognizing this underachievement and do ‘the right thing for kids.’ In other words, they have to make sure that their principals lead or leave.

This whole business about ‘finding the right fit,’ and ‘making the right match,’ for personalities of the adults on campuses is bogus when 100’s of days of instruction are at stake. Finding leaders who have the guts, courage, skills, and stamina to look the pitcher in the eye and say, ‘bring it on – all the heat- because I’m ready to swing and I’m pointed to center field,’ will be the pivotal point for our true success.”

SC Response
First of all, YAH BABY!!! The fact that there are educators like you out there who are fired up about school leadership and student success, makes hosting the Lead Your School network exciting and worth doing.

Second, you are spot on. If school leaders do not fully engage, then they are effectively limiting the success of the students, the staff and the school. When I was responsible for a team of principals, they knew that not fully engaging was the unforgivable sin. It was OK to aim too high and miss. But hedge your bet, or take the path of least resistance and diminished productivity and your position with the district was tenuous at best.

Third, I completely agree with your stance on “finding the right fit” for the school. This is district code for maintaining the status quo. Unless, the campus in question is significantly outperforming its peers, the status quo needs to be replaced, not maintained.

A quick aside:
High SES campuses, outperforming your peers means significantly outperforming similar high SES campuses. It does not mean outperforming the low SES campus on the other side of the district. And before you say that you do both of those things, double check your data. The interesting thing about high SES schools is that they all perform about the same. If necessity is the mother of invention, it seems that academically fragile students are the mother of pedagogy improvement.

Another somewhat related aside:
I was working with a mid-to-high SES district three years ago. The Superintendent (philosophically in tune with, and a friend of Brezina) had me assess his secondary campuses and address his principals. Here is the summary of my report and presentation:

1. All six HS campuses were operating well below their potential, even though they were significantly outperforming the much poorer, surrounding schools.
2. Five of the campuses had the opportunity to be great.
3. One of the campuses had the opportunity to be World Class.

1. The one campus, identify the best high schools in the country. Beat them soundly.
2. The other five campuses, catch the one campus.

The immediate response
1. Three of the six principals resigned within one week (one of them resigned five minutes after I finished speaking).

The on-going result
1. The one is making significant progress at becoming World Class.
2. The other five are giving chase at full speed.

All of this to say, if you are going to work, sweat, stress and bleed for the job, why not be great?

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…