In response to the posts on interview prep, a reader writes:
“As a twist to Cain’s excellent advice, there is yet another scenario. You interview and the school thinks it needs a Brown / Brezina / Cain type leader because it is in deep trouble. The school may have earned an unacceptable state rating, missed AYP, or most likely both. As Cain often reminds us, this type of school trouble is the final sign of total system failure.
The school hires you and district leadership and campus staff tell you they will do anything to get out of trouble. So you fix their school for them. But once the school “leaders” who hired you can breathe a sigh of relief, very likely they will allow the district to creep back to its old, total system failure way of doing business. In this scenario, you are the cancer and they will do everything possible to hasten your exit.
Spoken like someone who has been there, more than once. I wish I could tell the LYS Nation that this is never the case, but often it is. Many in our profession honestly believe that it is possible to “arrive,” and in the short-run they are willing to do the things necessary to facilitate that forthcoming “arrival.”
The most difficult part of what I do is when I break the hearts of hard working educators in struggling schools. These are the staff that have been there for a long time. They are vested in the students, the school, and the community. They know that they are in trouble. They will look at me and say, “We will do whatever it takes. We will work after school and on weekends. Just tell us when we will be done.”
And I have to answer, “You won’t be. There will be some of you who will be motivated be the constant change and will embrace the journey into the uncharted territories of teaching and learning. And some of you will quit. Our profession has changed, somewhat for the worse, but mostly for the better.”
If you find yourself as the initial change leader in a turnaround situation, here is your survival checklist:
1. Go in with your eyes wide open.
2. Remember Brown’s law – The only pure advocate for all students is the principal. You volunteered for the role, so you have to step up – no one else will.
3. Know that the more imminent the crisis, the more likely that the required leadership skills required to save the organization will not translate through the transition to sustainable operations (See: Churchill).
4. Know that part of your job is to make sure that the next principal is set up to take the campus to even higher levels of performance.
There are “Bad to Good” principals, sustaining principals, and “Good to Great” principals. Their skill sets are dramatically different. Know who you are and embrace it.
Think. Work. Achieve.