Monday, November 4, 2013

The Missing Link

As many of you know KASB has been partnering with McREL and the Educational Service Centers this past year.  It has been a productive relationship that has benefited many Kansas school districts and of course students.  It has been amazing to watch the McREL Teacher/Leader Evaluation System become so widely adopted.  The Educational Service Centers are noticing an increased demand for McREL Power Walkthroughs as well as Classroom Instruction That Works.  We believe an understanding of the power of the “system approach” has had a major impact on participation.  It just makes sense to adopt a model that is researched based and is proven to help student outcomes.

The power comes from a systems approach when districts develop common leadership and instructional vocabulary, resulting in better communication.  This common instructional and leadership vocabulary makes it possible to clarify expectations, and provide aligned support.  When systems have clarified expectations, aligned supports to those expectations, this allows leaders within the system to focus on reducing the variability often found with instruction from classroom to classroom, and between schools within the system.  In the end if we can reduce the variability among classrooms and schools we will see our systems improve to the benefit of our students.  

Equipping educational leaders to reduce the variability in their systems is no small feat.  As districts are starting to take the systems approach we are seeing a renewed demand for Balanced Leadership training.  The Balanced Leadership training that we offer focuses on the McREL research around the Balanced Leadership Framework.  This training is designed to equip educational leaders with the art and science of leadership that ultimately will help them improve their organizations.  Understanding the Balanced Leadership Framework should be at the core to aligning your system.  We are wrapping up a session at Smoky Hill this month but we are getting ready to start new sessions in Shawnee Mission and at Greenbush South.  We have also just started a small, but engaged group here at KASB in October.  

Leadership impacts everything we do in education and as the research shows, Leadership Matters!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Update: KASB Leadership Services

Wow, it seems like it has been a long time since we sat down and worked on our blog.  There is a lot of new information for board members to share and many thought provoking discussions ahead.  

We have just finished a three week tour of the KASB regions.  Just under 400 hundred people came together around the state to discuss current educational issues.  Part of each session was devoted to new board members and although the total number of participates in New Board Member Workshop II was not as high as we would like, the new board members that attended took part in some fantastic discussions.

It has also been a year of transition.  The Leadership Services has added Gary Sechrist as a field consultant and he has been on the road.  Gary plans to attend as many area service centers meetings as possible so superintendents will have a chance to visit directly with KASB and share concerns or issues face to face.  We think that will help improve our services and provide better support for the onsite services we offer.

Many people might find this hard to believe but KASB has already conducted over 60 whole board trainings just since July.  We met with 18 boards just in the month of August and we have 13 more scheduled in November.  All of the sessions are designed based on the needs of the district.  Many of the trainings were about boardsmanship and teamwork as boards were learning to blend their new members with experienced members.  Another common topic has been planning and goal setting.

The superintendent search season is underway and already several openings are posted on our website.  These searches take us to all regions of the state in an effort to try and match superintendent candidates with districts’ needs and desires.  To kick off the search season we hosted our annual aspiring superintendents workshop here at KASB.  We were excited to visit with twenty six outstanding men and women that are focused on educational leadership and want to make a difference for Kansas students.

Coming up this Fall and Winter we have several events that can assist you and/or your board with their leadership efforts.  Please visit our KASB website to find out more information,
Just a reminder about New Board Member Workshop III which is held in conjunction with the KASB Annual Convention.  This year it is in Wichita so we anticipate see many new board members in attendance.  Don’t forget to take advantage of the free pass and make sure each board in Kansas has someone at this year’s activities.

The Leadership services department attempts to provide valuable information on a timely basis for superintendents and boards.  The leadership team is providing a regular blog and podcast that we hope you make part of your routine to learn more about our services.  We hope these social media methods give you the opportunity to listen and read when your time allows.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Systems Approach

KASB leadership services have been traveling around the state working with boards, superintendents, and principals.  We have been involved in many great discussions about “school improvement” the past few weeks.  From training on boardsmanship and strategic planning to working with district administrators focused McREL’s Balanced Leadership and Evaluations a common theme is apparent.  School districts that are using a big picture, systems approach to student achievement are starting to see the benefits of their efforts.
So what does leadership of school district look and feel like when done from a systems perspective?  
Alignment is often referred to when we talk about the curriculum and instruction.  We focus on gaps or redundancies within the system, resulting in unprepared students. This alignment is critical for students, but there is alignment that also must reflect the board’s vision to impact the work happening in classrooms.  The board sets a vision and adopts policy consistent with the needs and expectations of the school district stakeholders.  The district administrative team along with the board aligns actions and resources to make that vision happen.  Then building administrators and teachers work within an established framework to focus on the necessary steps to accomplish the vision set by the board.  The results of alignment are consistent expectations throughout the system around instruction and achievement, common vocabulary and processes within the system creating a defined sense of the work to be done.
Leadership Teams Engaged in Continual Learning
Peter Senge in the the Fifth Discipline book, discussed the three critical dimensions of team learning; 1) teams must think insightfully about complex issues-What is your process for asking the right questions to engage your team in some critical thinking about current issues in education?, 2) there is the need for innovative, coordinated action-How does your system inspire innovation to meet the needs of a changing student and community population?,  3) continually foster the development other learning teams to develop within the organization-What structures are established to develop a collaborative culture  between building principals and teachers focused on student success?  
Systemic Monitoring and Evaluation
How do we know if we are making progress if we never look at where we are going?  School districts have to develop a culture around monitoring, reviewing, and evaluating all aspects of the system.  We encourage leaders to formalize a process to frequently revisit goals, and outcomes to determine if they are tracking towards the desired vision.  School districts consistently establish goals that clarify what they would like to accomplish, but often they are overlooked in the day to day challenges of running a school system.  It’s important that leaders maintain a constant focus on the mission and goals.

When a district has a clear sense of why they exist and where they want to be in the future, advocating for support and resources within your community becomes an easier sale.  Yes, I said sale! The recent controversy surrounding the “common core standards” is a perfect example of the importance of outreach.  Educators did a wonderful job of sharing information and communicating within our circles.  We were much less effective when it came  to the community, politicians, and other stakeholders about sharing our ideals and beliefs.  As leaders we must “paint the picture” and share a vision of how each of our students benefit when the school district continues to improve and innovate.

            Take the Long View
As we are living through major shifts in the educational landscape, we start to focus on the individual initiatives and the timelines to get them implemented.  If we are not careful, focusing on isolated initiatives, leads us toward disconnected systems, because the people impacted by the initiatives do not have the opportunity to understand how “it” fits with the overall direction of the system.  We have to continually assist individuals impacted by the initiative to step back and survey the horizon to show them where and how these changes merge towards the common vision and direction that has been established by the board.

As educational leaders we must always take the time to explain “why” what we do is so important for students.  A clear understanding of the systems approach will benefit our schools and communities as we make decisions for the future.

Friday, May 24, 2013

KASB/McREL and Kansas Ed Service Centers

Partnering to “Make A Difference”

The economic resources of education systems in Kansas have been stressed mightily in the last few years, while the demand for improving student performance has increased. Sound familiar? It’s a situation many state organizations are in across the nation, forcing us all to ask ourselves what services we can continue to afford to deliver in an era of resource scarcity.

Business gurus such as Keith McFarland and Peter Drucker coach that difficult economic times are actually prime times for businesses to strengthen themselves by refocusing on their core missions and customer needs, and re-evaluating their strategies for service delivery. 

Putting this theory into practice, at the Kansas Association of School Boards we heard from our member districts and agencies that one of their largest areas of need was the lack of quality professional development for school and district leaders. And through a refocus on the part of our mission to “provide a culture of collaboration,” we sought a partner to help maximize resources and allow us to provide such PD opportunities on a large scale.

We chose to work with McREL, a leading non-profit education research and service organization based in Denver, together developing a partnership that gave our KASB staff leaders the training to deliver McREL’s leadership PD program, called Balanced Leadership. Through the partnership, KASB has helped hundreds of principals and administrators statewide gain skills and knowledge about research-proven leadership practices that are positively linked to student achievement. Additionally, the partnership agreement allowed KASB to retain a share of the training fees when we deliver the PD, providing our organization with a financial benefit. 

That initial partnership worked well, so this past summer KASB again partnered with McREL to provide our school leaders with training on a classroom observation program called Power Walkthrough. This web-based program runs on tablets, iPads, and other mobile devices, and helps principals turn brief classroom observations into meaningful opportunities for coaching teachers to higher levels of performance. As of now, 26 districts across the state are using the program, and they’re seeing deeper discussions throughout their schools on the educational practices that make a difference for students. Data generated from the program also gives principals and administrators insight into how well PD initiatives are being implemented within their schools and districts. As a result, these districts are becoming more efficient and focused on using research-based instructional practices in their classrooms.

As the old saying goes, “timing is everything.” In July 2012 the state of Kansas received an ESEA waiver from the United States Department of Education, allowing the state to move in a direction that is more aligned with our local needs and values. As part of the waiver, all districts in Kansas must implement an evaluation system that is formative in nature by the fall of 2014. The established partnership between KASB and McREL has given our local school districts options to consider when adopting a formative evaluation system, as McREL’s teacher and principal evaluation systems is approved by the state as a viable option that meets the ESEA waiver requirements. School districts across Kansas have taken an interest in the evaluation systems because of their research base, ease of use, and focus on the right leadership and instructional practices to help students achieve at higher levels.

To further serve our member school districts, KASB partnered with our statewide network of educational service centers, expanding the capacity of our collaborative system by helping local ESC centers become trained to provide high-quality professional development in their regions.  Although it is early in development, it appears to have enhanced interest and participation from educators around the state.

These partnerships have allowed KASB to strengthen our capacity to deliver great services to our member districts, meeting their needs even in a time of resource scarcity. By becoming facilitators, connectors, and quality assurance managers, we can maximize our own staff efforts within KASB and continue to provide these services. 

Through the partnership approach, we retain local control, context, and relationships, while also giving our members access to the best national education research, products, and experts.
Our challenges are ever present, but our shared goal of improving student achievement has forged a strong relationship for everyone in the coalition. And in the end, the students, teachers, and educational leaders of Kansas have been the true beneficiaries of this partnership.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Guidelines for Effective Teams

Guidelines for Effective Teams

Dr. Jordan and I have been working this past year with boards helping them concentrate on establishing a vision while focusing on continuous improvement.  Many of our discussions evolved around communication, trust, and teamwork.  One of our dilemmas has been the assumption that everyone has experienced or been on a  high performing team at some point in their lives.  From our perspective being part of a team was easy and fun.

Author Peter Senge,  in his book, The Fifth Discipline stated:  When you ask people about what is is like being part of a great team, what is most striking is the meaningfulness of the experience.  People talk about something larger than them themselves, of being connected, of being generative.  It becomes quite clear that, for many, their experience as part of truly great teams stand out as singular periods of life lived to the fullest.  Some spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture that spirit. (Senge 1990: 13)

Based on Senge’s insight and our assumption, we thought it would be good to share some the keys to working as a team.  The following ideas should help you and your board become a more effective team.  

  1. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute ideas and solutions.
  2. Recognize and respect differences in others, everyone is not going to agree on all issues.
  3. Value the ideas and contributions of others, which is how we learn and grow.
  4. Listen and share information, it does no good to ignore others and then wonder why they won’t listen to you.
  5. Ask questions and get clarification, to make good decisions boards need good data.  If you don’t understand the information it is important you keep asking questions until you do.
  6. Participate fully and keep your commitments, great teams can count on each other.
  7. Be flexible and respect the partnership created by a team -- strive for the "win-win".
  8. Have fun and care about the team and the outcomes, it is an honor to be elected to your board.  Enjoy the time you spend serving the students in your district.

As we mentioned earlier, communication and trust are critical ingredients for team building.  The power of reflection can help enhance the board's understanding of teamwork.  The following questions should help you and your board reflect on the current practices of the board.

Do we:
•  Conceal weaknesses and mistakes from each other?
•  Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback?
•  Jump to conclusions about the intention of others?
•  Fail to tap into one another's skills and experiences?
•  Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect?
•  Hold grudges?
•  Dread meetings and avoid spending time together?

If the answer is yes to this list of questions, it is an indicator that troubles are brewing.  When difficulties arise leaders address the issues.  The team is too important to the success of the district to ever “underperform”.  High performing teams understand that conflict is dealt with openly and is considered important to decision-making and personal growth. All members should feel their unique personalities are appreciated and well utilized and can benefit the success of the team.  Norms for working together have been developed and seen as standards for everyone to follow.

In conclusion, it is important that board members clearly understand when the team has met with success and all should share in this equally and proudly.  The impact of your role on the lives of the students in your district should never be underestimated.  You are all members of the most important team in any district.  The success of your team determines the success of the district.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Don't Be Andy

One of the many common discussion topics from the new board member workshops the past couple of weeks has been  “don’t be Andy”  That statement refers to a video series we are using to teacher boardsmanship with sample case studies.  Andy is the star of the video series.  The case studies are used to allow small group discussions which allow board members to gain experiences and learn from others.  One of the important lessons that we learn from “Andy” is that he is not a “bad” person with evil intentions.  Andy often has good ideas but he just doesn’t understand how to be a productive board member or a team player.

Some of Andy’s actions demonstrate inappropriate behaviors related to chain of command, communication, executive sessions, and open sessions.  These videos created some wonderful teachable moments.  The new board members spent time at their tables sharing insights, comparing ideas and learning from each other.  Mentor board members and superintendents often were involved in the dialogue and shared the experiences they have had with their current board. KASB staff took the behaviors displayed by Andy and provided the participants insight into “why” the behaviors are damaging to board culture and potentially illegal.

I think almost all new board members in attendance have come to realize that being a quality board member and understanding how to better serve their students will be challenging.  Developing a culture of service within a district requires a clear vision, high expectations, on-going professional learning, and resources aligned to each of these respective areas.

It has been exciting to meet the new board members at the workshops.  We have been impressed by their willingness to learn about becoming successful board members.  As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon to hear board members remind each other as the meeting ends “don’t be Andy”.

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Board Member Workshops, State Tour 2013

As many of you know we have been traveling around the Kansas working with newly elected board members.  We went to Garden City, Oakley, Beloit, and  Kansas City the first week.  Last week we were at Greenbush, Clearwater, and Topeka.  It goes without saying we have met a lot of great people that are interested in public education.  We, Dr. Moeckel and Dr. Jordan spend our time focused on developing boardsmanship and learning about student achievement.  Other topics include advocacy, policy, legal, and finance.

We have had lots of positive feedback and generated many great discussions.  The range of questions is always fun and this year we have add several “case studies” throughout the day that increase participation and create many teachable moments.

These events have started the process of developing a high performing school board team.  New board members have been able to draw from the experiences of mentor board members and their superintendent, to give them confidence to take on their new role as a board member.  The next step for school boards is to blend the new board members’ perceptions and beliefs into the vision and goals currently established with the existing board.  This is an important step that has to occur soon after the new board members come on July 1.  KASB is always available to work with boards as they go through this team building process.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Impacting Student Achievement

The mission of KASB can be described in simple terms, be a voice for public education, impact student outcomes and serve our members.  Our members are the elected educational leaders in each district in Kansas.  They represent the needs of nearly every child in the state.  With the goal of student success at the top of every school board’s agenda, boards are looking for ways to continually improve.  While school boards look for answers they often hear about the how difficult it is to” impact student learning.”  The leadership services department at KASB can’t think of a statement further from the truth.  Current educational research outlines some of the necessary steps to ensure improvement in student achievement, hiring highly qualified teachers, and providing ongoing professional development are some of the most frequently referenced practices.  But there is an often overlooked practice ignored, one of which is the most powerful means for improving instruction, the use of formative evaluation with high quality feedback (coaching).

As the entire nation has looked to provide a way to help students succeed we often find ourselves inspecting individual trees rather than surveying and monitoring the entire forest.  That has caused us to overlook the obvious model, help teachers improve their craft.  Take the two most famous “Bills” in the state of Kansas, Snyder and Self, they have established cultures that value formative evaluation with feedback.  When you consider the success of the their programs, and reflect on what is heard and seen from the stakeholders around those programs, you often hear phrases like, “we are just trying to get better each day,” or “we have a system that works, we each need to do our part to improve that system.”  Think of the power in the those phrases and the understanding by the players that they have to continually  improve individually to help the system improve collectively.  There is ample data provided related to their performance that allows them to monitor and reflect on the improvement process, as well as define goals and expectations.  We would argue that teachers and leaders have the same types of data available when their systems are engaged in formative evaluation.  The formative evaluation process produces many opportunities for individuals to analyze data as it applies to instruction and performance.  This ultimately results in an opportunity to impact student learning and overall student achievement.  Formative feedback helps teachers and leaders understand their personal obligation to continually improve to help students achieve.

The role of district leaders is to have high quality instruction with low variability within the system.  To accomplish the true goal of improved student achievement, leaders must develop the capacity of teachers and leaders to identify and monitor instructional improvements.  This capacity is developed through the use of the formative evaluation process, which in turn provides data to guide decisions about professional development and district wide programing.  We feel it should be a collaborative effort directed at improving our system.  The public education system will only be as good collectively as we are individually.  Shifting our models of evaluation through the use of coaching and quality feedback to improve leadership and instruction is at the core to combating complacency and the status quo.

If you are ready to take on the challenge,  let us help you and your district with the battle for continuous improvement.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to stop the dance...

It is the time of the year when school leaders are analyzing their current personnel, and trying to address their personnel needs for the upcoming year.  Too often at this time of the year, in our profession, when get into an unproductive process known as the “Dance of the Lemons.”  This is the phrase often used when teachers are shuffled to different assignments to minimize their impact on students.  The dance often leads to a process that is detrimental to the culture of an organization.  It is also costly in terms of time spent,  lack of effectiveness and student achievement.  No one really claims the phrase, “Dance of the Lemons,” but recent thought closely links these practices to a “culture of can’t” being present within the educational system.  A “culture of can’t” prevails when leaders falsely believe they are limited in their ability to act on the improvement of instruction, as described by Frederick Hess of American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.  Hank Levin, a professor in the Teachers College at Columbia University, further explains that a “culture of can’t” develops when, school boards and district leaders use laws and regulations, “as a scapegoat to justify maintaining existing practices.”

So how do we change the “culture of can’t,” and stop the “Dance of the Lemons?”  
School leaders must establish non-negotiable expectations focused on instruction.  These expectations should be developed using open communication which allows input from all stakeholders.  The expectations must be supported by professional development related to the development of quality instruction in each classroom.  This may sound like a daunting task, but the reality is it can be accomplished within a district when all stakeholders agree to engage in formative evaluation of staff with an intense focus on the improvement of instruction. Formative evaluation brings teachers and administrators together to analyze data about instructional practices within the schools.  As formative evaluation occurs, consistent patterns  begin to develop that give educational leaders insight into the supports required to improve instruction and impact achievement.  Formative evaluation leads to improved instruction in each classroom and throughout the system.  As expectations become clear and an improved understanding of the components of quality instruction are defined, it then becomes possible to design differentiated supports for the varying needs of teachers.  The formative evaluation process provides a working framework for improving instruction.  In the end, taking these steps to combat the “culture of can’t,” will  lessens the chance of having to engage in the unfortunate “Dance of the Lemons.”

So where does an instructional leader find such a formative evaluation system?
In Kansas we are fortunate that we have options when it comes to formative evaluation models.  The Kansas State Department of Education has spent time building the Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol (KEEP) system.  Another option that several districts across the state are moving towards is the McREL Teacher Evaluation System.  KASB has partnered with McREL to provide access to the McREL Evaluation system which provides the framework for improving instruction by tying everything back to the research supporting quality instruction and quality schools.  Improving student achievement should be the goal of every school district in Kansas.  A quality evaluation system properly implemented will enhance instructional skills and provide an opportunity for teachers to have a greater impact on student success.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Building a New Board Team

Building A New Board Team

The leadership services department has been sharing information about the election and new board members making the transition to the district leadership team.  Several articles have focused on what boards and superintendents can do in preparation for the transition.  Today I wanted to share the following thoughts from the perspective of being one of the new board members.
In my experience with most new boards members they are excited about “making a difference” in their new role.  I have met very few that did not have good intentions related to serving the student in their district.  New board member struggles almost always revolve around learning how boards work and their role on the board.  The following list represents some of the questions and anxiety that might be associated with beginning their new duties:

  •  Will I be welcome?
  •  Will I be equally included?
  •  What is happening in the district now?
  •  Who are these people? Can I trust them?
  •  What is the job?
  •  How do I get my ideas on the agenda?
  •  Will my ideas be accepted?
  •  How can I do things “right”?
  •  What are the expectations of how the team members work together?
  •  How will things change?
  •  What if we don’t like each other?
  •  Are my needs going to be met?

When a new team is formed it is important that time is allotted to discuss the “nuts and bolts” of how the board works.  The new board member workshops this spring will allow new members a chance to understand boards in general but it is up to the current board to ensure a quality transition for all members of the new team.   Our experience has been that effective boards are built on the concepts of good communication, trust among members that intentions are focused on the right work, and relationships among members.  New team members may experience issues with inclusion and isolation, which are associated with change but how long a team struggles often depends on how willing experienced board members are at creating a culture that is open, welcoming, and supportive of change.

Take the time to support the new team, it will be time well spent.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Board Relations: Tips for Conversations in Difficult Situations

As many of you already know Dr. Jordan and I spend many hours working with boards and administrative teams across the state.  We are always dealing with great people that want to impact their district and their communities while serving students.  We often find boards working through difficult situations trying to find ways to communicate in open and honest conversation.  In many cases emotional or “hot button” issues come up around the board table and create a potential for disagreement and disappointment.

The following tips might be helpful for board members to review in preparation for difficult discussions when hot topics are looming on the agenda. 

  •  Promote a Spirit of Inquiry – Inquiring and developing a clear understanding of the beliefs of others before expressing and promoting one’s own ideas. This norm is important to a beneficial discussion within the group.

  •  Pause – Stop and wait before responding or inquiring about expressed ideas. This norm promotes thoughtful thinking and may assist with the dialogue and problem-solving process.

  •  Paraphrase – Use good listening skills and summarize comments made by others within the group to acknowledge and/or clarify a member’s point of view or idea.

  • Probe – Ask for more information during a group discussion by using open-ended questions like: “Tell me more about your perception…” or “I’d like to hear more about…” or “Can you clarify the point that you made about…” Using this technique may give the group a deeper understanding about a topic or a problem and assist with decision-making.

  •  Put Ideas on the Table – Ideas are the core of meaningful dialogue within a group. Clearly label your presentation of a possible idea or solution to a problem by saying: “One idea that I have is…” or “Here is a possible solution…”

  •  Pay Attention to Self and Others – Make an effort to be aware of what you are saying and how you are behaving within the group interactions. Also, be aware of how others are behaving and responding to the group discussions.

  •  Presume Positive Intentions – Assume that the intentions of others are positive as the group interacts within discussions and problem solving activities. Use positive language and interact with others in a respectful manner.
An old saying often heard:  “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”   Taking the time to prepare might make a big difference for everyone as we approach tough topics, maybe the board can create enough luck to turn obstacles in to opportunities.

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to enhance positive board and superintendent relations.

Principle 1: Clarify roles and expectations.
·       Hold forums or one-on-one meetings to provide school board candidates with a clear picture of what is expected of them if they are elected.
    • Establish the expectation that the entire team be committed to continuous learning such as KASB Regional Meetings-Seminars-Annual Convention.
·       Stress the importance of planning and policy making as the board’s primary functions. Let board members know how plans and policies relate to the district’s vision.
·       Revisit annually to reaffirm role expectations of the superintendent and administrators.

Principle 2: Develop a clear process for communication.
·       Develop a communication plan. Clearly state who needs to know what and when. Don’t forget to explain how you will communicate during emergencies.
·       Provide activities that encourage board members and administrators to build their listening and decision-making skills.
·       Hold periodic board meetings in the district’s schools and enjoy a student presentation or ask the building principal to conduct a tour before the meeting.
·       Hear accountability reports from principals on building effectiveness in reaching district goals.
·       Pick up the telephone instead of worrying about an issue—keep the lines of communication open.
·       Provide board members with regularly scheduled updates, including both good and bad news, in accordance with the open records law requirements. Include a calendar of any upcoming events which board members might attend.
·       Allow regular opportunities for principals to report directly to the board during board meetings.
·       The board president and superintendent should build the meeting agenda together.
·       Do not surprise others at the board table.
·       Clearly state the process governing board member communications about building-level issues. Clarify the superintendent’s role and that of the building administration and staff.

Principle 3: Actively work to build trust and mutual respect.
·       Develop a vision/mission statement for the district. Express and clarify core beliefs and develop an ethical behavior statement for the board, superintendent and administrators.
·       Respect the opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. Express disagreement openly and rationally, and agree to disagree when consensus cannot be reached.
·       Identify activities that build trust in a relationship and apply them to board/administrator work.
·       Recognize each other’s successes. Help each other succeed.
·       Remain focused on issues—not personalities—when discussions become heated.

Principle 4: Evaluate the whole team.
·       Conduct superintendent, board and district evaluations using district goals as the core ingredient of each evaluation.
·       Make sure a meaningful process is clear to everyone involved in the evaluation.
·       Identify indicators to be used to assess goals or evaluation criteria.

Principle 5: Actively work on improved decision making.
·       Recognize board members’ expertise in different areas and ask for advice when making decisions.
·       Provide information in a timely manner. Board members should communicate to the superintendent prior to meeting when more information is needed.
·       Seek the advice of legal counsel when necessary. Determine who can seek advice of the district’s legal counsel for the board.
·       Propose more than one solution to a complex problem. Allow for discussion.
·       Support the final decision of the board.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Implications of Change

As we travel around the state working with school leaders doing “Balanced Leadership Training” we spend several days discussing the implication of “change”  McREL’s research indicates that how we manage the change transition will impact the success or the change process.  They consider the change as “first or second order”.  One of the keys to understand change is to understand that it is not the change itself but how the change is perceived by the stakeholders that are dealing with change.

As we are in the height of flu season often we recognize  the symptoms that come along with the flu and we respond accordingly to get ourselves through the flu as quickly as possible.  High impact leaders must understand the symptoms of change, and more importantly understand the type of change they are working through, in order to lead the organization effectively through the successful implementation of that change.  Heifetz and Linsky discuss in their work the difference between adaptive and technical challenges associated with change.  Adaptive challenges require changing people’s values, beliefs, and habits.  Technical challenges can be solved through the knowledge of experts and those in a position of authority.  In Kansas we are currently working through several adaptive challenges, i.e. changes in the evaluation process, implementing college and career readiness standards, development and implementation of a QPA system based on the five R’s, rigor, relevance, relationships, responsive culture, and results.  Leaders must understand that each of these is a highly adaptive challenge, because they they impact educators, beliefs, values, and habits.  So what are the “symptoms” of adaptive challenges that leaders must recognize?  William Bridges work surrounding transitions during the change process, can give leaders key insights into the “symptoms” of change.

William Bridges in his work referred to “transitions” as the critical element to successful change initiatives.  He focused on three components.  “Ending, Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings”  Each step in the process plays an important role in adopting the change.  First we must understand the “ending” of the old ways we have always used to accomplish the task.  Remember, endings lead to denial, shock, anger, and frustration.  As we all know, it can be difficult to change.  The second phase, the neutral zone will be a time of chaos and high anxiety but it can also lead to a very creative problem solving.  Solutions are desired and a crisis may inspire great leadership and teamwork if the transition is managed correctly.  The final component is referred to as new beginnings.  It is characterized  by hope, enthusiasm and success.  As leaders we have to be intentional in how we manage these transitions with people living through the change.  Bridges calls this intentional management the “Four P’s of New Beginnings:” Purpose-explain the purpose behind the change, Picture-show the picture of what it will and can look like once the change has been successfully implemented, Plan-lay out a detailed, step-by-step plan, and Part-give everyone a part or role to play in the new beginnings.

As educational leaders we need to ask ourselves if we are leading change or suffering from change.  Lets make sure we are providing the leadership required to ensure success as we deal with changes that impact student learning in our schools and communities.