What I learned about leadership development in 2018

An assistant superintendent shares his most powerful lessons, from the power of diversity to the importance of having leaders model new technology

At Colonial (DE) School District, we’ve been focused on retaining teachers through various leadership development and empowerment programs for a few years. As the programs have matured, we’ve learned plenty about empowering our best educators this year. In addition to our existing leadership development programs, we’ve also launched a non-evaluative teacher observation and mentorship program. As is to be expected with a new initiative, there’s been no end of lessons learned as we began putting the program into place. Here are four of them.

1. Attack big challenges from multiple angles.
In 2017, our district submitted a successful i3 grant application. As a result of that work, we’ve learned that we need to drill down on particular aspects of recruitment and retention.

To that end, in consultation with Insight Education Group, we’ve pulled together multiple teams to work on different elements of the grant in various areas of leadership. We have a team focused on our teacher leadership and aspiring leaders through the Supporting Teacher Effectiveness Project (STEP). We have a group that developed a strategic recruitment plan, something that we hadn’t done in the past.

We have another team focused on retaining teachers in years three and four through a program called the Colonial Educator Institute (CEI). Finally, we have spent significant time working with our instructional leadership teams on developing their instructional leadership skills through their weekly meetings and newly designed school success plans.

2. Put diverse perspectives to work.
One interesting lesson that’s arisen from the creation of those different groups is the power of diversity. Because we have a diverse group of people in these groups, they’ve brought different and interesting ideas and perspectives to the forefront. This has pushed all of us to adjust our thinking. Tapping into their different strengths has been valuable in terms of thinking about who’s going to lead work in various areas.

Similarly, we’ve discovered strength in the diversity of the educators working on our leadership framework. We have a group of experienced school leaders at the district office, some of whom are fresh out of working in school buildings. Those individuals may be newer to district leadership but provide a strong perspective on what it’s like to be a building leader in 2018.

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