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Leading for Innovation

June 17, 2019

As the 2018-2019 school year wraps up, I have been reflecting on the impact of our collective efforts to be an innovative school district.  Saline Schools is focused on continuous improvement; acceptance of mediocrity in the classroom is not tolerated. While there is some comfort in the status quo, doing what we have always done does not promote curiosity, innovation, or growth.

There is, nonetheless,  a shadow side to this important focus. Fatigue, teacher burnout, and frustration can set in if the initiative does not feel aligned and purpose driven.

As the superintendent, making strategic leadership decisions often feels like a balancing act between competing priorities.  When implementing a new instructional innovation such as the learner profile (the SAS Compass), this struggle is amplified. It is particularly problematic when teachers, students, or parents are tasked with changing the way they work, interact, and learn. Change is difficult. Growth involves making difficult decisions. As the district leader, it is essential that I communicate clearly the overall vision for the district. Part of that vision includes helping all stakeholders to understand the “why” of each initiative.

While some teachers are eager to embrace new ideas, others loathe steering away from what “works” or what is comfortable. There are building and department leaders in Saline Schools that strive to improve every aspect of the operation.  Yet, those talented leaders may resent the loss of autonomy that comes with district-wide initiatives. While showing those leaders that their work and talents are appreciated, I continue the work of ensuring equitable access to programs for all students. For all of our students, the vision must be communicated with coherence and consistency.

I relish the summer break. It’s never a “break,” but a time to reflect and plan.  Planning, visioning, and implementation take time. It seems that taking the strategic plan to scale is what is necessary. Yet, terms like “scaling” echo the factory model that schools have been built on for the past century.  I think we’re better than that. So, it’s not just the terminology that I’m wrestling with, it’s how to best articulate the Saline Area Schools vision for strategic leadership and growth.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Steve Sheldon permalink
    June 17, 2019 11:35 am

    Your blog today is right on point. As Jim Collins wrote in his book “Good To Great”, the creative tension that accompanies change is a necessary by-product when striving for greatness. The role of a leader in the change process includes creating a vision of the future and then helping others finding their place in that future. I think that you and other administrators in the district strive to do a good job of this.

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