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“Sad and Deep as You”

July 30, 2010
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History teacher and blogger Charles Olynyk recently shared a remembrance of a recently departed LAUSD administrator, Dr. Santana. In it, he raised some crucial points about what effective school leadership does and doesn’t look like. He wrote (emphasis mine),

I guess he, like Auggie Herrera, treated me the way I treated some troublesome teen who was amusing. He didn’t play the “Gotcha” game, didn’t spend his time looking at the letter of the law, but rather the spirit when it came to kids in a tough school. And he backed his teachers up.  He backed me up at times when I thought I should have gone to the woodshed, telling me, “Dumb ***!” then patting me on the shoulder. “Don’t ever do it again.” And I didn’t, as shocking as that might be for my readers to believe. In some ways he came across like the coach in “Major League.” Because I saw he would go to the wall for me, it was only right I do so for him…

[Dr. Santana and positive school leaders from the past] did not pre-judge me. They asked me for something, asked “Can you do this for me. It will help the school and I know you can get the job done.” And I came on like gangbusters. That is something each of these men had, which made them educational leaders.

A recent study which was produced by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, and the University of Toronto’s  Ontario Institute for Studies in Education said that high student achievement is linked to collective leadership, and that effective principals encourage others to join in—parents, educators, and others—in deciding how a school should run. Sharing power, it would seem, does not mean losing power…

Successful principals, it would seem, do not have to micromanage, like the principal Morgan Woodward played in “Lean On Me,” or Principal Dwan Jordon “data-driven” (have we heard that before?) schtick at a D.C. middle school (there’s a Washington Post story on Sousa Middle School around July 6th) or like Michelle Rhee, infamous Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools, who sent pink slips to 241 teachers and put another 737 on notice Friday. They can create the climate that enable the teachers to do their job better.

I don’t think I ever heard any of these four men use the “data driven decision making” buzzwords. Maybe they were able to use the data without trying to wield it like a bludgeon. They provided examples of leadership—and their faculties rose to the occasion.

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