When schools work communities prosper.
School principals play a critical role in bringing communities together. Stephen Covey's "The Leader in Me" demonstrates the value of strong building leadership.
Muriel Summers, principal at a struggling A.B. Combs Elementary School, is one of the leaders showcased in Covey's work. Summers aligned Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" with school leadership.
Employing Covey's tenets, A.B. Combs garnered national recognition where reading scores rose 32.3 percent and math improved by 22.6 percent. By being proactive and putting first things first Combs became the top U.S. magnet school.
Elaine McEwan's "Ten Traits of Highly Effective Principals" points to a set of characteristics necessary to develop highly effective principals who create communities of learners with high academic and behavioral expectations.
Highly effective principals listen; they connect. Turnover is low in their buildings; teachers don't beat the buses out of the school driveway. Hailed as expert instructional leaders foremost, these leaders motivate change through enthusiasm, trustworthiness, respect and modeling. They don't create layers of people through whom teachers must labor to make requests.
Effective principals model good behavior.
Ineffective leadership results in an ecology of moral decay where bathroom graffiti demonstrates collective disregard for leadership. Greetings and salutations are replaced with hallway chatter and updates on who has landed a transfer or a job in another county. The focus on students goes missing as teachers, locked in a culture of fear, place understandable value on survival and quick departure.
When sole providers for families resign from teaching with no job secured for the following year the collapse of leadership has peaked. Ultimately, the climate grows out of sync with district goals as a laissez-faire culture and cheap tricks precede chaos where students run the building. Drop outs increase. Graduation rates fall. Trust decreases.
This is school failure, and it carries ominous implications for property values, crime and intellectual prowess. It assaults spirit, pride and excellence and engenders an evidentiary feeding frenzy for supporters of vouchers and state-run charters.
In such cases a thorough flushing may positively impact student success and renew public trust in schools. Turning it around is not easy, yet it is non-negotiable when student success and community prosperity rest in the balance.
Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.