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Why Pima County created a training program for new and aspiring school leaders

by Deborah Bryson, Pima County School Superintendent’s Office
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Any educator would be thrilled with a 98 percent attendance rate. And course ratings of 4.8 out of 5? Teachers would surely celebrate that achievement! Those are just a few examples of the success we’ve seen in the first year of the LEADNow! Leadership Institute.

Created by the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office, LEADNow! (LNLI) recognizes that the most important change agents in education are school leaders. The program was created in partnership with the Arizona Educational Foundation and Northern Arizona University to support new and aspiring educational leaders in Southern Arizona.

The early years of a school administrative role can be daunting – everything from disciplinary to academic issues become overwhelming. And traditionally, these leaders get little to no professional development support. LNLI helps these individuals acquire skills and applications essential to becoming an effective educational leader, while giving them the opportunity to connect with others who are in the same position.

Using research and evidence-based curriculum, LNLI is based on the 2015 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers. The monthly classes focus on team building, leadership skills, goal setting and more. We’ve enlisted expert guest speakers to discuss everything from special education to courageous conversation tactics. And we use the time to help participants feel valued and celebrate the great things that are happening in their schools.

LEAD Now 1But the best part of the program is probably the mentorship. Each LNLI participant is paired with a mentor from an Arizona Education Foundation A+ School of Excellence™, who can help guide them throughout the year. School visits and regular meetings give time to discuss best practices, as well as troubleshoot specific issues. With 53 participants from 13 southern Arizona school districts in our inaugural year, school leaders are forming valuable connections with their peers that will transcend the program. Here is what some had to say about their experience with LNLI:

  • “Learning from others, discussing current issues, and gathering ideas to problem solve are the reasons why the LEADNow! Saturdays are my favorite meetings. I feel supported and empowered after each one – I’m not alone!” Principal ParticipantLEAD Now3
  • “LEADNow! and our facilitator Deborah Bryson are independent of our District(s). This, in and of itself, creates a safe and trustworthy environment. Participants are able to discuss and share our thoughts, feelings, and criticisms free of judgment. We also receive input and feedback free of bias or dispositions of our district.” Principal Participant
  • “As a new teacher, you realize quickly that even the best college classes and student teaching experience do not always prepare you for the real classroom experience. The same is true as a school leader. LEADNow! gives me the support to improve my leadership skills, to discuss issues with other leaders, to figure out the best way to deal with difficult situations, as well as the pieces that are missing to ensure the smooth running of our schools. This experience provides immediate support, connections to others that can help and the essential information to remember to address as we lead.” Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction
  • “The ultimate measure of effective school leadership is influence.  The ability to influence lies in a leader’s ability to establish, cultivate, and sustain relationships, even with the most resistant staff members, throughout the building.  It is this framework for leadership that serves as the centerpiece for LEADNow’s professional development making it a uniquely effective experience for site and district administrators!” Superintendent

 

Deborah Bryson is the Chief Deputy Superintendent at the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office, which promotes educational excellence through leadership, service, and collaboration. She is the creator and director of LEADNow!

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