Leadership In ActionOver the last few articles, I talked about some of the theoretical aspects of leadership. For this article, I would like to explore leadership in action. And, being the completely original person that I am, I am going to borrow from a recent New York Times article entitled, “How to Fix the Country’s Failing Schools. And How Not To.” written by David L. Kirp. The article appeared in the Sunday Review section on January 9, 2016 and may be accessed by clicking here.
When I first read the article, I thought of the classic opening line of the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities:"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…The article describes how two New Jersey cities addressed their troubled school systems. The approaches to reform as well as the results could not be more different. In fact, the Union City School District is described a model for educational reform. Kirp says that:
“Today Union City, which opted for homegrown gradualism, is regarded as a poster child for good urban education.”
As I read the article, I was struck by the crucial part leadership plays in the transformation. As Superintendent, I often reflect on how my actions impact student success. I look to others to identify traits to emulate. Our colleagues in Union City did not opt for a quick fix but instead devised and implemented a long-term strategy. More importantly, they stuck to it. Leadership guided the process.
“Stable leadership proved essential. In the years preceding the state’s near-takeover, superintendents were hired and fired based on their politics; during the past quarter-century there have been just three superintendents, all of them products of the district. Nationwide, the average tenure of a city schools chief is only three years.”