Friday, October 29, 2010

Relationship or Leadership

A very nice commentary in the October 27, 2010 edition of Education Week reports some excellent results involving an Ohio high school.

Laura Pappano writes about an aspect of the school turnaround conversation that it not being measured nor receiving the kind of attention it deserves. She says "it's about relationships."

The piece describes an inner-city Cincinnati high school that was transformed from an "...absolute failure by any measure..." to one that has been nominated for national Blue Ribbon School honors.

Apparently the school was assigned a new principal in 2001 by the name of Anthony G. Smith. The article goes on to describe how Mr. Smith engaged his staff, the community and business to forge "relationships" that obviously mattered.

The commentary makes the absolute correct statement that "At the heart of all reform efforts are the people who bring the strategies to life."

Together, the various interests have transformed this once "...dark and impersonal building..." into a campus of excellence.

That these kinds of results are achievable with an inner city school should not be surprising if the school has the right "leadership" at the helm.

Derrik Bell has said, when commenting on successful black schools "The common element among successful black schools was a strong principal willing to give priority to his or her vision of education even over policy directions coming from the central administration. To buck the system, the principal must have the strong support of the parents and the community, support that can come only if the school makes measurable progress with the students."

And herein lies my major point of contention with an otherwise excellent commentary. The winning characteristic observed in this turnaround is impeccable "leadership" that delivered "measurable" improvements.

There is nothing new about that combination. Whether in education, business, sports or almost any other arena. Great leadership will usually produce measurable results.

And yes, most, if not all great leaders, either know (or learn) how to establish, nurture, and leverage important relationships for the benefit of the enterprise.

That is why exceptional leadership by the principal combined with a highly qualified and motivated teacher in the classroom is an absolute must for any school to succeed.

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