As we get closer to the New Year many charter school leaders are back in the office as the teachers and students enjoy their last few days off. They are beginning to look at second semester, plan for hiring, figure out how to keep the discipline problem kids from getting suspended yet again between now and the end of the year. Those are the issues if there aren't major problems. Of course, the other issue is to plan for the 2010-11 budget that most states are struggling with.
I'd also like to suggest that the leaders take some time to reflect on another important issue-their own personal improvement in their position. Charter school leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Most come from an academic background. Few come from a district leadership position and yet are thrown into some district type decisions. Often charter leaders are not prepared for the challenges. Here are a few resolutions to consider.
- I will take more time to observe and mentor the teachers
- I will learn the methods of good instruction if I don't already know them
- I will create strategic plans that prioritize the methods and activities that drive results
- I will prioritize my calendar in such a way that the time spent maximizes support for teachers and students
- I will be gracious enough to allow for mistakes, yet strong enough to take serious action when student safety or educational progress is jeopardized
Perhaps you can see the emphasis on priorities and strategy. Charter school leaders are pulled more directions from traditional principals because in additional to being a principal, they are often instructional trainers and politicians. They must satisfy board members in ways and with time commitments that principals in most schools rarely have to think about.
I salute anyone who takes leading a charter school seriously. They open themselves up to criticism from community members, district officials, and parents. The often operate in hostile environments with many eyes looking for mistakes and not tolerating anything sub-standard.
This doesn't mean that all charter leaders are as professional and competent as they need to be. Professional growth can continue and can be fostered, but it's the charter school leader who will have to recognize during this week's opportunity for reflection that self-improvement may be the greatest gift a leader can give to the staff and the organization.
This was originally published in my Colorado Charter School Examiner Column.