3 Minutes January 2018

At each Baltimore County Board of Education meeting, CASE has three minutes to present information to the board in the interest of our organization. The following is a transcript from one of those meetings.

Chairman Gilliss, Vice Chair Stewart, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

Last month I addressed the Board, and quoted a widely recognized belief that leadership matters. Tonight, I would like to add that leadership is learned.

BCPS like most school districts, selects highly successful teachers to be assistant principals, highly successful assistant principals to become principals, and often, the highest performing principals to become executive officers – who will supervise and evaluate principals.

Our system provides support, coaching, and mentoring for the APs and Principals to help them develop and hone skill sets for effective instructional leadership.

We have a system disconnect however. When we promote people into the role of principal supervisor, we ensure that they receive the necessary compliance training such as legal issues, and employee discipline, but make the mistake of assuming that the same instructional leadership skill set they used so successfully as a principal, aligns to their job as a supervisor. These are two distinct skill sets.

Research agrees that today’s principals need support for their development and growth. The role of the principal supervisor has shifted from compliance monitor to coach. I would suggest that is done in a purposeful and collaborative fashion.

BCPS has 16 staff in the Zone offices who collectively supervise principals. To be sure, there are some who intuitively “get it”. Their primary goal is to support and improve the principals’ capacity for instructional leadership. They form relationships that build a foundation for coaching and support. They engage in effective professional learning strategies to help principals grow as instructional leaders. I talk with these principals. They feel empowered, motivated, and excited about this growth mindset model.

In other instances, however, some of our principal supervisors are perceived to exhibit a definite top-down mentality. Principals do not see themselves as part of a collaborative process. School visits create anxiety and apprehension. Little effort is made toward building relationships with the principal or administrative team. I talk to these principals. They feel demoralized, unmotivated, and are convinced that they are only as good as their next mistake.

This set of principal supervisors are not bad people. In most cases, they simply do not possess the skill set to be an effective principal supervisor in the 21st century, so they go with the old style leadership method – positional authority and intimidation.

Education is and will always be, a people business. Just as BCPS supports leaders at lower levels, we must ensure that the staff in the Zone offices have the proper training, support, and structure to do their jobs effectively, and with a level of consistency and accountability. Because Leadership is Learned. Anything less is a disservice to staff, students, and parents.

Thank you,

Tom DeHart
Executive Director, CASE