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Volume 108, Number 13 (2006)

 
by Paul D. Houston
To be proactive and to broaden our leadership agenda, we must recognize that the first and foremost mission of the public schools is their civic mission. In these times of making education the foremost instrument of the global economy while making public schools the scapegoat for society’s lack of will to tackle the messy issues of race and class, that mission has gotten lost. What would it take to recapture the deepest reasons we have public schools? What would it take to confront the issues of how we keep children whole and how we address the needs of the whole child in an era in which children are being sliced and diced into categories on standardized tests? What is the role of local districts, of local control, when state and federal bureaucracies are making the decisions and calling the dance? What are the implications of all this for education and for democracy?
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by Paul Kelleher & Rebecca van der Bogert
We, the editors of this volume, are both long-time superintendents of schools who have lived and enacted the role in recent years. Phil Townsend is a fictional character, but his story is typical of what we have heard from far too many of our colleagues across the country. We empathize with those like Phil and agree that what it means to be the leader of a local school system has changed dramatically and continues to change in response to the changing times and contexts. We intend this volume to provide hope that despite the daunting challenges educational leaders like Phil face today, they have more to look forward to than retirement.
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by Paul Kelleher & Beverly Hall
One of the findings that we found fascinating was the variety of sources of energy and the courage that kept our authors going when confronted with obstacles that might be insurmountable to many. As you read Beverly Hall’s story, you will feel the passion that she brings to her superintendency, passion that is fueled by her beliefs—belief in poor children’s ability to learn at high levels and belief in her staff that they can make it happen.
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by Allan Alson
In one of our conversations with Allan Alson, he shared his belief that superintendents need to be politicians before they can be educators. His story illustrates that political and educational leadership are inextricably linked, as he describes his 14-year focus on and commitment to narrowing the achievement gap while working tirelessly with his different constituents to bring them into the process.
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by Paul Kelleher & Larry Leverett
Hearing from our different authors clarified for us that leadership styles are a combination of tacit beliefs, experience, and personal qualities as much as conscious decisions about approaches to work, and are as varied as people are. What emerges as a common factor contributing to success is authenticity—consistency of words with actions—that enables the development of trusting relationships. Larry Leverett tells his story of one leader with one leadership style who moves between two different school districts with very different cultures.
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by Linda Hanson
Superintendents often mourn the “good old days” when they were educators and did not need to worry about the managerial and political aspects of their districts. Linda Hanson shows how effective a superintendent can be in the role of educator as she and her reading staff help their school board understand the implications of a mandatory graduation test.
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by Paul Kelleher
Most of us at some point in our career have to face the fact that we cannot control everything that happens in our district. As we mentioned in our introduction, we learn that even logical plans implemented skillfully can meet unexpected, uncontrollable obstacles. This can have serious consequences, from the lack of achievement for students to the loss of our jobs. Our anonymous contributor shares his courageous story of holding fast to what is best for children in the face of adversity, and ultimately having to make the decision whether to fight for his job or not. NSSE has never published an anonymous contribution before, but we agreed that “Juan’s” story was too valuable not to share.
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by Rebecca van der Bogert
We found the enactment of democratic ideals to be a common theme throughout all of our authors’ stories as they describe their work to transform their districts. Becky van der Bogert shares her joys, struggles, and lessons learned that surround a deep commitment to trying to model democratic ideals in her leadership style.
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by Becky Blair Hurley
When superintendents gather in private conversations, it is likely the question “What’s your board like?” will be raised. Becky Hurley speaks eloquently from a board member’s perspective about the steep learning curve that she experienced and how she developed a productive working relationship with her superintendent and with other board members.
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by John R. Wiens
Most of us started our superintendency committed to keeping our eye on the higher purposes of education, vowing not to get bogged down in the managerial details. John Wiens shares his quest for an intellectual understanding of the role, a meaningful theory of leadership, and the creation of an environment that helped others pursue similar quests.
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by Bena Kallick
Being a superintendent is much like the new technology you purchase—the manual is difficult to read and understand, the help line is difficult to reach, and the consultation charge to learn from experts is costly. It is a job that requires enormous flexibility, attention to multiple perspectives, and an internal set of checks and balances to withstand the pressures of external demands from a public that has, in many ways, been distracted from the real purpose of a public education system.
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by Barry Jentz
In this book, school district leaders do an honest and credible job of describing their struggles with external forces and the surprises, disappointments, and puzzlements that naturally accompany those struggles. In some stories, we also see an internal focus, leaders stepping back to question “the entity”—the mind that engages the world—in an effort to gain a clearer picture of their own behavior, its consequences, and its antecedents. In other stories, however, leaders speak as if they share an unspoken assumption that the superintendent mind is an entity, stable and nonchanging, at once wise and considerate, if sometimes frustrated and perplexed. These superintendents reveal little of their own minds.
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Catch the latest video from AfterEd, the new video channel from the EdLab at Teachers College.
Global education news of the week in brief.; NCLB; international education; software; This episode explores ten interesting and little known facts about Social Studies.; social studies; humor; media; research; schools; Three seniors at Heritage High School talk about education and what the next President should do about it.; Debates; Heritage High School; NCLB; NYC schools; education; election; girls; interview; politics; presidential election; schools; speak out; students; testing; EdWorthy Theater starring MIT Physics Professor Professor Walter Lewin.; MIT; physics; We feature new content about the future of education. Put us on your website ­ whether you're a student, teacher, or educational institution, we aim to create great content that will entertain and enlighten your audience. http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1078591423http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=1079000717

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