For more than two decades, forward-leaning educators have focused on a set of skills that
for some reason all started with the letter “C”: creativity, critical thinking, communication,
collaboration, etc. I want to add another “C” to that list, one, I would argue, that will be more
important to the world going forward than all the rest. Civility. If we don’t get this one right,
we may not have a framework in which the others will bear fruit.
In our world of uncertainty, especially for superintendents, there is
one thing we can rely on: it is not a matter of if a crisis will occur, but
when. A recent stint as an interim superintendent served as a
reminder that the job has a unique set of challenges and adequate
preparation is essential.
Over the course of this past year, we have continued to witness the innovative and compassionate response of educators across the nation as they continue to accommodate the educational and social needs of their student populations.
Five years ago, I attended my 45th high school reunion and reflected in my Blog about how the interpersonal and student-focused dynamics of high schools in the early 1970s were similar and different from the high schools I worked in—at that time—in 2017.
Today, I attended my 50th high school reunion, and it is striking what has happened in our country and across the world over the past five years.
And while I will detail some of that history in a poem below, let’s recognize that every generation feels that it is unique, and that it contributed something essential to American history and our social fabric.
The vast majority of the 250 schools I have visited over the last decade were designed and
built with little alignment to what many of use believe is the future of learning. School
communities have spent vast treasure building learning spaces that re-enforce an industrial
model of education that should have been retired thirty or more years ago.
If you are like me, this is certainly one of your favorite seasons of the year and the particular season to which I refer has little to do with the weather. On the other hand this season has everything to do with school colors, fight songs, tailgating, game-day attire, and how we structure and schedule our Saturday afternoons and evenings.
Some of the most interesting conversations about grants happen when I am on the road or in
Recently, a gentleman named Emmanuel and I started a conversation while waiting for a plane.
Naturally, I am always eager to talk about grants. But unfortunately, I hear the war stories of
those who have been too fearful even to try to seek a grant, or I hear lament from those who
refuse to run into a brick wall again.
Emmanuel runs several non-profits, so he was especially eager to hear about my work. Again, I
found myself quoting from my own book, The "How to" Grants Manual, as I tried to put grant
seeking in perspective. Quoting from my book is not challenging after authoring nine editions of
it and teaching it for 50 years.
Have I done everything I can to prepare for this school year? Have I forgotten
something that's key to keeping everyone informed? As school leaders, we are always thinking
about what we need to do next.
The Winning Grants Institute is an innovative partnership between The Akribos Group and
David G. Bauer Associates and is based on The “ How To” Grants Manual, now in its 9thedition.
The Winning Grants Institute has developed a program that results in a success rate of
approximately 50% and made it available in a cloud-based format.
This week I am visiting the venerable Tower Hill School in Delaware to share thoughts about
the status of education in a rapidly changing world, and some vision about how a leading
school might impact the big challenges ahead. I was asked to share a few examples of
schools that are really leading the way. This is always a difficult task because there are so
many, and so many I don’t even know about. Over the last decade there has been a virtual
tsunami of K-12 innovation, much of it leading towards a much more student-centric, inquiryproject-experiential learning environment. As I said back in 2012, we are re-finding what eduleaders like Montessori and Dewey knew 100+ years ago.
Here we are in spring 2022. COVID-19 is shifting from pandemic to endemic. Putin invaded a sovereign nation and revived the threat of global nuclear war. Inflation is the highest it has been in four decades. And if you have been working in schools, you are the closest to burnout you have ever been – or well past it.
School administrators and teachers have been heroic in their efforts to prop up the creaking bureaucracy of our inherited system of schooling. A system that was designed during a time when teachers and textbooks were the predominant sources of knowledge and the path after secondary school was highly predictable.
If engagement through two-way communication is part of your strategic plan, it may be time to
think critically about the tools teachers are using to reach parents. Most K-12 communication
solutions weren’t built with consideration for analytics, or administrator oversight.
Other common issues are lack of language translation, one-way mass text blasts, and robo calls
with no way for parents to return a phone call. Feature-rich parent apps may seem like the
solution, but apps only work for the parents who will download them. What results is inefficient
communication that frustrates teachers and parents alike.
For a district administrator, these issues may go unnoticed because they can be difficult to
observe. Educators are innovative–experts at making the most of the tools available to them
with little extra time. Your teachers may be using a free app with little security, a tool with no
administrator oversight, or their own cell phones to talk to parents. What are the signs that your
teachers need better tools so that parent engagement is supporting your district goals?
At The Akribos Group, we are fully committed to research-based practice and data informed
processes and solutions. In support of that commitment, we attempt to provide informative
insights and resources that support educational institutions and organizations in their efforts to
facilitate productive and efficient programming. In this edition of Thought Leader, we are
pleased to share content from our friends at SchoolStatus with a focus on data informed parent
communication for effective strategic planning.
If you are trying to change your school, this is where your efforts will be most rewarded. In Part II, we again visit the work of systems guru Donella Meadows who identifies ” ‘leverage points’ within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.” In Part I, I covered her Bottom Six, or less impactful leverage points; in this post I translate the Top Six.
Schools are complex systems. In a meaty article by systems guru Donella Meadows (HT to Tim Fish at
NAIS for sharing with me) we find that, “Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in ‘leverage points’. These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”
The Covid 19 Pandemic was declared a national emergency on March 19, 2020, and most of us would
agree that the past twenty-two months have been memorable, and unfortunately not all those
memories have been pleasant. A world-wide pandemic with resulting implications, compounded by a
highly contentious political season, has left many of us worn and weary looking for a much brighter
future. The covid experience has certainly given us multiple opportunities for personal and professional
reflection and learning and this is particularly true for those who serve in positions of leadership.
Without a doubt, many leaders find themselves in a truly defining moment, both personally and