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MASA Leader - Fall 2016

MASA Feature Educational leadership is not easy. Everyone can do it better than you, but no one wants your job! In Jim Collins’ comple-mentary book to his bestseller, Good to Great, he refers to the complexity of social sector leadership, including schools. Collins confesses that leadership in systems where all of the variables can’t be controlled is the toughest of all leadership challenges; educational leadership may be one of the most difficult. I believe the secret to success in leading educational systems to success is found in creating, building, and monitoring an effective vision for the future. As a teacher, building adminis-trator, local superintendent, and intermediate school district superintendent for the past 25 years, I’ve seen too many K-12 educational institutions just surviving until the next count day by doing what we did last year. We can, and should, do better for our students, staff, communi-ties, and taxpayers. The more laser-focused a school system can be, the more support, progress, and success it will have over the long haul. A school system will not be successful without a focused vision. Vision Casting Leadership requires purpose, conviction, and a vision of where you and your customers want to go. The leader has an important role in casting the vision for the institution. Communities, schools, staff, and students will help support that vision if they know where their district is headed, the plan on how to get there, and what the desired outcomes are at the end of the journey. Information is the key to putting together a good vision that makes sense to all parties, provides a positive future, and inspires others to join in the journey; if they help paddle the boat in the same direction — that’s even better! Obtaining quality information to form the vision needs three parts to be successful: • Collection; • Analysis; and • Synthesis. Data is your friend when it comes to vision casting. 16 MASA LEADER • Fall 2016 Collection of Data Today’s technology makes gathering useful information easier than it was 10 years ago. Simple and inexpensive survey tools, like Zoomerang and SurveyMonkey, can quickly gather impor-tant data to begin the discussion of where the institution should go. Inexpensive doesn’t always ensure quality. Spend extra time making sure all surveys are short (no more than 10 questions), open-ended for feedback, and collect the specific data you are seeking. Since the district’s vision will only be as good as the data that is collected, paying an outside service to gather additional anecdotal data through interviews, focus groups, community meetings, etc., will often be worth the extra expense. Nothing is more demoralizing than climbing the ladder that is put on the wrong wall! Using contact systems—such as e-mails, direct mailings, and district newsletters—can point students, staff, and community members to surveys, websites, and social media contact points to share their thoughts. The pools of potential data sources are endless, so focus on the most effective data that will help form the correct vision. Student achievement history, economic forecasts, population trends, etc., need to be included in the discussion. In all cases, make sure all of the data is easily accessible on your website for those who want to view the journey as it occurs. Analysis of Data As with gathering data, outside experts can help shape your surveys and anecdotal data, and can also assist with analyzing the mountain of data that will be collected. Leadership Through Vision By Dr. Curtis Finch


MASA Leader - Fall 2016
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