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Public School Turnaround: Principal Hero Against All Odds

Posted by Grace Lee on Aug 27, 2012 11:30:00 PM

Principal Hero

He moved his family to unknown territory, against the advice of others, following a leader in whom he has utmost confidence. They were assembling a team of unusually gifted professional educators who had the courage and the stamina to attack a school system with a long history of suffocating bureaucracy and shattered dreams. This city needs leaders. This neighborhood needs hope. These children need dreams.

Principal Hero

He's now the principal of a turnaround school, where most of the students are years behind in reading, writing, and math. It's not just bad--it's one of the worst. Lots of people complain about the reform needed in public schools, but he's willing to do something about it. At first the neighbors in the community don't trust him, an outsider brought in to replace long-time teachers. These local hearts will change with consistent results and intentional relationships. He's an expert in both.

He faces overwhelming odds that predict failure. According to The Fordham Foundation's report, Are Bad Schools Immortal?, the probability of accomplishing the turnaround of a public district school is less than 2%. (Charter school turnarounds fare no better, so far) Still he maintains an optimistic spirit with confidence that this time will be different. It has to be. These people have suffered long enough. These children deserve a better chance, and he's the man to do it.

He's familiar with the territory, having grown up in similar circumstances of high poverty and crime. Broken family, broken rules, broken spirit--all overcome with a determination to pursue a better plan.  He became a scholar, earning his undergraduate degree, a masters, and now a PhD. With this background he speaks from experience in counseling the young men at school. He has become the role model for them to follow.  

He has hired a whole new team to lead the turnaround campaign. The newbies bring different levels of experience, but all share an enthusiasm for the challenge and the credentials to deliver on the promise. The reinvented school and new district have experienced some chaos assimilating the faculty into a new paradigm of governance, management, and instruction. Success will favor those teachers who are flexible, share well, have a coachable attitude, and enthusiastically work hard for the goal. Like the apex of Mt Everest, few make it to the top and some die trying. 

He aspires to be a superintendent one day. Accomplishing this turnaround goal will be an important result for his resume. His competitive spirit keeps him motivated to pursue his dreams, but he's careful to bring others along with him. Team is important, recognizing the value and strengths of others. Loyalty is one of his most prominent traits, and it is returned. Top district leadership is certainly in the future, but first things first.

Our prayers go out to the Principal Hero.

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