Principals make many crucial decisions each day, often with limited information, inadequate resources and unforgiving time constraints. Further, the consequences of making a mistake on any of these decisions can be devastating for the campus, the school system or the principal themselves.
The U.S Navy SEAL axiom, “We do not rise to the occasion, but rather sink to the level of our training,” is equally applicable to principals and other campus leaders. Most leadership preparation programs fail to authentically prepare campus leaders for the crucial decision-making that is an essential part of their job.
School systems need more effective leaders, authentically developed at a faster rate, and spread throughout all levels of their organization. Which is more than most current district leadership preparation programs are scaled to produce.
District executives must commit to creating an aligned, authentic, competency-based system to recruit, select, develop, support and evaluate leaders. Otherwise, they fail to prepare their principals for the actual challenges they will encounter while leading their schools.
As the Chief Academic Officer of Life School, one of my key responsibilities is to lead, manage and support campus principals. Recognizing the inadequacy of earlier principal preparation efforts, we have pivoted toward an authentic, competency-based approach that couples real-world problem-solving with traditional leadership instruction and reflection.
During this comprehensive overhaul of our leadership preparation for principals and campus leaders, Herbert O’Neil, the Life School Director of Academics and former principal of Corsicana High School, and I created the PRIMER podcast. The podcast, which has eleven episodes available on iTunes, provides an additional avenue for us to continuously support and prepare leaders in our organization and in other school systems.
While the episodes focus on particular difficult issues for principals, the underlying theme is to encourage organizations to evaluate their own current leadership preparation efforts. If their principals and campus leaders are not able to lead and manage the way that their system needs them to perform, then how should they adjust their current development and support efforts?
We hope that the Life School PRIMER podcast and further information that we share will be beneficial for other charter and school system leaders for developing the kinds of principals that our staff and students deserve.
The mission of Life School is to train leaders with life skills for the twenty-first century by establishing strong academics, character training and a parenting program.