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Mentoring Matters for Superintendents: April 2019

Leadership-life Fit—Meditative Moment 


Prioritize these three practices to enhance your leadership-life fit!


Six Strategies to Address the Teacher Shortage

Gallup Education consultant Tim Hodges, in consideration of the data collected from superintendent surveys, explains how best to recruit and retain quality teachers. 


Hodges encourages school leaders to look for three specific talents when hiring: 

  1. Driven – effective teachers are driven to ensure their students succeed.

  2. Organized – effective teachers plan effectively and create an engaging learning environment that supports all learners.

  3. Relationship-focused – effective teachers can cultivate and maintain quality relationships with students, colleagues, administrators, parents, and the community. They care!


He then offers six strategies for identifying and hiring for talent: 

  1. Review your current hiring practices and policies—are they getting you what you want? (Charles City has delved deeply into the study of human capital and has a Hiring and Selection Handbook you may find helpful—access it here (scroll down the page).

  2. Do you have a “teacher pipeline”? What grow-your-own strategies have you implemented? Do you offer a teaching internship?

  3. What evidence influences your hiring process? Do you use multiple measures and include those that reveal the talent and disposition of your candidates? 

  4. Create consistency in hiring practices across the district so that wherever a teacher may land or whoever might serve as the principal, the expectations are clear.

  5. Gallup data show that employee engagement is a leading predictor of retention—what does your culture say about your district? How are you building a positive working environment?

  6. Support and develop your teachers throughout the course of their careers—Iowa's TLC provides a great opportunity for teachers to stay in your district and advance in their careers.

Read the full article that appeared in NAESP's Principal, March/April 2019. 


Couple Your Improvement Plan with a Strategy to Get Real Results 


In her article published in this month’s Phi Delta KappanIsobel Stevenson explains why an improvement plan is not enough — you need a strategy.  


Stevenson argues that current school improvement plans lack concrete, specific details about the “how” of the plan—the strategy. For example, it might be the case that the TLC plan in my district says that PLC leaders will facilitate their team meetings and submit minutes. The plan also directs instructional coaches to meet with teachers. However, it doesn'include specifics regarding what those PLC leaders will DO during the meetings or what the work of the coaches is in coaching teachers—what are the coaches to DO? Consequently, we arrive at the end of the year and we do not see the changes we had hoped for, so we claim the plan has failed or is not working. What we don’t really know is what happened when the PLC’s met or when teachers and coaches worked together. Absent any data regarding implementation, how can we really know if the plan is ineffective? Where do we miss the mark in writing our school improvement plans and how can we create more effective, impactful ones? 


Stevenson points to several typical mistakes in improvement planning: 

  • We confuse the product with the process. Our focus becomes creating the action plan and the format that plan should take (e.g. SMART goal, Theory of Action) rather than how we will implement the plan and what that implementation should look like. 

  • Under pressure of time, we follow a template and work quickly to get the plan written and check it off the list. What we need is time to clarify what roles staff will play in implementing the plan, what the work of each looks like, and how it can be supported, especially when barriers arise. 

  • We operate on assumptions about what will work and are unrealistic about the potential challenges inherent in any initiative. 

  • We try to do too much, and we underestimate the time required for each project or initiative. 

  • We are not specific about who will do what. 

  • We underestimate the professional learning that will be needed to change practice and the time that will take. 


The path forward, Stevenson claims, includes six essential conditions that can be captured in the form of a one-page chart strategy map (see annotated template by Stevenson below): 


  1. The strategy chosen will lead to attainment of the goal.

  2. The line of causation from what student behaviors we will see to what teacher behaviors will create those student behaviors to what teacher leader behaviors will support the teacher behaviors to what building leadership will look like in support of the teachers and finally, what central office leadership will look like, sound like, be like to influence/support the principal and building leadership is clearly explained.

  3. The steps involved are sufficiently detailed.

  4. Educators with roles in implementing the strategy are clear about what they will do and how they will do it.

  5. The learning that is required in order for educators to do what they are being asked to do is described–everyone involved has a personalized learning plan!

  6. For each column (see image below), evidence of progress is specified.



Tool 8 of the Iowa Professional Development Model can also be helpful to districts in describing strategy and articulating the details of how a plan will be enacted. 


Stevenson’s Strategy Map tool is straightforward and encourages thorough processing of each stage of an improvement plan. Learn more details by reading the full article.  


Communication as Both the Problem and the Solution 


When a board member was communicating directly with district employees and airing their grievances at board meetings in disregard of protocol and policy, this superintendent implemented these key strategies. 


In collaboration with the board president, the superintendent introduced a protocol for communication that included the following: 

  • A board workshop in which the role of board members was defined and expectations were established regarding positive communication among board members, district personnel and the community.  

  • Adoption of a board policy on communication. 

  • A weekly email update from the superintendent providing that week’s district information update as well as details about the superintendent’s work and focus that week; additional emails as needed to address situations that arose. 

  • A promotional brochure developed by the district to introduce the board, shed a positive light on their work, and explain policies and practices related to public participation in a meeting. 

  • Weekly, staff-specific updates. 

  • Opportunities for staff to provide input regarding upcoming district decisions. 


The author notes effective, transparent communication is the key to a positive leadership experience. 


Read the full article by Terre Davis in AASA’s School Administrator. 


Monthly checklist

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!