Managing effectively through challenging times was just one of the timely and thought-provoking topics that school superintendents from Mobile, Montgomery, and other Alabama schools districts explored earlier this month at Superintendent Leaders Network (SLN) retreats around the state.
More than 40 of Alabama’s superintendents are members of SLN, a professional development program provided in collaboration by the A+ Alabama Best Practices Center and the School Superintendents of Alabama. The innovative, interactive program, which is underwritten with a generous grant from The Malone Family Foundation, focuses on strategic thinking and is designed to strengthen student achievement by developing and empowering quality school leaders.
In addition to the planned curriculum, superintendents at each retreat sat down with some of Alabama’s most successful business leaders to share management perspectives and explore ideas for more effectively managing their schools, especially in these economically challenging times.
“I was able to network with my colleagues and other experts in leadership positions through my participation in SLN. This networking, along with the valuable literature and presentations, enabled me to grow professionally as well as provide our Vestavia Hills Leadership Team with quality professional development activities. By sharing the books I read and the ideas I gained during our SLN sessions, our leadership team gained new ideas and insights that will help us to continue to provide a 21st century education for our students.” – Jamie Blair, Superintendent, Vestavia Hills City Schools
Numerous studies conducted during the past decade conclusively affirm the strong connection between strong school leadership and strong student achievement. According to University of Minnesota educator and researcher Kyla Wahlstrom, co-author of the 2010 report, Learning from Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning, “The rubber hits the road in the classroom; that’s where the learning happens. Leadership is important because it sets the conditions and the expectations in the school that there will be excellent instruction and there will be a culture of ongoing learning for the educators and for the students in the school.”
Wahlstrom’s report, released last summer, outlines the findings of a $3.5 million study conducted over six years. During the study, which was funded by The Wallace Foundation, researchers conducted more than 1,000 interviews, surveyed more than 8,000 teachers and administrators, and observed in more than 350 classrooms at all grade levels.
“With current constraints on state and district budgets, this research is all the more timely; the case is stronger than ever for investing in better leadership to improve schools and bring benefits to all students,” said Edward Pauly, director of research and evaluation at The Wallace Foundation.