On Friday, September 14, I attended a seminar on “Coaching to the Core,” a new form of Executive Coaching for the building principals in the state of Iowa. I think it is a great idea but as Dr. Troyce Fisher put it, “we need you to be our critical friends and tell us how to make it better.” First of all, I was honored to be invited to this gathering of leaders from the education field within our state and as the day went on, some questions arose.
When I chose to enter into the superintendency, a good friend, who also does school audits for about 60 schools in Iowa, told me that there are two types of superintendents, those who are finance people and those who are educational people. I have always tried to be an educational person. What I mean is that understanding school finance is certainly a prerequisite for this position but sometimes, we superintendents worry about finance more than we should instead of worrying about school improvement. I have always tried to be an instructional leader to the building principals with whom I work. I have told that to our principals here in Pleasantville. The concept of the Executive Coaches is to hire retired principals or superintendents to serve in this capacity. I hope that these coaches work with the resident superintendents to work together to make our principals stronger. I worry that the local superintendent will be left out of the mix and I hope that does not happen.
My other concern is that the plan starts to begin with principals in low achieving schools. I would also like to see first or second year principals be involved with this coaching. While I believe that the low achieving schools might need some executive coaching, they might not as well. It was never really discussed or shared as to how the schools would be classified but some of our best schools in this state are listed on the SINA list due to different circumstances. By involving our newer (and younger) principals, we can help to mold them into the instructional leaders they want to become. If you believe in the concept of Deming’s Continuous Improvement model, shouldn’t all principals be involved in some sort of coaching? I do understand the concept that you have to start somewhere, and the first cohort of 100 principals is a great start. I just hope that all principals will have a chance to be involved in this activity that will help them all grow. As the old saying goes, “A rising tide raises all boats.”
I do believe this is a great idea and the time has come for us to work with all levels of educators. There has been a lot of attention given to improving the quality of teachers in the classroom, but leadership is vitally important as well. Developing the leadership traits of our building principals is a tremendous idea and I salute the School Administrators of Iowa, the Wallace Foundation and the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) for joining forces to develop this concept. Job well done gang.