The current issue of the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) magazine, Independent School, is entitled “Evolution or Revolution: The Pace of Change in our Schools.”   It is a terrific issue, and has many great pieces, several of which I intend to write about in future posts.    (read to bottom (more) to see the section of this issue highlighting our own work at St. Gregory). 

One especially interesting article, both in general and to us at St. Gregory, is by Ted Fish, calling for “Teaching Leadership to All: The Educational Challenge of our Times.

At no other point in our history have the choices we’ve made had the potential to create such a deep and lasting imprint upon so many others, or cause so much harm. In such a world, developing good leaders has never mattered more.

Ted has a stake in this enterprise, as he is the executive director of Gardner Carney Leadership Institute, which teaches teachers to teach leadership.   In the piece, he sets out a useful, interesting set of strands for guiding the development of leadership learning in K-12 learning.

These three strands define a simple map for how we can teach leadership in our schools:

  • Leadership is concerned with taking courageous action, so students need practice taking risks and making mistakes.
  • Leadership is tied to caring and the betterment of others, so students need practice understanding the emotions of others and developing empathy. (more…)


Among the most exciting initiatives of the past two years at our school has been our new annual Youth Leadership and Innovation Summit, presented with support from Providence Corporation.  For this event we invite principals and youth leaders from across Tucson to nominate outstanding 7th graders to come to our campus for an 8 hour Saturday workshop.

On April 2 fifty nine seventh graders from 20 Tucson middle schools came to St. Gregory College Preparatory School for the second annual Leadership and Innovation Summit. During the day the students participated in a variety of sessions demonstrating the how leadership and innovation are woven into our lives.  The hands-on activities taught the student how they too are able to unlock their own potential in these areas with a greater awareness of their abilities and a bit of creativity.

I hope you enjoy the video about the day, produced by St. Gregory student Derek Jobst’13.

Good afternoon Graduates, Students, Trustees, Parents, and Friends: welcome.We are very happy you are all here to share in this celebration of the accomplishments and unique qualities of the 35 fine members of our graduating class of 2011.Let me begin by quoting one of our graduates sitting in front of me today, from a KGUN Channel 9 interview last September at the Tucson Ethnic Extravaganza
we are here to advocate for all students being able to learn about an ethnicity and its history: this is about a privilege that I enjoy at my school, St. Gregory,  and which I feel every student should share: the freedom of knowledge.
For this purpose and ideal, Aubri Romero and Jacob Valdez, advised by Dr. Berry,  took the initiative to make a difference for our community by organizing a community-wide rally downtown. They had to overcome significant challenges,  but they persevered and did it the way they believed they could make the most difference, and it was a great success.What is especially meaningful to me about this particular action is what they were fighting for:  better education for all.   They sought to empower fellow students, and to improve our society, by influencing what and how their fellow students learn.They know that Education empowers; learning matters.Yes, this always been true, but it has never been more true. (more…)

I shared this with our upper school student body last week, in a continuing series of TED talks for student assemblies, ( which I think is the greatest thing since email).

Simon Sinek tells us of an extremely simple and extremely powerful strategy for leadership and commercial success: to tell Why first? All people need to follow you, and follow you passionately, is to know why you do what you do, and to believe in it.  The what doesn’t matter nearly so much once people believe in the why.

Martin Luther King was so successful because he shared his dream: his followers knew why he was calling and working for change, and the followed him.    Apple, the computer company, shares its vision for why they are a company: to disrupt the status quo, Sinek explains, and that is its secret sauce, not its quality products; this is in contrast to TiVo, he says, which has a similarly quality product but hasn’t explained why consumers would want it.

Myself, I am conflicted about the success of the talk.   I think his historical examples are less than convincing: both Apple and TiVo have had, over their histories, plenty of ups and downs on the roller coaster of the stock market and consumer adoption. (more…)


We are pleased at St. Gregory to announce and share our new opportunity for our high school students, diplomas in Leadership and Innovation .  As described in the slides above, the program allows those students who wish to go further in their leadership or innovation education can do so by pursuing one of these two diplomas in a program which functions in a way somewhat akin to a college major.

St. Gregory’s motto is to “Create Leaders and Innovators,” and I’m certainly confident that the school has long done exactly this, and that in recent years the school has taken very excellent steps forward in doing so even better.   Our school will continue to do so for all our students, and we will work to ensure that this new opportunity for some students to go further or deeper doesn’t in any way result in any diminished such education for all other students.

This program has a few parallels at other schools around our continent.  A particular inspiration for our initiative has been the Global Studies diploma offered by Providence Day School, which I first learned about at an NAIS conference in Chicago, two years ago. (more…)

Remarks to the Student Body.

Leadership has always been one of the core purposes of a St. Gregory education.

Your teachers have always believed that they are supporting you in developing the confidence, the thinking skills, the organization, the principles, and the character necessary that you as students can become leaders, today and tomorrow: here while you are still students and out in the larger world after you graduate.

Now I know that some of you embrace this, and want to pursue leadership.   You see yourselves as being leaders in the ways we most easily imagine: the Boss of a company, the Coach of a sports team, a General in the Army, the Pilot of a plane.  [Softly] I always wanted to Captain Kirk as a kid.

But some of you don’t envision such a future—you imagine yourself as a veterinarian, perhaps, or community service worker, or a parent, or a nurse, or  a scientist—and I fear that you think that maybe when we talk about leadership, you think we are talking only about someone else, not about you.

But I want to argue otherwise.  I think that we can and should interpret leadership very broadly and I think there are aspects of leadership which all of you can and should develop. (more…)

Good Evening.

We are graced tonight by the presence of many educational leaders; it is an honor to welcome them.

Among them are

  • our speaker, former University of Arizona President Dr. John Schaefer;
  • former St. Gregory Head of School Bill Creeden;
  • both the former and current Heads of Green Fields Country Day School, Rick Belding and Matt Teller;
  • our own Board of Trustees, and our fine faculty;
  • and perhaps most importantly, a founder of three schools in three states, including St. Gregory, Mrs. Bazy Tankersely.

Leadership, like everything else, is fast changing in the 21st century.   The military is overhauling its philosophy and practice of leadership, as I have heard this year from my new Tucson friends who are Air Force officers; it realizes we must place a higher priority on flexibility, initiative, creativity than ever before, and that command has become more about influencing than directing others.

Author Dan Pink published this year Drive, a book demanding the complete reinvention of management; he calls upon us to place autonomy, mastery, and purpose at the paramount goals of each and every work-place and institution.

Similarly, in his recent book Tribes, the brilliant Seth Godin explains that

The power of this new era is simple: if you want to, or need to, or mus,  lead then you can.  Every leader I have met shares one thing and one thing only: the decision to lead.

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in.  Paint a picture of the future.  Go there.  People will follow.”

These developments in leadership have been anticipated for many years by educational leaders:  the best schools and universities have always been places where principals, headmasters, and presidents have chosen to lead in ways that honor and celebrate the individuality of their followers.

School leaders know our role is

  • to unleash, not constrain,  by respecting the value and significance of autonomy; (more…)

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Often I have written here about St. Gregory’s long-standing commitment to leadership education, and that this year, we have taken that commitment to the next level with the formation of our new leadership institute.  A week ago we hosted our first annual Providence Corporation Youth Leadership Summit, a 12 hour leadership development program for nearly 70 attending seventh graders, representing 2o different Tucson-area schools, each of which nominated their outstanding 7th grade leaders as representatives.   The video tells the rest of the story.