NOTE:  For 2011-2012 the goals deadline is November 1.

Last winter we began a conversation in our Academic Committee about revising the long-standing process of faculty evaluation at St. Gregory.   There was strong interest in this revision coming from our teachers and our department chairs, and in April we made a commitment as a Committee to revamp our process.

A subgroup of the Academic Committee met in May, including department chairs, administrators, and myself, and identified some of our key concerns about the then-current process, and goals for the revision.   It was an odd time of year to start the conversation, as school was concluding for the year and summer broke thereafter, but it did work to stimulate valuable mulling for all of us over the course of those several hot months.

Our shared perception about the then-in-place process was that it was too infrequent (only every four years) for feedback, support, growth or accountability, and that it was too bureaucratic, too paper-intensive, too much a matter of jumping through hoops or checking off a checklis of required syllabi, assignments, papers graded, etc.

Our goals then, as they emerged through our discussion, became increasingly clear: a more frequent and timely process that emphasized goal-setting and growth but still ensured accountability for teaching and learning effectiveness and desired outcomes, and which minimized paperwork and other bureaucratic elements while promoting greater connectedness, communication, and transparency. (more…)

Today is Leadership Day, the day each year Scott McLeod invites educational bloggers to post their thoughts on advancing ed-tech leadership in our schools.  To quote Scott,

Many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies.  A lot of help, to be honest. As I’ve noted again and again on this blog, most school administrators don’t know

  • what it means to prepare students for the digital, global world in which we now live;
  • how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Many of them didn’t grow up with computers. Other than basic management or data analysis technologies, many are not using digital tools or online systems on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.  So let’s help them out.

For this year’s post (you can find my 2010 leadership post here), I’m taking inspiration from my very favorite pieces of writing about leadership in the past few years, Tom Peters’ 19 E’s of Excellence, which was published as part of Seth Godin’s December 2010 “What Matters Now.”  (On slide 82, Godin gives express permission to share and spread the book freely, and to “add your own ideas” to the book’s pieces.)

I pasted in a picture of the Peters piece at bottom; it hangs over my desk and informs my leadership every day.  Here I am using it as a model, both borrowing from Peters (italics are Peters) and adding extensively to offer suggestions for electronically excellent educational leaders (“eeels”). 

Please note that in every case below, the italics are direct quotes from Peters; non-italics are my own words.

The 17 E’s of Electronic Education Leadership Excellence

Experimentation: Try it, play with it, do something with it, and if it helps, do more with it.  If it doesn’t, move on to the next thing.  Whether it is social media, laptops or mobile devices in the classroom, video messages to the school community,  educational leaders will improve student learning and school environments by trying and testing digital tools to see the value they can offer.   Model learning by experiment.  (more…)

I’m very pleased to be a member of this new national organization, edleader21, a professional learning community for 21st century education leaders run by my friend and fellow Tucsonan, Ken Kay, the founder and longtime President of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

In this new video, Ken explains that “we’ve been talking for years about the need to create 21st century skills for our young people, but we haven’t really talked about another critical element, and that is how important is it to have a generation of 21st century leaders.”

The video features a set of outstanding 21st century education leaders and superintendents, including my friend Pam Moran, the superintendent of Albermarle county, Virginia, and my until-recently fellow Tucson educational leader, Elizabeth Celenia-Fagen.

In the video, Pam Moran argues passionately for 21st century learning for our students:

the reality is that old style teaching, 20th century teaching, is really over.  In this day and age,  it is kids active, kids engaged, kids being able to find out whatever they need at any moment in time in order to be able to accomplish whatever jobs they want to accomplish, whether it is in school, out of school, in careers, or in college.

Liz Fagen goes directly to leadership, asking how do we bring these important changes to our schools?

Think Big, Start Small.  When you take those best people, those early adopters, those innovators, and you put resources behind them, they will develop, they will exceed your expectations, and then from there it spreads like wildfire.

I am especially taken with the comments from Jack Dale, Superintendent of Virginia’s Fairfax county:

the breakthrough we need to make in looking at 21st century skills is not looking at them in discrete units but looking at them holistically and how well they are interconnected: What you want is leaders who think that way as well.

This is among my great passions: to support and encourage fellow educators on our shared journey to become the 21st century leaders our students need us to be.  With this in mind, it is a great pleasure to be a part of edleader21.

As some readers may know, I am in the process of seeking new employment for 2012 and beyond.  I am deeply devoted to the community of St. Gregory College Prep, and fiercely proud of what we do there.  It is hard to leave, but at the same time, I am excited about the next great opportunity to serve a school and advance 21st century learning for our students.

I am not narrow-minded in my career thinking.  Many different types of positions hold interest for me, they only need be reasonably well aligned with my passion and philosophy: advancing learning for students, especially but not exclusively secondary students, which is active and engaging, meaningful, rigorous, preparatory for our fast-changing world, digitally empowered, networked, and globally-minded.

I welcome readers to suggest to me, or suggest me to, interesting opportunities which you think might suit my interests and goals.  (On my bio page, readers can find more about me, including a current c.v.)

Among the requirements for most positions is that candidates provide a statement of educational philosophy, and I have recently updated a statement I originally prepared more than a decade ago.   I’m sharing it here, and would appreciate any feedback and suggestions for improvement readers might be willing and able to provide.  You can use the comment box, and you can always email me at  Thanks.


Statement of Educational Philosophy

June, 2011

Janus-faced we must be as educators.  Looking backwards, we preserve and perpetuate the best thoughts of human civilization and the best of our institution’s traditions; looking forward, we confront our fast-changing times, draw upon contemporary tools, and prepare our students for success in careers which don’t yet exist.

Independent schools have a long and great legacy, and it is the work of all of us who love them and care for them to both carry forward that tradition while also continuing to innovate to meet the educational demands of the new century.  Art Powell, in his book Lessons from Privilege: the American Prep School Tradition, writes that the independent school tradition has long accomplished excellence with a simple formula, which will likely serve students well for centuries: “A demanding curriculum designed for all [combined] with personal attention within small scale environments.”

At the same time, schools which are not “of the future” will not be, as NAIS President Pat Bassett says, schools “in the future.” (more…)

John Maeda is President of RISD.   His new (2011) book proclaims to be Redesigning Leadership: Design, Technology, Business, Life, but the narrative tone is far different from that grand title.

Shortly after his appointment he became quickly recognized and admired as the leading tweeting, blogging and social media proficient college or university president, and then, just as quickly, got a painful comeuppance when his faculty voted a heavy no-confidence vote in him and his presidency nearly foundered.  One has to wonder whether the book was commissioned and titled before his difficulties, and written or completed after them, such that halfway through its development Maeda’s confidence in his ability to genuinely “redesign leadership” was dramatically altered.  Indeed, at times this is almost a painful read: Maeda seems to be paying public penance for his mistakes, and we the readers are uncomfortable witnesses to it.

Ever since I’ve become President, people often approach me and ask, How are you doing?  My answer is generally a simple but honest, I’m learning.  Then comes the inevitable moment of confusion, as they were expecting the usual upbeat perspective of a CEO.  They say something like, Oh, it’s that bad?  The exchange forces me to clarify how excited I am to be a leader right now because I love to learn.  There is nothing I’d rather be doing than learning.  It often isn’t easy and I’ve made mistakes. (more…)

Thank you, all who attended our session today, and welcome all to a quick recap of our session.  The session was very well attended, and we had some terrific questions from the audience.

Some links and resources from the session:

As I noted in the session, I am building a list of school-heads and senior academic administrators who might be interested in being part of an NAIS network who wish to collaborate and communicate for the purpose of our schools in becoming true centers of 21st century learning, and Schools of the Future.  You are invited to share your interest by completing a line in this google doc spreadsheet: You can find it here. I will be following up in the next few weeks to those who sign up with ideas about next steps.

It’s awkward to write about leadership as a leader.  I write this to share not my accomplishments but my strategy of the last 20 months leading my school, the success of which remains to be seen and is for others to evaluate.

Soon I will be presenting, along with two Head of School colleagues and Ken Kay, founder and longtime President of the Partnership for 21st century skills and now of EdLeader21, on the topic of  21st Century Learning at NAIS Schools: Leading and Networking for Progress.

As part of this session, each of us will speak of our vision of leadership for progress; in preparation, this preview.

Leadership is,  more than anything else, a project of managing change.   We are living in a time of accelerating societal, technological, and global change, but our schools, many of them, are struggling to adapt to these changing times in order to provide our students an education that will be compelling, meaningful, enriching and preparatory.  Leadership is required across the educational sector to lead our schools through this transformative era.

A suggested Seven Steps for Leading in 21st century learning.

1.  Develop the Vision (and Keep Developing it).   We can’t lead if we don’t have a sense of the direction we are headed; we can’t influence change if we don’t have clarity about what that change should be.  These visions should be grounded in research and knowledge about educational practices and the unique qualities of independent institutions. Our vision must be wise, bold, and inspiring to ourselves and others: it ought to give us and our constituents purpose and passion for the challenge of educating students in the 21st century.

In this fast-changing era, our visions must be dynamic, adapting themselves to new tools and techniques, new information and understandings. Leaders must be learners: (more…)

The edu-blog awards prompted a spirited debate on twitter in recent weeks, with many arguing that those of us in education who oppose awards in our schools should oppose the edu-blog awards.  One of my favorite tweets in that conversation argued that instead of awards, we in the blogging community should instead write a list of our favorite blogs.   I was inspired.

As an aside, I do not oppose supporting my students in seeking external awards: I love to see them compete and triumph outside my school community, and I like to celebrate their successes in doing so.   What I worry about, though, is that internal awards, where our students’ teachers select “favorites” among them, is potentially damaging to the strength of our school community. So with that as my standard, I don’t see such a conflict in bloggers who oppose in-school awards celebrating their edu-blogger award nominations.

The problem with any list is once you start it is hard to know how to stop.    There will inevitably be many fine blogs left off a list like this, so I offer my apologies to any potential exclusions in advance.  This list is is no particular order whatsoever.

1. Peter Papas is a former public school educator, now consultant, who blogs at Copy/Paste: Dedicated to Relinquishing Responsibility for Learning to the Students.   The sub-title alone represents its point of view compellingly; this is a great blog.  Peter seems to publish 5-10 times a month, and he is unafraid to write lengthy, thoughtful, academic posts which really inform as they inspire.   Copy-Paste has great themes which resonate closely with my own writing, but with sharper analysis and more thorough elucidation.     Some excellent recent posts include

2. David Truss is the independent school (international independent, in Dalian, China) administrator whose blog I currently most admire; he writes at Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts. He posts 2-5 times a month; he writes about his school-work and his educational philosophy interchangeably;  and he uses images powerfully.  He is also unafraid to write at length.     Some recent posts I admired include:

3. George Couros, a Canadian public school principal,  is a great inspiration to me, both for his work as architect and soul of Connected Principals and for his individual blog, The Principal of Change.   (more…)

The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently ran a valuable piece containing many inspiring anecdotes of university successes entitled “How to Build a Perception of Greatness.”    In it, they “outline some principles of slowly and sustainably building a perception of greatness,” drawing upon examples at dozens of colleges and universities.   It bears to reason though that some of these principles might also apply to K-12 schools.    Four of these principles follow:

Playing to your Strengths. It may be an obvious one to begin with, but as the article notes, “many colleges have been reluctant to focus on just a few strengths.”   The reporting they collect at the Chronicle suggests though that as hard as it is, it is powerful: “identify unique or distinctive strengths and put resources into those, perhaps at the expense of others.”

Examples include Ball State’s immersive learning program, which requires students to complete projects for practice experience, and Northeastern’s required cooperative-education program.   “Even elite universities can end up diminishing and diluting the impact of their programs by refusing to highlight a few.”

This is old news, but still valuable: Know your school’s strengths, invest in them, develop them further, and become the best school you can be in those ways. (more…)

Good evening:

Thank you for attending this session, and thank you everyone at NYSAIS, especially arvind, Alex, and Barbara for inviting me.   I want to open with a quote:

In this day and age, many schools incorrectly view successful education as an extremely complex process, but
the formula for a really first rate education is relatively simple: put highly qualified, caring faculty, and eager, bright youth together in a personalized setting with a robust curriculum – and let things happen.

There are plenty of sentimental reasons to appreciate this quote.   Some truths about excellence in learning are timeless, and I think we can still learn enormously from Socrates and Aristotle.   But my suggestion is that if you accept this idea whole-heartedly, you are welcome to head over to the bar early– go ahead and get yourself a drink.

I believe the world is not just flat, the world is spinning: faster and faster, and that schooling can not rely on the simple formulas of the past:

  • because what our students need to learn is changing,
  • because our understanding of how learning works is changing,
  • because the technology which enhances learning is changing. (more…)


To learn. Like many others, I read books and articles, attend conferences, workshops and trainings, and visit other schools in order to learn more about best practices and innovative new approaches.    But I know about myself that I will retain much more, and be much better able to draw upon and use that information in the future, if I write while I am learning, if I record the main ideas I am learning in writing, and if I reflect upon them.   So I write to learn, and if I am writing about these ideas anyway, I figure, why not share these writings.

To model learning. I think that educational leaders should publicly demonstrate that we too are learning and we too love learning: chiefs of learnings need to be chief learners.   Blogging is a great way to display the ways in which I too, like our students, am trying regularly to learn.

To share. Like all principals and school heads, I often speak (separately) to students, teachers, and parents, and sometimes it seems that what I say might be of interest to other constituencies or those who could not attend.   My blog is a great way of making these remarks available for everyone.

To showcase my school. There are so many things about my school I am proud of and which I want others to know more about so they will more strongly appreciate and admire my school (and perhaps choose to attend it).  My blog is a way to share great things happening here at school.  I can re-post the syllabus for a cool new class, write up what is said by teachers about their courses at Curriculum Night, or publish fine student work. (more…)


My contribution to Leadership Day, 2010:

I have had the incredibly good fortune (for which I am so grateful) to be an educational leader for 13 years now, but only in the past several years have I sought to be come an educational leader– and it’s been a great ride, one I wish all my school leadership colleagues will take!  Here is a smattering of thoughts on techniques for 21st century ed leadership, with one most important message: today more than ever, leadership is about learning, and those of us who aim to lead learning must be ourselves Chief Learners in order to be Chiefs of Learning.

Focus on yourself.   You must become the change you wish to see in your schools.  Unfortunately, this can be hard if we are, as I think I was, trapped in a fixed mindset.  Carol Dweck’s book Mindset was critical to me; she explains how there are only two mindsets, fixed and growth, and many of us, students and even more so adults, are trapped in a fixed mindset.  In this, we think we are what we have been, and cannot become something different.  We think that to seek to grow, to learn, to change will demonstrate weakness, flaws, or failings.  We think that if we have not been, in our past, digitally savvy, then we cannot change ourselves.  But if we take Dweck and adopt a growth mindset, there is nothing we cannot become.

Having adopted a growth mindset and made the pledge to learn and grow, start learning.  Reframe your own self-image as Principal, Head or Superintendent; you are not just Chief of Learning but you are Chief Learner, you are Learner in Chief.

Learning is not just about reading more widely, or attending more conferences (though those aren’t bad ideas).   We must also learn in the field, visiting other schools with all the frequency we can possibly find, and make it a priority to do so.   Visit widely, and do your research: where are the schools that are doing the kind of work you most want to do in your own schools. (more…)