Local school councils need better training, too

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Congratulations on a strong examination of the crucial issue of principal leadership. Elizabeth Duffrin and the other Catalyst (October 2000) writers did a thorough job of addressing the qualities that go into good principal leadership, while recognizing the challenging context within which Chicago’s principals do an incredibly difficult job.

I also appreciate your printing the observations of local school councils (LSC) supporters, including myself, regarding proposed changes to the system for training and supporting principals. The article captured the sense that while there isn’t total agreement on everything–there never will be–there is a growing willingness among key constituencies to come together to hammer out needed changes to support people who work in and around local schools. That’s how problems are solved and how schools get better.

I would like to have seen a more extensive examination of how the interlocking leadership roles of principal, LSC and faculty come into play at the local level. As you know, research shows that LSCs also are important factors in the local leadership equation. Sadly, councils too often are overlooked as sources of leadership in their school communities or pigeonholed as a feel-good afterthought, as in “Oh yeah, parent involvement. That’s very important too.”

We need to move beyond this. Al Bertani was right to suggest that we can do more to support LSCs in the important decision of principal selection. The PENCUL and EXCEL projects are good starts. But the larger issue is building LSC capacity to be effective in all issues they handle–from governance to supporting good teaching. The system for developing LSCs should be as comprehensive and well supported as the systems for developing good principals and teachers.

Luckily, a lot of people understand this. Last summer, more than 50 leaders from all sectors–education, community, business, advocacy and government–came to an LSC Training Dialogue organized by the Chicago School Leadership Cooperative to reexamine the crucial issue of LSC training. There was strong consensus to explore systemic changes to mobilize new resources to improve the accessibility, accountability and quality of training, such as creating a public/private LSC Training Institute. This conversation has led to action; responding to CPS’ gracious invitation to re-engage independent partners in LSC training, numerous groups have pitched in. In addition to doing their own training, they are helping organize an “LSC Training Day” that will be held Dec. 9 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (For more information, call us at 312-499-4800.)

Parent needs and the overall school change environment have evolved dramatically since the first generation LSCs got involved. The system for supporting these important leaders needs to evolve with them. The time is right to establish a broader menu of consistent, high quality LSC training.

I believe a well-supported, active council can be a school’s most exciting asset. I urge CATALYST to keep looking for new ways to cover LSCs as an important piece of the leadership triad of principals, teachers and community. Congratulations again on a strong issue.

Andrew G. Wade, executive director
Chicago School Leadership Cooperative

You got issues right, my affiliation wrong

I want to commend you and your staff for the features on Instructional Leadership contained in the October 2000 issue of Catalyst. From my point of view, you focused on a number of critical issues for Chicago’s school and system leaders–effective instructional leadership at the school level, professional development for school leaders, accountability as an instruction and school improvement process, and those obstacles faced by principals as instructional leaders. Your chronicle of Arline Hersh in ‘Half the Day Is and In-Out Basket’ brilliantly captured fragmentation, frenetic pace, and moral challenges faced by Chicago principals on a daily basis.

While I applaud your reporting, I must also set the record straight on one matter associated with the quotes to me. I am not and have never been a spokesperson for the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. My affiliation should have been linked to CLASS–Chicago Leadership Academies for Supporting Success–where I serve as the senior executive director of leadership development.

Albert Bertani, Ed.D., senior executive director
CLASS–Chicago Leadership Academies for Supporting Success

Thank you for sharing the challenges we face

I wish to thank Catalyst and especially Associate Editor Elizabeth Duffrin for the article in the October issue, following the workday of a Chicago Public School principal. Other than giving my age in the introduction, I was most pleased with the article and the objectivity in which it displayed an especially hectic day at the George Armstrong School.

I have received many calls from my colleagues regarding the article, and they all were appreciative of the fact that the many duties, jobs and emergencies we deal with on a daily basis were highlighted. The use of a timeline was especially effective.

Again, thank you for sharing my day with the Chicago educational community.

Arline K. Hersh, principal
George Armstrong School