By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development”. - John C. Maxwell
Happy Summer! Though the past year has been challenging in many unexpected ways, there were many accomplishments to celebrate in the end. I know watching my daughter, Emma, walk across the stage at SPAC last month to receive her high school diploma brought a sigh of relief and a sense of validation that all of the trials and tribulations were worth it. Now, we face the unknown again, as Emma leaves for college in a few weeks.
School leaders face their own set of unknowns again this Fall as schools are faced with the uncertainty of federal, state and local guidelines for social distancing, mask wearing and vaccinations. Additionally, the experiences of students and teachers during the past year will inform how schools approach teaching and learning. Will Social Emotional Learning (SEL) be integrated into daily instruction? How will the recent focus on diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) challenge school cultures, and how will educators respond to the wide range of community reactions that have been recently experienced in a number of area school districts. The challenges ahead are many and complex, and sustainable solutions will require extraordinary leadership at all levels.
This third quarter edition of the CASDA Quarterly Newsletter begins with a quote from John Maxwell regarding the importance of leadership development and ends with a quote from Warren Bennis warning of the dangers of mythologizing leaders and leadership. Maxwell’s assertion is straightforward, yet, often leadership development is sacrificed for attention to day-to-day crisis management. Bennis sounds an alarm about a trap leaders fall into and organizations promulgate. Once hired, leaders are expected to be everything to everyone. Rugged individuals who alone can solve the myriad of complex problems faced by an organization. This dangerous thinking results in many leaders experiencing burnout, disillusionment and failure. It doesn't have to be this way.
CASDA has been providing coaching, mentoring and group support for leaders in the region for 72 years. Case in point, in May of 1999, CASDA published a document, Celebrating 50 Years of Service to the Community, a look back at the role CASDA played in supporting school districts in the region. The page dedicated to Innovative Programs and Partnerships for CASDA noted, “One of CASDA’s largest grants was funded through the Federal Education Department to establish the Leadership in Educational/Administration Development Center (LEAD)”. The LEAD Center, initially funded in 1985 for three years with an additional two years of funding added, had a profound impact on leadership development in the region. Among its many accomplishments, the Center “implemented a comprehensive program of professional development for current and aspiring administrators, particularly in urban areas, and with special attention to issues of gender.” These efforts spawned the CASDA-supported Greater Capital Region Principals Center, CASDA’s Urban Principals Roundtable and NYSAWA, the New York State Association of Women Administrators.
In the early 1990’s there were 17 New York State Principals’ Centers - 10 in the New York City area, three in the Hudson Valley, which included CASDA, three in central New York and one in Western New York. According to the publication, The New York State L.E.A.D.er, the Principals’ Centers were a network designed to provide a voice for practicing leaders around the state. The LEAD Center facilitated Select Seminars on topics like Women in Educational Administration, the Preparation of School Leaders, and Needs of Beginning Principals, to name a few.
Today, 22 years after the 50th Anniversary publication, CASDA continues to support leadership development throughout the region. The Principals’ Center Board, which began operation in 1986, continues to support building leaders throughout the region. In 2020-2021, the Principals’ Center Board was instrumental in facilitating CASDA’s Principals Collaborative, a monthly meeting held in partnership with Capital Region BOCES that provided a space for building leaders to discuss, share experiences and problem-solve around current educational challenges. CASDA continues to successfully work with school districts through Administrative Coaching Technical Assistance projects. We are supporting several districts throughout the region by assigning seasoned veteran educators to support the leadership development of new-to-the-profession and new-to-the-role leaders. Our work in the City School District of Albany, Mohonasen Rotterdam School District, Mechanicville City School District, Green Island Union Free School District and other districts has had a profound impact on the development of many new leaders.
I will end by referencing a blog post I have written for this newsletter. To summarize the post, I urge school districts to invest in the coaching/mentoring and ongoing needs of their building and district leaders. Transformative leadership is crucial to the success of every organization. I urge you to consider coaching for new leaders and veteran leaders changing roles. The times are challenging, leadership is complex and every leader can benefit from the guidance of an experienced coach. CASDA is ready to support your district’s leadership development needs!
“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born”. - Warren Bennis