Relationships, The Driver of Change

Superintendents that are impactful see relationships as the foundation of what drives change and improvement. Relationships, whether between students and teachers, principals and teachers, themselves and principals, or the staff and community, are seen as tremendously important. This is because they build intrinsic accountability among everyone and create an environment that supports learning due to the fact that people feel respected and see themselves as critical to the improvement process. The various successes such superintendents’ districts achieve are intentionally used to support positive relational dynamics and, in turn, help them move to the next area in which they see a need to improve.

The converse of positive relationships, when poor attention is given to relationship development, is seen as a reason for why innovations fail to succeed. Personal commitment ends up being lacking from the people who matter most to the implementation side of a decision. Adept superintendents see it as no surprise when decisions fail under such conditions, because the people involved did not feel respected or valued in the decision-making process.

Because of this belief in collective efficacy, skilled superintendents intentionally build positive relationships within both the organization and the community at large because they believe it is an essential part of making sustainable decisions that are likely to succeed. They find ways to work with the surrounding community and develop business partnerships. Most will intentionally meet with external stakeholder groups and develop partnerships centered on the academic well-being of their schools. This approach also folds into how they attentively foster a healthy dynamic between themselves and the elected representatives of the community, the Board of Trustees. A supportive, collaborative relationship with the Board is found to be essential. By cultivating a solid, ongoing relationship with their Trustees, successful superintendents feel empowered to do the hard work of improvement.

Results orients superintendents thus view relationships as a foundational piece to the improvement process. Strong relationships make change possible because trust becomes inherently ingrained within the system. From the students knowing their teachers care about them personally, to the district leader with the supportive Board of Trustees, the relationships become the "grease that drives change" when challenging issues or tough decisions are faced.

Connections & Resources

The following indicators in the WISE Tool (Idaho's online planning tool) would make for natural connections for superintendents who are considering making plans related to this topic.

IA01 The district includes municipal and civic leaders in district and school improvement planning and maintains regular communication with them. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IA02 The district includes community organizations in district and school improvement planning and maintains regular communication with them. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IA03 The district includes parent organizations in district and school improvement planning and maintains regular communication with them. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IB11 The district ensures that school improvement and restructuring plans include "quick wins," early successes in improvement. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IB12 The district is prepared for setbacks, resistance, and obstacles on the path to substantial improvement. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link

The resources below are provided for further exploration of this topic. They are among many tools and readings that Idaho School Superintendents have either used or cited in their work.

The Essential School Board Book

The Essential School Board Book (Walser, 2009)

The book is an excellent resource for School Board Trustees. It focuses on the policies and procedures boards can utilize to enhance student achievement. Superintendents sometimes report that they serve in a coaching role to board members; this book would be a logical companion to that type of partnership.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (The Arbinger Institute, 2008)

The Anatomy of Peace is a book that many educational leaders in Idaho have read over the past few years, many of whom cite it as helpful for being mindful of the human element of change. Change often involves decisions that create conflict. This book may be helpful in keeping the peace during the difficult work of continuous improvement.

Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships

Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships (Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, &am; Davies, 2007)

The importance of engaging parents in the academic improvement decision-making process is becoming more and more apparent in the research literature. Beyond the Bake Sale is a well regarded resource for how to move from more peripheral functions that parents often play to essential partnerships that lead schools to greater success.

The Parent Involvement Analysis (PIA) Tool

The Parent Involvement Analysis (PIA) Tool

The PIA Tool is available from the same team at the Academic Development Institute (ADI) who created the WISE Tool. ADI is the home to the National Center on Innovation and Improvement (CII). The PIA Tool is free and provides both an online process for rethinking parent involvement in schools as well as many other free, downloadable resources such as those in Beyond the Bake Sale by Anne Henderson et al.

To access the PIA Tool you can either visit the State's Parent Involvement webpage or go directly to ADI at http://www.families-schools.org/PIAindex.htm.

The Mega System: Deciding. Learning. Connecting.

The Mega System: Deciding. Learning. Connecting. (Redding, 2006)

For an overview of how superintendents might deepen their schools' community and relationship, Sam Redding's The Mega System is an excellent resource. Formatted as a short handbook, chapter 4 on "The School as Community" provides excellent examples related particularly to school-family connections. Available for free download from the author at http://www.centerii.org/survey/.