Educators celebrate the beginning of the new school year because it is a clean slate, waiting to be written on with fresh hopes, dreams, possibilities and opportunities for the students we serve. Students, staff and parents come prepared with new pencils, notebooks, uniforms and great anticipation.
At Houston A+ Challenge, our new year in school leadership has begun in much the same manner. As we endeavor to expand our work to develop principals and teacher leaders to serve in public schools across the region, our various leadership networks are filled with high expectations for our work.
Cohort II of the Regional Principal Leadership Academy (RPLA) launched in June with a six-week summer intensive, and aspiring principals now are working with mentor principals in host schools. Cohort I members are entrenched in their new administrative assignments. The New Visions in Leadership Academy (NVLA) has identified a new cohort and some new coaches, and A+'s newly designed Executive Leadership Council (ELC), comprised of senior level district staff members, is poised to begin its work as well.
Alfred James, who spent last year as one of 19 aspiring princpials in RPLA Cohort I, is celebrating the new school year as Principal of Caraway Intermediate School in Aldine ISD.
Alfred distinguished himself as a learner and a leader in Cohort I. He took copious notes during every network meeting and national speaker series event, asked thoughtful and insightful questions that challenged the cohort to think deeply, and spent many hours reflecting on his learning and growth. He spent the summer getting to know his new campus and preparing an entry plan with the support of Houston A+ Challenge RPLA staff members. He also found time to speak to Cohort II during the summer intensive about his journey. He managed to accomplish all of this while nurturing a new baby boy at home.
Alfred is a shining example of someone whose perseverance and focus lead to the realization of his goals. Houston A+ Challenge will continue to support Alfred's growth and development as a transformational instructional leader with coaching and monthly network meetings. Under Alfred's leadership, Caraway Intermediate will no doubt continue on the path to excellence.
All members of the A+ extended network are specially invited to join Houston A+ Challenge at two events in October featuring national leaders on the educational landscape:
On October 1, sociologist and urban schools scholar Charles Payne will join us for a provocative discussion on his new book, "So Much Reform, So Little Change."
On October 8, innovative educator and inspirational speaker Larry Bell will join A+ for a conversation on "Leading with High Expectations."
Both events are free and open to the public, but seating is limited.
On September 12, districts from across the Houston region participated in the sixth annual Reach Out to Dropouts walk, which reportedly encouraged more than one hundred students to return to school.
A controversial new book by education writer and critic Kirsten Olson, "Wounded by School", may shed some light on why students leave school. Olson exposes the devastating consequences of an educational approach than values conformity over creativity, flattens students' interest, and dampens down differences among learners.
Drawing on deeply emotional stories, Olson shows that current institutional structures do not produce the kinds of mind and thinking that society really needs. Instead, the system tends to shame, disable, and bore many learners. As Tony Wagner of Harvard's Change Leadership Group states: "Wounded by School" makes an eloquent and moving case for the radical re-invention of our schools.”