Sunday, January 13, 2013

4 Rules For Building a Culture of Support: Advice From a Practicing Principal

In his new book, Building a Culture of Support: Strategies for School Leaders, educator and principal PJ Caposey offers school leaders three things: practical, down-to-earth advice for leading schools; concrete strategies in creating highly supportive school environments; and a compact approach to leadership that brings supporting staff, students, parents, and school community to the forefront.

Building a Culture of Support : Strategies for School Leaders


In one compact volume, Caposey offers principals four rules to guide them in building this culture of support. These rules include:

1. Support the vision, mission and goals. This is done through a process of defining and delineating a school’s current culture, aligning vision, mission, and goals, and monitoring the fidelity of school practices to each. Strategies Caposey offers to do these things include: 1) conducting a self-audit to assess the current school vision, mission, and goals, 2) engaging faculty in creating mission statements, 3) engaging faculty in visioning, 4) developing school improvement plans, 5) principal measures to support the vision, mission, and school improvement goals. Caposey offers school leaders seasoned strategies for engaging in developing and supporting a school’s vision, mission, and goals.

2. Support the professionals.  Supporting a school’s professionals, according to Caposey, includes making expectations clear, having tough conversations, leading professional development, sharing leadership, fostering positive relationships, and engaging in fair but effective evaluations. In this book, he gives school principals some highly effective tools to use to support the professionals in a school. Some of these tools include: 1)Best Practices for Difficult Conversations, 2) Delegating Strategies, 3) Building and Maintaining Beneficial Relationships, and 4) Conducting Informal Observations and Effective Evaluations. Caposey offers a toolbox full of ideas to engage in supporting a building’s professionals.

3. Support the students. Support for students in a “highly supportive school culture” begins with the school leader engaging as instructional leader. It also includes transforming instruction, making it more rigorous and making it learner-focused. Caposey provides classroom management ideas and intervention strategies as well.  Some of the strategies he suggests includes: 1) Defining the Curriculum, 2) Monitoring the Progress of Rigor Implementation, 3) Making Sure Policy Never Overrides Practice, 4) Student Engagement, and a host of other strategies designed to support students.

4. Support the community. Caposey points out a fourth rule in creating a highly supportive school culture involves doing things like making the school the center of pride in the community and engaging in effective communication with that community.To foster effective communication with the community, school leaders need to do things like establish rules at the beginning, maintain consistency, and engage community support for the school.

In each chapter, Caposey walks through each rule, providing careful explanations and concrete strategies to engage in the implementation of each one. For example, Chapter 2 is devoted to rule 1, “Supporting the vision, mission, and goals.” Caposey writes, “By consciously starting with the end in mind, an effective principal can move to the forefront the things that should be truly important to a school and community---enacting the vision and mission of the school or district.” In other words, if you’re going to build a school that has supporting all of its constituents at the center, the vision, mission and goals are the starting point. This chapter provides school leaders with steps to take in support of the vision, mission and goals outlined in school improvement plans. It gives principals tools to conduct fidelity checks to see how the school is doing against its mission, vision and school improvement plans.

In each of the subsequent chapters, Caposey tackles the question of how to build this culture of support with all the constituencies of a school.

Building a Culture of Support: Strategies for School Leaders is a must-read book for school leaders who are looking for strategies to be supportive in today’s public education environment. For those new school leaders, this book is an opportunity to pick the brain of a seasoned, practicing school principal about transforming a school into a highly supportive one. For the veteran school principal, this book offers a clear opportunity to fine-tune and sharpen their leadership skills that foster highly effective and supportive schools for all.

Building a Culture of Support: Strategies for School Leaders is an excellent addition to the 21st century administrator’s library.

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