The school year is quickly drawing to a close. And I am sure everyone on the staff from the custodian to the teachers and from the counselors to the principal, to one degree or another, has begun to think about the 2015-2016 school year. Teachers are assessing the effectiveness of the techniques they used this year and which new ones they want to try next year so they can be more effective. Many are planning which professional development opportunities they will participate in over the summer or what professional readings they will do to improve their skills. Everyone on the staff is being asked to consider what materials they want to order for next year. Principals are anticipating who is retiring, transferring, or moving away so they can build a quality staff for next year.
As all these plans are being considered and decisions made, now is a great time to reflect on the school’s vision statement. Why? Because this statement expresses the hopes and dreams of everyone in the school community and acts as a unifying force bringing everyone together to work toward the same broad goals. With everyone unified around the vision, each and every hiring decision, purchase, professional development plan, parent and community initiative, etc. can be assessed on its alignment to and in support of the vision statement. And by everyone I mean all stakeholders, including administrators; teachers; staff; custodians; parents; students: community, district, and school board members; business supporters, etc. Because, according to Wise Ways IE01, “ … leaders ensure that the vision and mission of the school are crafted with and among stakeholders. (52)”
But let’s back up for just a minute. Before we can reflect on our vision statement, we need to have one. So let me refer you to a new series from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The series is Leadership In Action, and the first in the series is entitled, Shaping a Vision of Academic Success For All Students. Each topic is presented in a 10-13 minute video vignette highlighting two successful principals and their schools. Each week over the next month I will highlight a topic from the series, and provide a link to the video vignette. The other topics are:
- Creating a Climate Hospitable to Education
- Cultivating Leadership in Others
- Improving Instruction
This week I am highlighting the first in the series, Shaping a Vision of Academic Success For All Students. You can watch the segment by clicking here. William C. Bassell, Principal of the Academy of American Studies in Long Island City, New York, states it well when he says that, “ a vision statement says to everyone in the school family:
- what the school stands for,
- what the school believes in, and
- how the school functions in order to give the students the best education possible.”
Principal Bassell also addresses the issue of sustainability, which you know we think is essential in your continuous improvement work. He states that sustaining a vision needs work. He says they revisit, on an ongoing basis, the key elements of what they believe in, and ask themselves:
- how they are communicating it?
- do they need to refresh the way they communicate it?
- do they need to adjust the way they implement it?
I was struck by this emphasis on communication. It’s not enough to have a vision statement and to regularly reflect on it. It’s critical to consistently communicate that vision. He states that branding and communicating a vision is absolutely essential to the success of a school, not only in the school itself, but in the outside world as well. He sees this as making a promise to the families that are part of the school community.
This emphasis resonates with us because it is at the core of indicator IE03, “The principal communicates the likelihood of success based on the plan and hard work. (54)” Implied in this indicator and stated explicitly in the accompanying Wise Ways is the following statement, “ Effective principals and other school-based leaders articulate the vision through personal modeling and by communicating with others in and around the organization.” Within this vignette are a number of ideas about how to accomplish this goal and effectively communicate your vision.
Finally, listen to this clip from Indicators Now, a resource available to all Indistar schools, districts, and states. Note the similarities between this principal’s description of his work with a mission statement, and what I’ve presented in this week’s blog and what the principals said in the CCSSO clip about their work with a vision statement.
For further reading about the importance of a vision statement, check out this resource:
Kouzes, J. M. & Posner, B. Z. (1997). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass Publishers