2012 SCORE Prize Winners: Cultivating Strong Leadership (excerpts) - Page 11

CULTIVATING STRONG LEADERS When Peggy Murdock became principal in 2008, she made significant changes to several major aspects of the school – its appearance, organizational structure, philosophy toward teaching and learning, culture, and partnerships. She formulated a “leadership family” that concentrates on safety, positive behavior, and academic success. She also instituted a new approach to discipline and a positive way to monitor teacher performance and provide feedback. While Murdock has made substantial changes to the school, she emphasizes that she leads by example. “I believe it is my responsibility to give more,” Murdock said. “I need to get here early, I need to give a little more during the day, and I need to stay after if I’m not finished.” Developing a culture of pride and professionalism. Shortly after Peggy Murdock became principal of Covington, she started by working with others to create an attractive physical and social environment where people wanted to come to school, took pride in their surroundings, and liked each other. To that end, she had the school painted in attractive colors and updated equipment and physical structures. She developed expectations for the ways that teachers interacted with each other and with students, strongly emphasizing a student-based culture, rather than one that was centered on the needs of adults. The new emphasis meant that all adults and students were to be respectful of each other and the school environment. Murdock led by example, taking a nurturing approach to leadership which emphasizes student and teacher needs. “I believe the only way I can help my students and the teachers is if they know that I care about them as individual people,” she said. “I think, once you understand where they are inside, where they come from and what is going on in their lives, you can help make everyone 39 Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2012 SCORE Prize School Winners successful. Heartfelt leadership is necessary if you are going to help people be who you know they can be.” Reorganizing for success. When Murdock came to the school, she recognized that both people and schedules needed to be reorganized for effectiveness and efficiency. To determine the best types of leadership structures for the school, Murdock first discussed the responsibilities associated with each leadership role and the effectiveness of the way roles and responsibilities were allocated. She then identified each assistant principal’s key strengths and reorganized, assigning her assistant principals roles that maximized their strengths in positions that made systems more efficient and effective. For example, one assistant principal had very strong data analysis skills, so she has been assigned to generate and explain the data spreadsheets given to all teachers. She has also been given leadership roles for professional learning community facilitation. This assistant principal also serves as curriculum coordinator and helps to ensure alignment of curricular needs and instructional practices. The other two assistant principals worked particularly well with students, so they were assigned to manage discipline. In addition to these duties, all assistant principals serve as instructional leaders by observing classrooms and providing feedback to teachers. Creating a culture of high expectations. When Murdock came to the school, she recognized that teachers were not consist ently pushing students to reach their personal best. They were not analyzing data to improve their own nstruction, and were i focused more on what was taught rather than what was learned. Her strategy to change these practic-