Posted by: kbater | May 28, 2011

Finding the way – Leadership for tough times

Here is a picture of happy times last November when all of the CRPS trustees had breakfast with our MLA Janis Tarchuk at the Alberta School Boards Association conference in Edmonton.  Janis has been a strong supporter as we have worked at innovation through our Inspiring Hearts and Minds process.  We will be meeting with Janis and Minister Hancock in June to discuss how to continue to innovate and move forward in a time of tough budgets for both the provincial gov’t and our schools. (here is a link to the CRPS web-site information about the challenges of the 2011-2012 budget and a link to the CRPS budget documents (In addition I wrote a blog 10 days ago that might also help to illustrate the current situation and my fellow trustee Esme Comfort also has a recent posting)

Focus on Relationships!

It occurs to me that during both the good times and the challenges that a key in leadership is having a focus on relationships.  How we connect with people:  listening and understanding; communicating respectfully; challenging thoughtfully; finding common ground; naming and not blaming around differences of view, opinion and action; makes a difference in how we navigate in the moment and where we get to in the long run.  Superintendent Callaghan and I have met with school councils, staff groups and next comes the Minister and MLA and in all of these the approach is similar and quite simple – tell them what you know to be true, listen to what they have to say, acknowledge the feelings that people have, let everyone hold the dilemma together and then look forward and work towards solutions together.  Keeping the long view in all of this helps and you still need to focus on what matters right now.  Right now as we work through tough budgets it is about creating some certainty,  providing opportunities for people to express their concerns, and then focusing on how to influence decision-makers to best serve students now and into the future.  No easy task!

Three years ago I attended an OECD conference in Helsinki, Finland that looked at “Schooling for Tomorrow”.  A very engaging speaker we met there who eventually came to Canmore for a talk was Henno Theisens. Henno talked about a number of challenges facing education and one was that people (students, parents, community members, businesses etc) expect so much from schools and it is hard to be everything for everybody.  He offered a picture of what it can feel like to try to carry that load.  It certainly feels like it right now.

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