Lets examine the purpose of having a leadership preparation plan. I would consider this to be any school district that values the concept of selecting and preparing leaders within the organization in order to have a pipeline of leaders for continuity purposes. When a Superintendent retires or leaves the position for any reason, numerous educators should be trained and prepared to move into the position. The Board of Education should have candidates to choose from who are ready to assume the Superintendency. When a Principal leaves the position, Assistant Principals must be ready to move up into the position when the time comes. Aspiring Teacher leaders must also be identified and have training opportunities to learn the intricacies of becoming a school leader.
I am going to use one analogy to stress the importance of having leadership training for aspiring leaders as well as school and district level leaders. Many in our profession believe gifted training should be provided for all teachers and not just for those teaching gifted students. All teachers should be using gifted strategies in the classroom for all students and not just gifted students. In other words, picking and choosing someone without training to assume a leadership position is dangerous to the success of the organization. An additional risk is when districts have to look for leaders outside the district. The person selected will not be familiar with any aspects of the organization. On the other hand, a school district with a well-developed succession plan will have trained and experienced personnel ready to move up. Not only do they have the training necessary to do the job, they are also familiar with the district. This familiarity will help keep the district moving forward without delay.
When a district values having a leader succession plan, resources (including financial) need to be made available. Having attended GLISI’s Base Camp and Summit, participated as a member of the Power of 100 sponsored by GLISI prepared me to be an effective leader. LPPC training through GLISI provided tools and resources to help me train Teacher Leaders and Assistant Principals for the next level. Also as I currently participate in Cohort 11 of the Superintendents Professional Development Program sponsored by the Georgia School Superintendents Association, I am learning the skills and gaining the knowledge to one day become a Superintendent (the training also helps me as a sitting Principal). These training opportunities or similar training/mentoring programs must be available to help prepare leaders for the next level. When a district doesn’t lose a beat when a leader changes a position, the leader succession plan is working. I admit there will be some changes when a new leader assumes a higher position but they obviously wouldn’t have to start from scratch since they are already working in the district with full knowledge of the plan for improvement.
To those who do not believe it worth spending time and financial resources to support a leader succession plan, I would tell you it would cost a district more without it. It can also cause other problems in the district which could take years to recover. In the mean time, achievement scores and the graduation rate can drop as well as employee morale. What price do you place on achievement, graduation rates and employee morale? For a leadership succession plan to work in a district, leaders must be willing to share their knowledge and experiences with others. Some are reluctant to do so because they might lose their power. Losing this power might place my job at risk is an employee mindset dedicated to themselves and not the organization. School districts must not have this type of atmosphere to work or a leadership succession plan will not be fruitful. The local Superintendent and Board of Education should work together to create and promote a leadership succession plan. In Georgia, numerous districts only hire leaders from within. Some examples include: Forsyth, Paulding, Houston, Gwinnett and Henry Counties. I’m sure there are others. I admit these are larger school districts in Georgia but all districts can benefit from having a leader preparation program. Does your district have a leadership development program?