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Thursday, December 07, 2006

The best failing school turnaround interview I've ever heard



School turnaround is a huge issue in education. I have just found and listened to the most incredible podcast from John Merrow where he interviewed three "turnaround specialists" - Catharine Thomas, J. Harris Coleman, and Michael McClellan-- I found it through itunes. (I don't have an ipod but I find and listen to all of my podcasts here.)

For you like minded cynical-consultant type people like me, this podcast is not what you think. It is real principals who have a winning record talking about the realities of school turnaround. You should listen and take notes. If you are a superintendent, you should forward it to your principals because it exposes a lot of realities that I hear administrators deny but they need to understand.

Here are my favorite quotes:

"You must be commpassionate and understanding of the people involved."

"You cannot change people but you can create an environment where people are willing to change."

"Over time, staff gets beat up!"

"You've got to create a place where students and teachers are nurtured and cared for."

"You have a faculty meeting but the real meeting takes place later in the parking lot."

"You must build relationships before you can enact change."


They talk about what it FEELS like in a failing school -- "emotional wasteland" "group think" and "toxic" are words they use.

As a general manager, I know that it is often HOW you do things that is more important than WHAT you do. Relationships and people are what being in administration is about.

Have a great listen.

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