Early in my professional life I heard it said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I believed it then, and after 48 years in education, I still reiterate that fact among my colleagues at Gwinnett County Public Schools.
An organization has a responsibility to develop its people to the fullest, for the good of the employee and the organization itself. For almost 20 years the school district has made the development of effective leaders a primary initiative, and it has paid huge dividends. Leaders are needed, and they exist, at all levels within the school district, so we must nurture their innate talents and grow their knowledge and skills in a deliberate way.
To that end, we established a number of formal leadership programs in GCPS. The Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, Teachers as Leaders, the Quality-Plus Leader Academy’s Aspiring Principal and Aspiring Leader programs, and monthly Leadership Development sessions for all school and district leaders are examples of the programs that help our people expand and apply their leadership capacity in the school, on the job, and in the community.
The emphasis we place on leadership development is essential. Our schools are complex entities that must balance providing quality instruction, building and maintaining supportive relationships, effectively managing daily operations, and communicating well with a broad array of stakeholders. Doing this well demands not just common leadership, but “quality-plus leadership,” a hallmark of the school district.
Our work in developing principals, specifically, has attracted national attention and financial assistance from The Bush Institute and the Wallace and Broad foundations. Speaking via videotape to the 2012 Summer Leadership Conference, former First Lady Laura Bush praised GCPS for its impressive focus on school leadership. It is possible to ensure effective teaching and improve America’s schools through strengthening their leadership, said Mrs. Bush, and Gwinnett County Public Schools is showing the way!