By Matt Doyle, Interim Superintendent, Vista Unified and Gerri Burton, New Learning Ventures
True transformation in a school district, the kind that sticks and disrupts standard operating procedures, is fueled by school principals. It is true that the actual magic of meaningful, authentic transformation in learning happens in the interaction between the teacher, the student, and the content. Richard Elmore calls this the Instructional Core. However, the school principal sets the conditions within which transformative practice and change happens. In other words, principals must become change agents in order for education to transition from assembly line efficiency to learner-centered agency.
In recent posts, we have described Vista Unified’s design of the three brushstrokes to guide its transformation: Early Education, Personal Learning, and the World of Work. Early in the process, Vista Unified leaders realized that truly sustainable transformation required a deeper layer of change around the role of the principal. Following lessons from the corporate world and the mentorship of international consultants, including Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda, this post’s co-author Matt Doyle led a new and exciting initiative entitled “Principal as Change Agent,” now in its third year.
“When you think about it, the principal is the pedagogical gatekeeper at the school level. If we can fully engage the principal in understanding and really owning the change needed to promote a learner-centered experience, then there is a significantly greater probability that change will become infused into the school culture.” -Matt Doyle
“Principal as Change Agent” is designed in a seminar format offering principals the opportunity to learn from each other. A moderator sets the agenda for the discussion and provides relevant reading materials. The seminar typically meets twice monthly in a virtual format using Google Hangout. The choice to use a virtual setting was deliberate. The Innovation Department suggested that since we are talking change, why not change-up our culture around meetings to a medium that lends itself to more interaction among participants?