A recent New York Times article, Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School Fights Failure, principal Bernard Gassaway blames the education department for the schools failures instead of utilizing his leadership skills to advance the school in a positive direction. The principal hopes to implement his own vision which includes a focus on community partnerships, mentoring at-risk teenagers, and providing students new courses in welding and barber shop skills.

The challenge that this principal faces is that the New York Department of Education can only offer a plan that amounts to one size fits all. The principal must understand that the culture of his school is unique when compared to other New York City schools. The education department will provide a plan that includes additional professional development, student attendance enhancement strategies, parental involvement enhancement, and improving teacher skills.

Students, teachers, and parents must have reservations with these efforts that exclude principal leadership skills. The students probably believe that once again the adults in the school have no clue on how to help them. Parents involvement will remain at low levels because once again they no longer understand how the efforts of the education department will help. Finally, the teachers know that without accountability instruments they are going to continue to do what they believe is best for the students.

This school will benefit from a leadership process implemented by the principal leadership skills. The principal must begin with a true data analysis of the students. Then the principal must evaluate the culture. After the culture evaluation, the principal must use a team building process to include both teachers and available parents. Finally, the teachers, parents, and the principal submit to the department of education a plan of implementation based on the needs of the students and the culture of the school.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

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