Summary: Kingsport City Schools’ leadership model includes leadership positions found in typical school systems, but also goes well beyond the norm, including opportunities mostly found at the school level, where they are most needed.
Let me begin by saying that Kingsport City Schools considers it a tremendous honor to have recently been named a SCORE Prize Finalist. I also consider it an honor to be asked to share what our system is doing in regards to developing leaders across our system.
The foundation of what happens in Kingsport City Schools is grounded in its Guiding Tenets, made up of its Vision, Mission, Core Values, System Goals, and Key Practices. These guide the work of system employees using a systems’ approach by utilizing the Criteria of the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence. The Criteria are aligned with the Malcolm Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. The Criteria have provided a platform to ensure that effective leadership is in place at the school and district levels and that there are systematic processes in place to drive system improvement that are tied to the appropriate measures for success.
The district employs a multi-level leadership strategy to foster a distributed leadership model. This is undergirded by the belief that leadership is not a zero-sum commodity. This is even more true in today’s Information Age, for which it is impossible for one person to have all the knowledge needed to propel a dynamic organization with many moving parts. It is important to have a systematic way of providing informed leadership throughout. Such a model will also help foster an environment of empowerment and entrepreneurship, as well as personal and organizational learning. Distributed leadership can often provide a more agile approach that is often needed to be truly proactive.
Kingsport City Schools’ leadership model includes leadership positions found in typical school systems, but also goes well beyond the norm, including opportunities mostly found at the school level, where they are most needed.
In addition to school principals and assistant principals, there are associate principals. Individuals in these positions are paid as teachers but take on more responsibility as on-the-job training by performing many of the same duties as assistant principals. However, they are mentored by their principal, who tailors experiences and professional learning to their performance and career goals. The school system also meets regularly with associate principals as a cohort for training and support.
Other leadership roles include teacher-leaders in each school for literacy and math, who provide job-embedded professional learning and mentoring as exemplary role models. They also work across grades and schools to develop curriculum documents and common assessments for benchmarking.
Teacher-leaders and associate principals participate in system Leadership Team meetings on a rotating basis to enhance their growth and to take advantage of their perspectives as system initiatives are developed and evaluated. Teacher-leaders are identified for other school and system level roles, serving on committees, focus groups, and task forces to ensure that multiple leadership roles are integrated into all decisions.
One of the most important roles of the system’s distributed leadership model is that of creating a culture that values and supports innovation and what is today called educational entrepreneurship. Leadership embedded at all levels and throughout the system serves to embrace ideas that might otherwise be overlooked or not make it to a school or system leader. Ideas that are promoted validate the work of the “owner” and demonstrate a commitment to listening. After all, the best ideas are often those that come from those who are charged with implementation!