Tuesday, September 25, 2018

All Means All: Creating Healthy School Culture

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Anthony Muhammad, PhD, presenting to Colstrip faculty and staff.
The District hosted Anthony Muhammad, PhD, one of the most sought-after educational consultants in North America on Monday, September 24, 2018 for a full day of Pupil-Instructional-Related (PIR) activities.

Creating a healthy school culture was the focus of the PIR. His prescription for a healthy school culture is based on  1) Commitment, 2) Refection and 3) Prescription (see table). Muhammad's presentation provided additional clarity for many of the details that are currently in place in our District.

Muhammad said that it is a hard fact that "You can't hold people accountable for what hasn't been made clear and explicit. To this end he said change in a healthy culture requires Transformational Leaders. He asked our staff and participants to identify ten leadership qualities that are essential for good leaders?

After identifying and reviewing the ten qualities he suggested that these are also the qualities that should be expected of teachers and staff alike, adding that no person can meet all of the identified expectations, but all people can be transformational leaders and collectively provide the stated qualities. He said that "instead of looking out the window at others, the transformational leader must look in the mirror."

Muhammad went on to identify Transformational Leader Essentials:
  • Model integrity and fairness
  • Set clear goals
  • High expectations
  • Encourage others
  • Provide support and recognition
  • Stir people's emotion
  • Encourage people to look beyond their self-interest
  • Inspire people to reach for the improbable: Bass (1985).
Muhammad quoted a number of authors and research that aligns with transformational leadership by adding to the list above saying that in Jim Collins' book Good to Great (2001), also contributes to the essentials of transformational leadership in that transformational leaders should seek and confront the "brutal facts." In point of case, he said that "Crucial Conversations" are needed when stakes are high, but often avoided because of strong emotions and opposing opinions (2011; Patterson, et.al, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High). Muhammad encouraged us to run toward our challenges and not away from them.

He suggested that healthy school cultures should limit "Adult Drama;" saying "Adult Drama" should be avoided as it results in dysfunctional social interactions between adult professionals within a school environment and interfere with the proper implementation of important policies, practices, and procedures that support the proper education of students.

Muhammad then referenced his book Transforming School Culture (2009) that outlines his study of 34 schools and their culture. From his research he was able to categorize the teaching culture into four types of professionals.
  1. Tweeners
  2. Believers
  3. Survivors
  4. Fundamentalist
Through the examination of each type's characteristics, Muhammad provided our staff the opportunity to look in the mirror to see which category might align with their beliefs and actions.

His concern was that "Fundamentalist" pose the biggest and critical challenge for schools to create a healthy culture, and that education is too critical to our society for leaders to allow a group of individuals who refuse to embrace substantive change to hijack it. His book says the "Fundamentalist might not have malicious intent, but their actions threaten to stunt the growth of the schools that serve our most needy students" (2009, p. 97).

 The implications of the training aligned with Muhammad's study of school culture in his book Transforming School Culture, in so much as, the schools studied that were able to create and maintain a healthy school culture were also able to eliminate the human distractions and focus on a collective purpose (p. 119).

Colstrip Public Schools has a Core Purpose. Perhaps it may serve as a systematic and school wide focus on learning for  collaboration needed to maintain a healthy school culture. A Core Purpose is vital to a healthy school culture (p. 121).   

Core Purpose of the Colstrip School District is to effectively focus on learning and growth for all students in a safe, healthy, caring and collaborative environment that ensures each student achieves intellectual and personal excellence and is well prepared for college and career pathways.

In review of the day's activities and information shared, our District is extremely thankful for Dr Muhammad and the time he spent with our educators. He was able to cover so much information in a short amount of time. Point of fact, the information included in this post represents a fraction of the that of which was covered in Dr. Muhammad's presentation. With that said, I was very proud of our staff and their participation and focus during this training. A number of compliments were shared and even though I have had the privilege of listening to Dr. Muhammad in other national venues, I was even more impressed with his direct impact on our staff.

Thank you Anthony Muhammad, PhD, for "Making Dust" with our educators here in Rosebud County. Our professional development was superb.



"Get out in front and stay there!"

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Parent & Community Breakfast Invitation

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Colstrip Public Schools would like to bring our community closer together and invite the entire community to breakfast on the first Thursday of every month during the school year. There is no charge for this breakfast. The School District is creating this opportunity to share a cup of coffee and some biscuits and gravy with the parents and community while bringing everyone up to date with the latest news and calendar events going on here in your schools.

We will have an awesome presentation for you to watch while you eat.  In addition, there will be a round table talk from each of the building administrators.

Breakfast is served at 7:00 AM until 8:30 AM in the Colstrip High School Cafeteria. Don't miss this unique communication opportunity over breakfast.

The first Parent and Community Breakfast will be this Thursday, September 6, 2018.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and other relatives as well as students alike are welcome. 

Whether you are just getting off shift from work or getting ready to go to work, the District invites you to join us. Everyone, and that means everyone, is invited. Just park in the lower parking lot at the high school and come on in the front doors to the cafeteria. We will be anxiously awaiting you!

See you Thursday between 7:00 AM and 8:30 AM.



"Get out in front and stay there!"