Superintendents discuss ideas at a roundtable.
School & District Management Opinion

Leadership Lessons From the Kitchen Table: A Series

17 superintendents share insights from a year leading at home

By Theresa Rouse and James Harvey

As the scale and duration of COVID-19’s catastrophic effect on schools came into view, Illinois superintendent Theresa Rouse and National Superintendents Roundtable executive director James Harvey understood there were important leadership lessons to be gleaned from those on the front lines. And that we needed to document them. Forced, like many school superintendents, out of her office and into her home, Theresa suggested that these instructive moments could be “Leadership Lessons from the Kitchen Table.”

Working in close partnership with Education Week Opinion, we invited contributions from the 95 members of the National Superintendents Roundtable a few months later. We hoped for 10 submissions; we thought we might receive as many as 20. We assigned no topics, prepared to accept what the superintendents thought significant. We wanted lessons that would be forward-looking—not dealing solely with the pandemic, but insights that would be valuable the next time crisis struck. To our delight, 17 superintendents’ lessons began to filter into our inboxes.

Here you will find the thoughts of experienced district leaders from one end of the country to the other and from districts of all kinds—large and small, rural, urban and suburban, with enrollments ranging from the wealthy to the disadvantaged, from predominantly white communities and from communities of color. Amid the heartbreak and havoc of this savage pandemic, these superintendents took the time to offer guidance to their colleagues for what now seems like a less predictable future. We appreciate their speaking from their hearts. And we are grateful for their 17 “Leadership Lessons from the Kitchen Table.”

Theresa Rouse is the superintendent of Joliet Public Schools District 86, in Illinois and a steering committee member of the National Superintendents Roundtable. James Harvey is the organization’s executive director. The lessons, and a downloadable resource, will roll out in the coming weeks.

A lone figure approaches the team he will assemble.
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School & District Management Opinion Lesson #1: Don’t Go It Alone
Morcease Beasley, July 8, 2021
2 min read
A crew of individuals assembles for all hands on deck meeting.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #2: Get All Hands on Deck
Zandra Jo Galván, July 9, 2021
3 min read
A team of hikers climbs a mountain.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #3: Remember Your Duty of Care to Others
Mark Lane, July 12, 2021
3 min read
A large crowd stretching into the distance marches with banners and flags.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #4: Confront the Pandemic Within the Pandemic
Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. , July 14, 2021
3 min read
A business person convinces colleagues by presenting a plan.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #5: Convince People That Crises Require Money
Theresa Rouse, July 15, 2021
2 min read
A person walks from a vast empty space towards a team of people.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #6: Acknowledge There Is No Playbook
Matthew Montgomery, July 16, 2021
2 min read
A teacher checks in on a remote student.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #7: Give Every Student a Connection
Susan Enfield, July 21, 2021
2 min read
A young man stands under a street light on a lonely road.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #8: Don’t Lose Sight of Mental Health
Jonathan Cooper, July 22, 2021
2 min read
A man with his head in a cloud.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #9: Communicate With Purpose
Daniel R. Moirao, July 23, 2021
2 min read
A woman looks past the pandemic to the future.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #10: Don't Let the Crisis Go to Waste
Erica M. Forti, July 27, 2021
2 min read
A team of workmen on scaffolding rely on each other.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion Lesson #11: Rely on Your Local Peers
Christian M. Elkington, July 28, 2021
2 min read

Coverage of leadership, summer learning, social and emotional learning, arts learning, and afterschool is supported in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, at www.wallacefoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.