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.
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