Families & the Community Opinion

The Power of Community

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — January 17, 2013 3 min read
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Leadership 360 will examine issues affecting today’s educational leaders. We will invite different lenses, always remembering that our democracy depends on the success of public education. It is foundational to the fabric of our society and the values that reveal who we are in the world. The courageous few who lead find themselves at the hub of a whirlwind, trying to lead in an environment of financial struggles, RTTT (Race to the Top), APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), Common Core Standards, SLO’s (Student Learning Objectives), global competitiveness, political drama and always the tests. More recently, we find ourselves at the center of the national debate about how to keep our children safe. To all who say this too will pass or we’ve seen this before, we say, “No, this is different.”

We are amidst a tidal wave of change that will destroy much and require that new life emerge. Our goal is to offer a resource that both refreshes leaders and offers information that will help guide in their work as community builders. Although each leader’s journey is unique, there are common threads. We will engage current issues and use stories as metaphor to provoke thought through offering multiple perspectives, support, and insight. Much of the time we will write as one voice, sometimes as two separate voices, and, upon occasion, we will host a guest blogger.

Ann Myers, Ed.D. received her Doctor of Education degree from Teachers’ College at Columbia University. She has held educational leadership positions for twenty five years and retired as District Superintendent of a three county Board of Cooperative Educational Services in New York. She served as the Founding Director of the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership in the Esteves School of Education at the Sage Colleges where she is an Associate Professor. She consults with school districts on strategic planning, board leadership, and building communities of trust. She works as a Courage & Renewal® facilitator. Dr. Myers was a contributor to Leading from within, Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead, published by Jossey-Bass in 2007.

Jill Berkowicz, Ed.D. received her Doctor of Education degree from the Esteves School of Education at The Sage Colleges. From Chairperson, Assistant Principal, Principal and Director of Curriculum and Instruction, she has held leadership positions since 1993, the last fifteen years in a public school district in New York’s Hudson Valley. She serves as a reviewer and evaluator for the National School Change Awards, Marist College Portfolios for undergraduate and graduate education students, the New York State Schools to Watch program, and consults for Learner-Centered Initiatives in the evaluation of principals.

Newtown Offers a Lesson in Community
The unthinkable violence that took place in the Sandy Hook Elementary School has captured our hearts and our attention for various reasons. For now, suffice it to say that we begin this blog in a time forever changed on December 14, 2012. We can learn from that tragedy and from the Newtown community. Those lessons will be the focus of our thoughts and writing for some time.

As educational leaders, we face many challenges that come from sources beyond our schools and districts. However, we are the ones who make it local. With all the mandates flowing from Washington and state departments of education across the nation, we can be tempted to become responsive and focus on enforcing the requirements. The temptation to spend our time on that alone is great. Building community in our schools, working toward becoming a stronger community as a school organization, is work that should not be placed on the back burner. That strong community of Newtown faced an unspeakable horror with faith and with grace. They leaned on each other and united within their experience rather than rail against it. Our objective as leaders is to build those communities within our schools; not an easy task, but an essential one.

It’s never enough just to tell people about some new insight,
Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way
that evokes its power and possibility. Instead of pouring
knowledge into people’s heads, you need to help them grind
a new set of eyeglasses so they can see the world in a
new way.

--Jon Seely Brown, Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation

Brown, John Seely (1998). Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation, Boston: Harvard Business Review

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The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.