New Rcms Leader Must Build Trust, Collaboration

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The future success of Rim Country Middle School will be determined by a decision the Payson school board makes at its May 23 meeting -- choosing a new middle school principal.

RCMS has a fine staff of dedicated teachers who have been frustrated with what many perceive as their exclusion from the decision-making process, a lack of respect for their opinions and a heavy handed administrative approach.

Teachers can deal with low pay, but a lack of respect and a dictatorial atmosphere is a slap in the face.

In selecting a new principal for RCMS, board members might want to rethink old ideologies about what principals should be and instead take a few hints from coaches.

In Boston, Superintendent Thomas Payzants has a blueprint for school reform that aims to improve student performance by improving teaching. He's instituted a "Teacher Leader" program as part of that plan.

The leaders are called "coaches" and they have been crucial to the success of the program.

Coaches don't teach teachers, instead they do their work with teachers.

The coaches, like the new RCMS principal, should have a calm disposition, trust-building skills and the ability to know when to push and when to regroup.

Richard Martin, a coach at a Boston school says, "In the beginning coaches have to show what they can do, but the vibes they transmit must be very, very gentle. It's personal. Coaches need to engage in a number of situations that foster personal trust-building. The aim is really trying to connect to the teaching soul."

That's not much different than the role of a high school football coach --foster trust and connect with the players.

If the new principal isn't able to achieve those goals, the disappointments teachers have felt will continue.

A teacher in Boston lauded the concept saying that the coach's suggestions are not in the form of "You have to do this" or "I am going to judge you on it."

Instead, a coach might tell a teacher, "Here is an idea, give it a try."

All too often, some administrators have doled out protocol insisting it must be followed to the letter.

That's tough for good teachers to do. They have been trained in the scientific process -- their nature is to question, not pledge blind allegiance.

In Boston, the emphasis is getting the teachers to buy into the project.

When teachers balk saying, "we don't want that, we don't think that's best for our kids," a collaborative process usually follows. In it, teachers are asked to make concessions and coaches often say "We'll try to find something else, something that works for you."

The new principal will face huge challenges in spearheading a collaborative effort to meet the district's commitment of improving student achievement.

How that principal approaches those challenges with the faculty will be the measure of his or her success.

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