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Five Tips to Build Turnaround Leadership

With an increasing shortage of qualified candidates to step into turnaround principal slots, what can districts do to help build their own capacity for leadership?

? Jean Desravines, CEO of New Leaders for New Schools, says districts should have a plan or strategy for recruiting new talent, and attracting, attaining and driving new school leadership within the district.

? William Robinson, senior director of the University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Specialist Program, is behind instituting an executive-style, competency-based recruiting practice that requires candidates to demonstrate track records of success, rather than relying on resumes or years of experience.

? Ann Clark, chief academic officer and lead of the strategic staffing initiative in Charlotte- Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools, says the district successfully used financial incentives for recruiting top-performing principals and staff for 24 high-poverty, low-performing schools. The district’s strategic staffing initiative pays turnaround principals a 10 percent bonus for a three-year commitment to work in the most challenging schools, though the position itself is a “badge of honor” in the eyes of other district teachers and administrators, says Clark.

? Jennifer Henry, regional director of New Leaders for New Schools recommends establishing a “district ecosystem” that supports the belief that all children can learn and allowing principals increased autonomy to make decisions about curricular practices, such as how much time should be spent on math or reading instruction, and the ability to transfer out “naysayer” staff.

? Mel Riddile, high school services director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, suggests trying not to change numerous things but just focusing on two or three specific areas, such as improving reading and attendance.