Culture Outlasts Quarantine

A month or so back, I stopped by my office to accomplish some tasks and to retrieve materials I needed in order to continue working virtually. On my desk were notes about some minor discipline matters that had occurred on the day before we left school. Nothing eventful, just typical middle school “naughtiness.” I have a stark admission to make—I tossed them in the bottom of my desk drawer. (more…)

Creativity and Innovation in Secondary Education

Guest post by Brian Pickering

What can secondary schools do to build a learning environment that fosters creativity and innovation?

Seven years ago, the leadership team at Contoocook Valley Regional High School, or ConVal, set off on a mission to answer this question. The goal was to guarantee all students the opportunity for academic and social support, as well as learning extensions and enrichment. (more…)

Creating Culturally Responsive Schools

Guest post by Helen Gladden

Schools that strive to be culturally responsive believe that there is no one right “set” of experiences, beliefs, and values. They know that each student’s cultural set is his or her self identity. Most importantly, they understand that students are far more likely to fully engage in the learning process when their self identity is understood, accepted, and valued. They are committed to building trust with and among their students, and they know that trust is built through respect. (more…)

How School “Brand” Determines Student Outcomes

Guest post by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning educator, internationally renowned speaker, and best-selling author, who will lead two sessions at Ignite ’15, February 19–21.

The brand of any school tells a story. It reveals to everyone—students, staff, parents, and the community—who you are as a school. Your school’s brand can be defined intentionally, or it can evolve organically; but a brand that evolves organically may not be the one you most desire. Your school’s brand matters—it determines student outcomes.

Here’s a brief illustration that I share in discussions with educators about school brand: There’s a popular Southern-based restaurant chain, and whenever I enter these restaurants, a very unique experience consistently occurs. Someone behind the counter yells out, “Welcome to [our restaurant]!” The consistency of their greeting speaks volumes about their brand. (more…)

Does Your School Have a “Collective Identity?”

Baruti Kafele

Guest post by Baruti Kafele:

A few months back, I conducted a workshop with a group of high school administrators on the topic of “Collective Attitude of the School.” There were seven administrators present. To start the workshop, I asked each of them to tell us something about themselves that had nothing to do with education, and that I would not impose any time restrictions. I asked each of them the question, “Who are you?” As we went around the table, each of the administrators told us “their story,” which each of us found to be quite interesting. It was evident that all of them enjoyed sharing their stories.

I then followed up with the same question, but this time in the context of their roles as school leaders. We went around the table and each of the administrators described who they were within the realm of school leadership. Once again, their answers were intriguing. It was clear that each of the administrators had a definite identity relative to their roles as leaders of the school.

Now, I was ready for the big question—the real question. It was the same question once again – “Who are you?” – but not as individuals or educators this time. I wanted to hear them express who they were as a school. In other words, the question became, “As a school, who are you?” I then told them that unlike the previous two questions, I did not want them to answer in the room we were located in. I wanted to interview them separately and privately so that they could not hear each other’s responses. When we came back to the room, I shared their responses from the notes that I took. Although this exercise was time-consuming (5 minutes with each administrator), it was undeniably necessary, because as I shared the responses, it was clear that each of them had a different perspective on the identity of the school. As I explained to them, this was problematic; they agreed that if we had had the rest of the staff present, chances were good that they too would have differing perspectives on the identity of the school. Our conclusion then was the realization that the school was in the midst of an identity crisis. Beyond the name of the school, they really did not know who they were. I asked them the question, “How do you move this school forward if you have not yet determined and established an identity for your school beyond its name?” This led to a very lively yet anxious discussion.

As leaders of secondary schools, it is absolutely imperative that you engage your staff in this same discussion to work toward creating and implementing an identity for your school. When there is consensus relative to “who we are,” the probability that the school moves forward down the same path increases exponentially. The development of an identity and eventually a “brand” becomes highly deliberate as opposed to something we hope occurs organically, which is, unfortunately, very unlikely.

Baruti Kafele (@PrincipalKafele) will present the Urban Viewpoint Session on Saturday, February 8, at Ignite ‘14. For more information and to register visit

Read his article “Closing the Attitude Gap” online in the January 2014 issue of Principal Leadership.