Over the last few years, the Center has cherished the opportunity to bring various educational leaders—superintendents, school administrators, students, teachers, community members, elected officials–into conversations and professional learning experiences about equitable leadership.

In these sessions, we regularly create moments where leaders can distill for themselves the most salient ideas.  Over the last month, in three different settings, I’ve invited leaders to share a “Principle for Equitable Leadership” as an exit slip.  On one occasion the exit slip followed an entire day’s retreat.  On another, leaders reflected after an intensive case study discussion.  The final set of exits slips emerged after trying to define “equity.”

While the audiences were different and the professional learning experiences varied, leaders constructed similar ideas.   Below are the most common.

  • Lead by telling your personal story. Let people come to understand who you are—and who you are in relationship to race, equity, and social justice.  People long to be part of something bigger, and your story may be part of a larger story (and perhaps one that includes them).
  • Inequity is the byproduct of a system of structural discrimination. Inequity is baked into the very nature of the system, and it has been there for generations, whether or not individuals are intentionally making decisions to discriminate.  We must own the system-ness of the problem.
  • Be clear about your moral compass. If you begin advocating for equity, you will face challenges.  Distractions will present.  Noise will get louder.  Know what you stand for; it will make it easier to persist and lead through the resistance.
  • Look for opportunities in moments of crisis. If you find your community rocked by an issue of racism, don’t just manage the public relations challenge.  Instead, recognize that the public nature of the crisis may create the ideal window to engage your community in bigger questions:
    • What do we want for all children?
    • Which children benefit most from how our current educational system operates? Which children benefit least?
    • How do we need to rethink schools to support each and every child?
  • Listen and hear the most marginalized voices of students, families and the community. We must engage the stakeholders with the greatest insights into how the current status quo functions, especially when it is not working well for all.
  • Avoid the technical solution trap. The inequities of our modern public education system are adaptive and deeply rooted in culture and belief systems.  Simple solutions and off-the-shelf programs are seductive, but rarely get to the root cause.

These represent just the ideas that were most repeated.  What do you think we should add to the list?  Write me and let me know.

Richard W. Lemons, EdD
Executive Director, CT Center for School Change