School: Chenowith Elementary School
School District: North Wasco County School District 21
City, State: The Dalles, Oregon
About the Nominee: “At the school level-the moral imperative of the principal involves leading deep cultural change that mobilizes the passion and commitment of teachers, parents, and others to improve the learning of all students, including closing the achievement gap. (Fullen)”
What is it that enables a principal to lead deep cultural changes within a school, staff, students and district? What skills do they need to have that will pave the way for forming successful relationships with stakeholders and will help them navigate between the roles of mentor, evaluator, politician and advocate? How can a principal improve learning and close the achievement gap? These are all things that need to be considered when considering how a principal can and will support effective instruction. It is often stated that schools that work for children have visionary leaders. In order to support any existing effective practice, the leader has to have a vision as to where they want to go and what they want the school to look like. Sometimes they will carry out the vision in a democratic manner. Other times, it will require authority and not so popular choices, but the principal must prove to staff, students and parents that they are competent, trustworthy and willing to do what it takes to make the school the best place for kids. Anne Shull is this type of leader.
She has the ability and a track record of being able to work with staff, students and various stakeholder groups to get their input on attainable goals and program direction and implementation. She is also skilled in revising these goals to fit within the overall vision of the school. These tasks require her to communicate effectively, openly and honestly. She is a leader who can follow through with what she says, and she has a solid understanding of what students and staff need at Chenowith Elementary School and what current research and best practices look like.
Principals of high achieving schools not only share their vision and expectations for high standards and students success, but they also incorporate those standards into their hall signs, parent communication and mission statements. This places some action behind the vision and words. Ms. Shull’s leadership style is based on the foundation of shared vision. She has said that you can try and wrestle everyone to think the way that you do, or you can start with a shared idea and allow the vision to grow from a mutual point. Ms. Shull has exemplified this at her school!
As principal, it is her obligation to ensure that best practices are not being sacrificed in order to avoid a hard fought battle of compromise, but to instead have a culture of buy-in rather than a culture of contempt. This is the loose-tight leadership style. She understands that sometimes, she must stand firm in something and can allow trial during other times. Having the wisdom of when to be loose and when to be tight is the sign of a mature leader.
The principal’s primary job is to ensure that their building is doing what is best for students. In order to do this they need to be able to make decisions regarding staff, curriculum and schedules. All of these factors affect the quality of instruction. In order to have real impact in regards to curriculum, achievement, culture, etc. and close the achievement gap, it takes a skilled professional who is a life-long, born leader with a love of education and a desire to make sure that students are getting what is best in regards to their knowledge acquisition and social educational experience. Ms. Shull is this life-changing leader. She cares deeply for those she works with, and she advocates for what is right and what is in the best interest for students. Ms. Shull has created a culture that feeds and motivates her staff, builds capacity in her families and cultivates hope to accomplish their dreams in children.