Schools as Communities: Some Guidelines for School Leaders

As school communities move towards becoming “communities of grace,” the question arises how this concept of community is to be reflected in the ways that leaders and boards deal with educators with regards to their contractual or covenantal obligations. Building community, also among educators, school leaders, and boards, is hard work. “It require tremendous struggle, and the answers to all the tough questions are in the struggle. The struggle, though, is essential because the children we teach will not care how much we know until they know how much we care” (Sergiovanni 32). “It seems that a school that is a true community is a group of individuals who have learned to communicate honestly with one another; who have built relationships that go deeper than their composures; and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, delight in each other, and make other’s conditions their own” (Sergiovanni 33). All the hard work of community building can be lost quite quickly if leaders and boards do not treat all their staff members with the same honor and respect that educators are expected to instill in their students.

It is a truism that all of us, educators as well as students, need to be held accountable. The question is how we can implement community values when dealing with those educators who may need to be confronted about underperformance, lack of professionalism, or poor relationships with students or parents. A climate of transparency and truth-telling as well as clear processes for “fierce conversations” need to be part of every workplace in order to ensure that issues are dealt with fairly, honestly, and respectfully.

Many new leaders come into schools where there are educators who have always done things a certain way and have not been challenged to grow because it was easier not to deal with their behavior. How does a school leader begin to deal with these educators? And how does a school community deal with the termination of a teacher?
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