The St. Louis Public Schools Principal Re-design Fellowship has launched!
On the first Wednesday of December the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) and the Institute for School Partnership (ISP) kicked off the SLPS Principal Re-Design Fellowship. This ambitious partnership between SLPS and the ISP aims to empower leaders within the SLPS community to dream big and be innovative in designing a new vision for their schools.
Our first two sessions were committed to strengths work, supporting a paradigm shift from looking at school change through a deficit lens to looking at school transformation through an asset, strength based lens. As Jay Hartman, Executive Director of the CPN schools noted during our first session, “The way we will achieve transformed results is by empowering this group of excellent leaders with the skills, knowledge and support to execute the best possible vision for their school.” The next six sessions from January through May will focus on creating a Re-design Book developed through an equity framework.
The journey to our first session was filled with lots of twists and turns. Collaboration and partnerships provide an exciting opportunity to build something that truly changes systems and outcomes. When many diverse voices are at the table it presents opportunities for us to stop, listen and be aware of how environments impact each of us in the work that we are engaged in. Through these experiences perspectives are enhanced and understanding is deepened.
As an organization, all of us at the ISP are working to empower teachers and school leaders, but when those individuals are consistently challenged in their own spaces it takes monumental effort for them to engage in this work. Our own resolve, passion and support is fuel to keep this important work moving forward.
When the seven SLPS principals who make up the first Re-design Fellowship community walked into the session Wednesday night, people were drained. One fellow had to attend to a physical altercation in their parking lot right before coming to the session. Another design leader was managing a personnel issue. Shoulders were slumped and the “hello’s” were muted. Of course, my goodness, all that our educators have to carry, it makes showing up so hard and showing up ready to engage, even harder.
As we kicked off our first session, set the tone and moved the fellows through the strengths work, tensions eased, heads rose, voices elevated, and laughter spread through the room. For the next three hours, fellows committed their full selves to discovery, asking hard questions and leaning on each other to navigate the process.
It is a vital role of the ISP in this partnership that we show up with understanding and compassion, and demonstrate our commitment to the SLPS Principal Re-design Fellowship. Our communities are challenged now more than ever. What an incredible opportunity we have to walk alongside them in this work to assure that whatever happens, we will do this work together.
Nikki Doughty is the ISP Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives.