I’ve experienced how our system can stack the deck against folks who are already struggling to get by, making it nearly impossible to ever escape the conditions that confine and shatter them. I’ve made it my life’s work to help open doors, windows, and other crevices of hope for those burdened by the failures of systemic injustice. I came to realize over time that I could be an agent of change; that I had capacity and untapped potential to make a difference for those who feel disenfranchised.
As school districts embark to support inclusive school cultures, it is paramount to make sure inclusion is part of the overall strategic plan. Like students, employees want to feel included, heard and valued, and they will go above and beyond if the essential need of belonging is met. Yet in my experience working with school districts across the country, I’ve noticed key employees left out of important discussions and decisions related to systemic change.
Ensuring all students are successful in school, requires a foundation of trust, caring, and support from which to build. Our schools need to be places where students and staff want to be, and where they see themselves and their contributions as valuable and important. Being a leader and champion for all students means just that; ALL students. As a leader concerned with equitable outcomes for all students, our core values should drive our decisions and help us stay true to this belief. It is this unwavering commitment that can inspire others to do the same, promoting a spirit of inclusion and equity that drives success for all.
People label others all the time. Labeling is a tool we use to help us grapple with difference and with our environment. Our labels can also influence what we see. The long-term consequences of labeling a child “smart” or “slow” can be profound. Labels that have to do with ability, class, race, or skill often shape the expectations of educators and can have lasting effects.
I realize that in order to see the type of teaching, learning, leadership, and support that I want to see in schools and across our district, I have to paint a portrait of what it looks like using expressive, asset-based language that builds upon the current strengths of employees and reinforces their existing foundation of knowledge and skill. Using clear, powerful, and uplifting language takes a great deal of practice and awareness, and doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. Therefore, I spend a great deal of time reflecting about my word choice in order to improve.
We are all leaders because we want to make a difference. And those of us…
The term ‘soup’ is also an abbreviated play on words for my present job title, “supt.”. I currently serve as the superintendent of the Casa Grande School District. In this role, I have the opportunity to set the tone for the teachers, staff members, students, and families. I get to focus on their happiness, fulfillment, and success. I am able to build confidence and create a learning environment where all feel a sense of belonging and connection.