Governor’s charge to school principals
and Darden-Curry leadership program
by Michael Bailey
about improving the lives of youths in Virginia, Gov. Mark
Warner (center) made a trip to the Darden School June 21
to discuss ways to turn around poorly performing public
hush spread over the class. Then the students broke into applause
as Gov. Mark R. Warner took his seat next to them in the small,
tiered Darden School classroom. They were listening to business
professor Alexander Horniman discuss what qualities make for
a high-performing business. The 10 students were not your typical
business executives; they are school principals from around the
state participating in a new program Warner initiated, called
the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program.
the governor, a former venture capitalist, was relaxed and made
jokes as he answered Horniman’s pointed questions, he spoke
seriously about what he expected from the school principals,
whom he challenged to improve the education and lives of youth
by “turning around” poorly performing schools in
state chose the Darden-Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education
to custom-design a program teaching school principals and other
administrators ‘turnaround’ principles. Warner’s
program, part of his Education for a Lifetime initiative, aims
to equip school officials with the business skills corporate
executives and “turnaround specialists” use to solve
problems and make changes that put complex organizations back
on the track of success.
why I came to visit you on just the second day of this program,” Warner
told the participants, who were selected for their ability to
become change-agent leaders in their schools. “I wanted
you to know firsthand how important this is to me. … If
we show positive results, we’ll be creating something exciting,” he
told them. “We’re trying to break the mold and create
a new category of turnaround specialist, to systematize an approach” for
improving schools and student achievement.
may allow us to demand increased compensation and power on your
behalf,” he said, adding that they’ll have to be
willing to shake things up and show results.
visiting the class, the governor spoke about the program and
his other education initiatives and introduced the soon-to-be
turnaround specialists at a large gathering in the South Lounge
of Darden’s Saunders Hall.
Partnership for Leaders in Education
Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program
Harold J. Burbach, professor of education and chairman of the Department
of Leadership, Foundations and Policy
Alfred R. Butler, associate professor of education in the Department of Leadership,
Foundations and Policy
Alexander B. Horniman, Killgallon Ohio Art Professor of Business Administration
and senior fellow, Olsson Center for Applied Ethics
June West, academic director of the Darden-Curry Partnership and Darden assistant
Tierney T. Fairchild, executive director of the Darden-Curry Partnership
Outside specialists: Harlan Platt, Northeastern University and School Turnaround
Program, Rensselaerville Institute
whose teaching focuses on leadership and organizational behavior,
took the participants through the process of a near-disastrous
business and how the turnaround would work emphasizing how
the leader’s behaviors and choices make a difference.
be considering how everything you do matters,” he said.
is another crucial element that matters. Associate professor
of education Alfred R. Butler discussed recent federal and state
legislation that has forced educators “to rethink the allocation
of resources, especially for the most needy students.” Rather
than looking at average scores coming out of public schools,
administrators and teachers have to address the improvement of
individual student achievement.
other sessions, education professor Harold J. Burbach emphasized
that the leader-principal trying to improve a low-performing
school must understand and be particularly sensitive to the socio-economic
environment the students come from, taking into account their
history of low academic performance.
leaders also must be skilled at energizing the people they work
need to tap the collective intelligence and experience of teachers … and
find ways for them to share that with new teachers,” Burbach
principals, who come from all corners of the state, will take
their new skills and knowledge this fall either back to their
own schools or to another chronically struggling school. A second
group of 10 educators will go through the training next year.
U.Va. is working with the Virginia Department of Education to
identify which schools are eligible to participate.
turnaround specialist program comprises three concentrated residential
modules at Darden over the school year: the initial five-day
curriculum, one-day leadership workshops and a turnaround seminar.
This is the second project of the Darden-Curry Partnership; they
undertook their first project, which is privately funded, to
Florida school superintendents last summer.
their peers in the corporate world, the leaders of our schools
and school systems need access to the most advanced management
tools and techniques available today. Our partnership is designed
to provide them,” said David Breneman, dean of the Curry
School of Education.