Oct 10, 2023

7 Key Messages Every Charter School Leader Should Embrace

No one understands the immense value of continuing education more than educators themselves. Particularly within the charter school sector, where innovation is at the heart of all that we do, leaders are well-positioned to foster a culture of continuous improvement, both for themselves and their school at large. As heard at our 2023 Leadership Summit, here are eight key messages that every charter school leader should embrace to ensure their next steps are the best steps.

By Kim Daly

  1. Know your value proposition. A unique, authentic message that connects with your audience’s values and triggers engagement is a must for every charter school, says Christy Slavin, President at Hive Digital Minds. This strategic positioning statement explains what students and families gain by attending your school. Clear and concise, it should “resonate in an emotional capacity and be backed up with data, testimonials and other evidence,” says Slavin. Different from a mission, vision or set of principles, it ultimately becomes the foundation of your school’s messaging, driving both enrollment and engagement.

  2. Every child deserves someone who cares for them. To be successful learners, students need to know (1) they are seen, heard, and valued by adults who care, have empathy and cultural competence; (2) their efforts are worthy of praise; and (3) that schools support positive, stable relationships, and promote their mental health and well-being. Be curious about the lives of your children outside of school. Connect with your students. Shared one keen audience member, “When you champion them outside of school, they champion you in school.”

  3. Leveling the playing field is important. Fair or not, educators are responsible for leveling the playing field for a range of students who vary both economically and culturally. Acknowledging and addressing these disparities helps to create an environment conducive to all students' success. It can be achieved through transformative pedagogy, cultural inclusivity and community collaboration. Educational Coach and Change Agent Lee Roland, says  "I strongly urge all educators to wholeheartedly accept the reality that our work is undeniably challenging. However, it is of utmost importance that we rise above these challenges, as the lives of our children depend on our unwavering commitment and success.”

  4. Building resilience matters. Dr. Salome Thomas, widely known as Principal EL, advocates for resilient leadership, including taking risks and challenging the status quo. Moreover, building that resilience must extend to students. Winning shouldn’t ever be the end game because it destroys the teachable spirit. Learning to overcome loss and adversity is how humans learn and grow. Don’t be afraid if students aren’t successful, says Principal EL. “For children to become learners, they must come out of their comfort zone.” The best thing we can do for kids, he says, instead of teaching them to be successful, is to “teach them how to respond when they are not successful.”

  5. Find your STEM focus. Preparing Colorado students for the growing demand in STEM fields is crucial. Bill Knous, Director of Charter School Growth at the League says that looking ahead, four in five jobs (80%) that pay a living wage in Colorado will require postsecondary education. Moreover, there are 56 foundational skills of the future workforce of which only a handful are explicitly taught and measured in school. This calls for an emphasis on college degrees, technical skills and STEM training while also emphasizing the pivotal role of instructional leadership. “If we are to effectively prepare our students for success in the future workforce, we need to reassess our instructional leadership,” says Knous. “The first step in that is to ask yourself, ‘How do I see myself in STEM?’

  6. Build a bench of top talent. Talented leaders have a profound impact on everything from student outcomes and school culture to the larger community. By attracting and retaining top educational talent, schools not only maximize this impact, but also cultivate a skilled team that drives long-term school and leadership success.  Dr. TJ Vari, co-author of “Building a Winning Team” and “Passionate Leadership” shares, “this work is more important than ever before, and the only path forward given the landscape that we're facing is to support one another and to invest in our ability, individually and collectively, to lead better and grow faster.” 

  7. Always remember why you did this. You chose a leadership position because you made a commitment and you want to follow through on it. “Build a culture where everyone in the building learns from each other, everyone is a student,” says Principal EL. Show your teachers you are there to support them in their goals. It begins with leaders as an example, he adds. And whatever your problems are, “embrace them and own them.”

Looking for ongoing inspiration as you move along in your leadership journey? Join one of our learning communities! These cohorts provide a safe and accessible opportunity for leaders to connect regularly with both peers and thought leaders within the larger community. Find yours today!

Related topics