Adaptive Leadership in Times of Crisis

We’re listening to our national network of leaders. Your experiences point to three priority areas that can guide education leaders as we navigate the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic together.
Three Priorities to Help you Navigate COVID-19
4/13/20
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Michele Caracappa
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Written by Michele Caracappa, Chief Program Officer, New Leaders

Concerned that students could go hungry, executive director of VOICE Charter School of New York Franklin Headley drove straight to Costco. He and his team filled a U-Haul truck with bulk food to share with families.  

Zaharah Valentine, principal of Baltimore Design School, launched Google classrooms for all students and planned with her team to ensure that each and every time a student reached out virtually with a question or concern, a team member would respond that same day.

Brian Ingram, first-year principal of Dunbar Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee, knew his students were not equipped with 1:1 devices or reliable WiFi. So, he made sure students could receive assignments via their cell phones.

Like Franklin, Zaharah, and Brian, New Leaders alums and school leaders across the country are finding solutions to a set of problems none of us ever envisioned. Their adaptive leadership is illuminating new ways to lead in this rapidly changing landscape.

Like you, we are inspired and heartened by these stories – by the creative thinking, fast action, and thoughtful interventions educators are implementing to serve their students and school communities. As we continue to navigate the unknown, we need leaders who can guide their communities during a time of crisis and unpredictability and show sustained love and caring for individual students, families, and teachers.

We have been listening to our network of over 4,000 school and system leaders across the country. Your experiences point to three priority areas for school leadership during this time:

  1. Preserve Community
  2. Protect Learning
  3. Promote Connectedness

We hope you find these three priorities helpful in anchoring your work and adapting your leadership in this unprecedented time. Above all, we hope you are able to stay healthy and safe. Ultimately, nothing is more important than the health, safety, and well-being of our teams, our families, and our communities.

We are here to support you. Take care and check back here for updates, resources, and real-time learning so that together we have the tools we need to continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis and serve our students and communities.

Preserve Community

To be a school building leader without a building feels perilous – and yet your role in preserving community during this time is critical. You can support students and families by keeping health, safety, and well-being front and center.

High-impact Leadership Actions:

  • Identify avenues for families to access food
  • Share information on local mental health resources
  • Ensure all students have access to tech devices, WiFi, books, and printed materials
  • Create shared learning experiences that bring the community together
  • Communicate that health and safety are the top priority

Protect Learning

Our students’ capacity for growth, their curiosity, and their enthusiasm for exploration of new ideas knows no bounds. As leaders, we must keep our expectations high and put the systems and structures in place to ensure our students are supported academically, while being realistic about what’s feasible given our new reality.

High-impact Leadership Actions:

  • Focus your team on what can be accomplished
  • Prioritize the learning of students who are most vulnerable
  • Keep plans clear and simple for staff, students, and families to manage
  • Zero in on reading and keep your school community engaged in reading
  • Review past learning in content areas and reinforce effective study techniques

Promote Connectedness

To combat physical and emotional isolation, you play a critical role in creating opportunities for staff, students, and families to engage with one another, even from a distance.

High-impact Leadership Actions:

  • Develop both formal and informal mechanisms for checking in with staff and students
  • Identify point people to connect regularly with families and staff who are most at risk
  • Find ways to maintain connection within the community
  • Help staff and families connect to services and supports to stay healthy and safe
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Michele Caracappa

Michele Caracappa

Michele Caracappa is the Chief Program Officer for New Leaders. A founding member and former Chief Academic Officer for Success Academy Charter Schools, Michele drove instruction across 46 schools. Under her leadership, the network became the highest-achieving school system in the state of New York.

Michele Caracappa

Michele Caracappa

Michele Caracappa

Michele Caracappa

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