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School District Level Leadership Scenarios

Module by: Gene Spanneut. E-mail the author

Summary: This in-class activity is intended for use with educational administration students in a course on school district level leadership. The objective is to have students respond to short prepared scenarios from the perspective of school district level leaders. Each scenario identifies the school district level leadership position from which the students are to base their responses (e.g., superintendent of schools, director of human resources, assistant superintendent for instruction, etc.). Four examples of variations for using this activity in a classroom setting are provided: (1) as an individual oral “on-the-spot” activity where each student responds in front of the class to a different scenario to explain what he/she would do as the identified district level leader; (2) as an individual activity where each student in the class responds in writing to the same scenario to explain what he/she would do as the identified district level leader; (3) as a small group activity where each team of students prepares a mutually agreed upon response to the same scenario to explain what they believe the identified district level leader should do; and, (4) as a small group activity where each team of students prepares a mutually agreed upon response to the same scenario to explain what they believe a superintendent of schools should do to “set the stage” to enhance the probability that the identified school district level leader would be able to successfully address the given situation. The scenarios for each of the four variations may be provided to the students via PowerPoint; or, for the second, third, and fourth variations, they may be given as prepared handouts. The scenarios are listed following the directions for variation number four.

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Note:

This Instructional Module has been peer-reviewed, accepted, and endorsed by the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) as a significant contribution to the scholarship and practice of education administration. In addition to publication in the Connexions Content Commons, this module is published in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, Volume 6, Number 1 (January - March, 2011), ISSN 2155-9635. Formatted and edited in Connexions by Theodore Creighton and Brad Bizzell, Virginia Tech and Janet Tareilo, Stephen F. Austin State University.

Introduction

The short scenarios presented in this module may be applicable for several individual and team activities in a course focused on school district level leadership. While many possible variations can be developed for applying the content of the scenarios, the four presented in this module are examples used in a classroom setting. Prior to applying the scenarios in that manner, the instructor may wish to remind the students of, and/or review with them, the necessity of focusing on the application of their leadership skills from the perspective of a district level leader. Discussions held with the class following the use of such scenarios are valuable opportunities for underscoring the importance of comprehending from a systems perspective the range of expected outcomes and unintended consequences that may occur in situations where school district level leaders have to act quickly.

Directions for variation number 1 (for use with scenarios 1 - 17):

Have each student respond “on-the-spot” in front of the class to the school district level leadership scenarios presented via PowerPoint slides. After viewing the wording of the scenario, the student is to verbally respond to the question provided at the end of its text. The activity continues during a single class session until all students have responded, each to a different scenario. Note: additional scenarios for this variation may need to be prepared depending on the size of the class. The instructor may wish to consider using one or more additional and/or alternative student activities with variation number one, such as:

  1. rather than having all students participate during a single class session, spread the scenarios across several class sessions
  2. following each response, have the class verbally discuss and/or critique the response, add more to the given response, offer similar or contrasting responses, etc.
  3. have the other class members individually critique each response in writing; then, give them to the student for his/her reflection
  4. have the individual responder and/or the other members of the class verbally identify and explain which ISLLC standard(s) provides the over-arching structure for the scenario
  5. rather than having the student respond to the scenario’s given question, have the student explain what factors he/she believes the leader identified in the scenario should consider before that leader responds and/or takes any action(s)
  6. following each response to the scenario’s given question, have the student identify and explain what he/she believes the intended outcome(s) of his/her response should be
  7. following each response, have the student identify and explain potential unintended consequences that could occur because of his/her response.

Directions for variation number 2 (for use with scenarios 1 - 17):

Present one, two, or three of the school district level leadership scenarios on a given day to the entire class either through a handout or via a PowerPoint slide. Use the remaining scenarios during other class sessions. Have each student independently prepare a written response to the question at the end of the scenario. After a given amount of time (10 - 15 minutes), each student exchanges their response with another student. Each independently critiques in writing the other’s response. After a given amount of time, have each student meet with the person with whom he/she exchanged responses to share and discuss their respective critiques. The instructor may wish to consider using one or more additional and/or alternative student activities with variation number two, such as:

  1. after sharing and discussing their critiques, have each pair of students prepare a mutually developed response to the scenario; then, have each pair present and explain it the rest of the class
  2. in addition to item a above, have each pair of students verbally identify and explain which ISLLC standard(s) provides the over-arching structure for their mutually developed response to the scenario
  3. rather than having each pair of students prepare a mutually developed response to the scenario, have them mutually identify what factors they believe the leader identified in the scenario should consider before that leader responds and/or takes any action(s); then, have each pair present and explain those factors to the rest of the class
  4. in addition to item a above, have each pair of students identify what they believe the intended outcome(s) of their response should be; then, have each pair present and explain those intended outcome(s) to the rest of the class
  5. in addition to item a above, have each pair of students identify potential unintended consequences that could occur because of their response; then, have each pair present and explain those potential unintended consequences to the rest of the class.

Directions for variation number 3 (for use with scenarios 1 - 17):

Present one, two, or three of the school district level leadership scenarios on a given day to the entire class either through a handout or via a PowerPoint slide. Other scenarios may be used during subsequent class sessions. Have the class divide into teams, each consisting of 2, 3, or 4 students, depending on the size of the class. Have each team prepare a mutually agreed upon response to the question at the end of the scenario and, after a given amount of time, verbally present and explain their team’s response to the rest of the class. The instructor may wish to consider using one or more additional and/or alternative team activities with variation number three, such as:

  1. after all of the teams have shared their responses with the rest of the class, have the class rank order the team responses in terms of their practicality, reasonableness, etc.
  2. have each team identify and explain as a part of their response which ISLLC standard(s) provides the over-arching structure for the scenario
  3. rather than having each team prepare a response to the scenario, have them mutually identify what factors they believe the leader identified in the scenario should consider before that leader responds and/or takes any action(s); then, have each team present and explain those factors to the rest of the class
  4. have each team identify what they believe the intended outcome(s) of their response should be; then, have each team present and explain those intended outcomes to the rest of the class
  5. in addition to or in place of item d above, have each team identify potential unintended consequences that could occur because of their response; then, have each team present and explain those potential unintended consequences to the rest of the class.

Directions for variation number 4 (for use with scenarios 18 and 19):

The focus of the activity for these two scenarios is different from the other three. In those, the students respond to what they would do as the district level leader identified in the scenarios. In variation number four, the students are to identify and agree upon what they believe a superintendent of schools should have already done to have in place operational procedures, protocols, regulations, etc. that would enhance the liklihood that the district level leader identified in the scenarios would be able to successfully address the given situations. Present scenario 18 and/or 19 to the whole class either through a handout or via a PowerPoint slide.Have the class divide into teams, each consisting of 2, 3, or 4 students, depending on the size of the class. Have each team prepare a mutually agreed upon response and, after a given amount of time, verbally present and explain their team’s response to the rest of the class. The instructor may wish to consider using one or more additional and/or alternative team activities with variation number four, such as:

  1. after all of the teams have shared their responses with the rest of the class, have the class rank order the team responses in terms of their practicality, reasonableness, etc.
  2. have each team identify and explain as a part of their response which ISLLC standard(s) provides the over-arching structure for the scenario.

Scenarios

Scenario number 1:

You are the superintendent of schools. Today is a Friday in early March.

Several cuts in elementary, middle school, and high school teaching positions will need to be made for the next school year due to declining enrollments and a predicted drastic reduction in state aid.

You have decided to meet individually with each of the least senior teachers to inform them that their positions are very likely to be eliminated.

The first of your meetings will be held in a few minutes with Janet Jones, the least senior elementary teacher. You receive a phone call from the elementary principal in the school in which Janet works. He tells you he just learned Janet’s husband was informed about an hour ago that his position in a nearby manufacturing firm is being terminated and he will be let go in two weeks. As you hang up the phone, you see Janet approaching your office door.

What will you say to her?

Scenario number 2:

You are the athletic director.

You are meeting in your office with Amanda Smith, the varsity volleyball coach. Amanda tells you the team captain gave her the names of four varsity players who broke training rules over the weekend by drinking beer at a party. One of the four players is the superintendent’s daughter.

Amanda asks for your advice about what she should do.

What advice will you give her?

Scenario number 3:

You are the superintendent of schools.

The new middle school principal, who began her duties two weeks ago, calls you at home early Sunday afternoon. She tells you the Girl Scouts had permission to use the middle school gymnasium, cafeteria, and several classrooms for their annual indoor camping activities yesterday afternoon, last night, and this morning.

The principal tells you she just got off the phone with the middle school custodian who checks the building on weekends. He told her the building was left in a mess and that many materials and pieces of furniture from classrooms were moved to the gymnasium and left there.

The principal asks for your advice about what to do.

What advice will you give her?

Scenario number 4:

You are the director of special education.

It is 10:00 am and you are in the high school building to attend a Committee on Special Education meeting. Before you go into the meeting, you stop in the faculty restroom. As you enter, you see the following hand written note on a piece of paper taped to the mirror: 10:15 --- BOOM!

What will you do?

Scenario number 5:

You are the superintendent of schools.

The high school principal, with your approval, has arranged for the state police K-9 drug team to search the school during the student lunch periods today. The principal has asked you to be present. Only the principal and you have knowledge the search will take place.

The high school principal and you meet the members of the K-9 team in the faculty and staff parking lot. As you are all walking toward the building, one of the dogs alerts on a car. The principal recognizes the vehicle and tells you it belongs to one of the high school music teachers.

What will you do?

Scenario number 6:

You are the assistant superintendent for instruction and are attending the elementary parent-teacher open house.

A parent comes up to you in the corridor and states, “I just spoke the principal, Ms. Bliss. She has a heavy odor of alcohol on her breath!”

What will you do?

Scenario number 7:

As the director of human resources, one of your responsibilities is to screen all teaching applications and identify 8 – 10 candidates who will be invited for initial interviews.

A vacancy exists for an elementary teaching position. You have completed the screening and have notified eight candidates.

The team conducting the initial interviews will consist of the elementary principal, four elementary teachers, two parent members of the PTA, the assistant superintendent for instruction, and you.

The superintendent walks into your office, closes the door, and asks, “Why was Mary Smith not invited for an interview?”

You know Mary is the daughter-in-law of the superintendent’s secretary.

What will you say?

Scenario number 8:

You are the superintendent of schools.

You receive a call on your private line from the middle school principal who, in a very emotional voice, tells you that one of the physical education teachers dropped dead during class a few minutes ago.

What will you do?

Scenario number 9:

You are the superintendent of schools.

On 30 days notice, Jeff Owens, a successful, tenured, and very popular high school teacher, resigns and leaves during the first week in February to go to a much higher paying position in a larger, downstate school system.

The vacancy created by Jeff’s departure has been filled for the rest of the school year by an experienced long-term substitute.

Jeff calls you in the evening at your home three weeks later and, in a shaky voice, pleads with you, “I made a big mistake by leaving. I want to come back. What will you do to help me?”

What will you say?

Scenario number 10:

You are the director of human resources.

As you are leaving a board of education meeting one evening, Robin, one of the night cleaners in the high school, approaches you in the parking lot.

Robin tells you she just saw her supervisor and a young person engaging in a sexual act in a secluded area on the auditorium stage.

What will you do?

Scenario number 11:

You are the new superintendent of schools.

It is mid-afternoon on a school day in early December.

You receive a phone call from a parent who tells you he was in a shopping mall this morning and saw four of your teachers in various stores. As he provides you with their names, you realize all four of them teach in the middle school.

When you contact the middle school principal, a veteran administrator in the school system, to inquire about the allegation, she tells you the four teachers are excused today “to go on our annual Christmas shopping spree … a long-standing tradition in my middle school.”

What will you do?

Scenario number 12:

You are the assistant superintendent for instruction.

The middle school principal, Sam Jones, comes to your office for a scheduled meeting to discuss one of his first year teachers, Jody Smith.

The principal explains that Jody is having a great deal of trouble keeping up with the pace of the required curriculum. Sam tells you the mentor assigned to work with Jody is very frustrated because Jody does not take her advice for ways to improve the pacing of his lessons.

Sam also tells you that he is beginning to receive contacts from parents of students in Jody’s classes. They say their children really like Jody; however, the parents are wondering why there is no homework and why Jody seldom returns phone calls or emails.

Sam asks for your advice.

What advice will you give?

Scenario number 13:

You are the superintendent of schools.

You receive a phone call from the board of education president, Mr. Santos. He tells you a very successful local business person has offered to donate $500,000 to the school system. The money would be given under one condition: that the board of education names the new athletic field in honor of a 2003 graduate who was recently killed in Afghanistan while serving in the military.

Mr. Santos asks for your opinion.

What will you say?

Scenario number 14:

You are the superintendent of schools in a district in which the school system’s buildings are all located on a single campus in the village of Elmgrove.

You receive an impromptu visit from Reginald and Beverly Johnson, owners of a very successful automobile dealership in the district. They tell you they will donate $2,500 each year to be used as an award to be given to “the teacher of the year.” They convey the criteria for the selection will be up to you with one exception: 60% of the criteria must be based on a teacher’s service to the Elmgrove community.

What will you say?

Scenario number 15:

You are the superintendent of schools in a district in which the school system’s buildings are all located on a single campus in the village of Elmgrove.

You received an impromptu visit this morning from Reginald and Beverly Johnson, owners of a very successful automobile dealership in the district. They told you they will donate $2,500 each year to be used as an award to be given to “the teacher of the year.” They conveyed that the criteria for the selection will be up to you with one exception: 60% of the criteria must be based on a teacher’s service to the Elmgrove community.

Within a few hours of the Johnson’s visit, the president of the teachers’ union, Tony Ogden, comes to your office.

Tony expresses strong opposition to the teacher of the year award. When you inquire about his reasons, Tony explains there are two major problems. First, the award is designed to acknowledge the work of a single teacher. Second, because the major criterion focuses on community service, teachers who do not reside in the district will be at a distinct disadvantage. Tony adds, “If this award is implemented, our teachers will not participate.”

What will you say?

Scenario number 16:

You are the director of special education.

You were informed by the high school principal that a special education teacher aide in her building, Marge Allis, has been very vocal about her strong opposition to a proposed change in a student’s classification.

The principal tells you she suspects Marge has been secretly providing the student’s parents and their legal advocate with confidential information for them to use during the upcoming Committee on Special Education meeting.

What will you do?

Scenario number 17:

You are the director of human resources.

While attending a home basketball game, you see three adolescents in the corridor outside the gymnasium bullying a younger student.

You see the high school principal start to approach the group. Before the principal gets to them, however, he turns and enters the gymnasium. The three adolescents now have the younger student physically pinned against the wall.

What will you do?

Scenario number 18:

The superintendent of schools and the elementary principal are attending a workshop in a nearby city today.

The assistant superintendent for instruction is in the elementary building this morning to meet with some of the teachers. As he walks around a corner in one of the corridors, he sees Mrs. Alexander, the president of the board of education, standing outside an emergency exit door. While the door is able to be opened from inside, it is locked to prevent entrance into the building. Mrs. Alexander uses a key, opens the door, and enters the hallway. She does not acknowledge the assistant superintendent for instruction when she sees him. Rather, she quickly turns and walks down the hallway away from him.

What specific types of operating procedures, protocols, regulations, etc. should a superintendent of schools have already prepared and put in place that would enhance the assistant superintendent for instruction’s abilities to successfully address this situation?

Scenario number 19:

A new school business administrator in a rural school district has been in the position for three weeks. This is his first position as a school business administrator, having come to the district from another part of the state.

Today is a school day, in February; it is mid-morning. The superintendent of schools was taken from home to hospital by ambulance early this morning, had emergency surgery, and is in intensive care. According to the district’s organization chart, the school business administrator is to assume the superintendent’s duties and responsibilities if she is absent.

The superintendent’s secretary transfers a phone call to the school business administrator from the local chief of police. The chief tells him:

  • a tank truck carrying a full load of propane was involved in a major accident near the Maple Street Elementary School a few minutes ago
  • propane is leaking from the truck
  • the fire department and other emergency services are on the way
  • the school needs to be evacuated immediately

What specific types of operating procedures, protocols, regulations, etc. should a superintendent of schools have already prepared and put in place that would enhance the school business administrator’s abilities to successfully address this situation?

Educational Leadership Policy Standards: ISLLC 2008as adopted by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA), December 12, 2007

Standard 1: An education leader promotes the success of every student by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by all stakeholders

Functions:

  1. Collaboratively develop and implement a shared vision and mission.
  2. Collect and use data to identify goals, assess organizational effectiveness, and promote organizational learning
  3. Create and implement plans to achieve goals
  4. Promote continuous and sustainable improvement
  5. Monitor and evaluate progress and revise plans

Standard 2: An education leader promotes the success of every student by advocating, nurturing and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.

Functions:

  1. Nurture and sustain a culture of collaboration, trust, learning, and high expectations
  2. Create a comprehensive, rigorous, and coherent curricular program
  3. Create a personalized and motivating learning environment for students
  4. Supervise instruction
  5. Develop assessment and accountability systems to monitor student progress.
  6. Develop the instructional and leadership capacity of staff
  7. Maximize time spent on quality instruction
  8. Promote the use of the most effective and appropriate technologies to support teaching and learning
  9. Monitor and evaluate the impact of the instructional program

Standard 3: An education leader promotes the success of every student by ensuring management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.

Functions:

  1. Monitor and evaluate the management and operational systems
  2. Obtain, allocate, align, and efficiently utilize human, fiscal, and technological resources
  3. Promote and protect the welfare and safety of students and staff
  4. Develop the capacity for distributed leadership
  5. Ensure teacher and organizational time is focused to support quality instruction and student learning

Standard 4: An education leader promotes the success of every student by collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.

Functions:

  1. Collect and analyze data and information pertinent to the educational environment
  2. Promote understanding, appreciation, and use of the community’s diverse cultural, social, and intellectual resources
  3. Build and sustain positive relationships with families and caregivers
  4. Build and sustain productive relationships with community partners

Standard 5: An education leader promotes the success of every student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

Functions:

  1. Ensure a system of accountability for every student’s academic and social success
  2. Model principles of self-awareness, reflective practice, transparency, and ethical behavior
  3. Safeguard the values of democracy, equity, and diversity
  4. Consider and evaluate the potential moral and legal consequences of decision-making
  5. Promote social justice and ensure that individual student needs inform all aspects of schooling

Standard 6: An education leader promotes the success of every student by understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.

Functions:

  1. Advocate for children, families, and caregivers
  2. Act to influence local, district, state, and national decisions affecting student learning
  3. Assess, analyze, and anticipate emerging trends and initiatives in order to adapt leadership strategies

References

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2008). Educational Leadership Policy Standards: ISLLC 2008 as adopted by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration on December 12, 2007. Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington, DC.

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