As a school year of unprecedented uncertainty gets underway, I have been deeply moved by the courage and commitment we are seeing from education leaders across the country. The most skilled leaders are not only managing the technical aspects of getting students back to school, whether in person or remotely. They are also tackling the adaptive challenges that come with opening school during multiple pandemics – Covid-19, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and our country’s reckoning with deeply-rooted racial injustice.
It takes devotion to make sure members of your team spend 15 or 20 minutes every day on the phone with every student to say I miss you and I love you, to help children feel cared for and connected. Thank you, Phoenix Union High School District, for giving that to your young people.
It takes leadership willing to recognize and confront institutional bias to engage families and community members in conversations about race and how schools can better serve Black, Indigenous, and students of color, to create space for students, families and community members to have shared voice and influence through a series of virtual town halls. Thank you, Des Moines Public Schools, for giving that to your young people.
It takes culturally competent and responsive leadership to design a new social studies curriculum that asks students, Who should our city build monuments for? What makes our community what it is? How did we get here and where are we going? Thank you, Baltimore City Schools, for giving that to your young people.
It takes purposeful leadership committed to building your team’s capacity to design and guide emotionally productive conversations among the adults in order to create the space for youth to do the same. Thank you, Alum Rock School District in San Jose, CA, for attending to the social-emotional learning needs of the adults in order to maintain an emotionally healthy system for all.
Thank you all for your leadership.
This school year, education leaders are being tested as never before. As a community of educators, we can support each other to do better for our students, staff, and families. At the NYC Leadership Academy, we are ready to support you as you manage your community’s trauma while also intentionally designing learning environments and experiences for the students in front of you, for the experiences they are living. I urge you to take care of yourself, to recognize that you are leading through trauma — the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers tremendous guidance educators navigating Covid-19.
At the same time, to bring students back safely, it’s critical to lead with an awareness of systemic bias and intentionally designing your schools and classrooms to meet the needs of every student. Our free guide, created by our organization’s experts on leading for equity, walks you through how to do this work in the time of Covid-19.
Thank you for your courage, your innovation, your leadership. We are in this together.
Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.
Lead Education Officer & President
Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is Lead Education Officer & President of The Leadership Academy. Nancy joined The Leadership Academy in 2014 and has served as National Leadership Designer and Facilitator, Vice President of District Leadership, and Chief Strategy Officer. She was named President & CEO in July 2018 and continues to serve as an executive leadership coach and facilitator for school systems across the country. She was a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, and in February 2020 was named among the 100 most powerful education leaders in New York by City & State New York. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker for local and national education organizations and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership and equity for national publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, and Hechinger Report. Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrator’s Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. Prior to her tenure with The Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification. Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She served on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools for more than a decade. She is an instructor at NYU and frequently teaches at the Harvard Principals’ Center institutes for School Turnaround Leaders, Urban School Leaders, and Race, Equity, Access, and Leadership. Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at The Hunt Institute, Brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team. Find Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.