Taking the Lead in School Settings To lead people, walk beside them…As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, “We did it ourselves!” —Lao-tse If you have been reading my column in The ASHA Leader, you know that I have chosen to ... From the President
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From the President  |   September 01, 2010
Taking the Lead in School Settings
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School-Based Settings / From the President
From the President   |   September 01, 2010
Taking the Lead in School Settings
The ASHA Leader, September 2010, Vol. 15, 23. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.15112010.23
The ASHA Leader, September 2010, Vol. 15, 23. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.15112010.23
To lead people, walk beside them…As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, “We did it ourselves!”
—Lao-tse
If you have been reading my column in The ASHA Leader, you know that I have chosen to focus on leadership. I love this year’s theme for the ASHA Schools Conference— “Connect, Create, Innovate”—because that’s what good leaders do. Leaders connect to establish relationships. Leaders create new programs and ideas and expand opportunities for others. Leaders innovate and make positive change wherever they are.
Leadership has nothing to do with your position. We all can lead!
In July I had the pleasure of joining 1,200 colleagues (educational audiologists and speech-language pathologists) at the meeting of the Educational Audiology Association and ASHA’s annual schools conference. I witnessed passion, seriousness, commitment, and the love that each attendee has for his or her work. In my conversations with members, I saw shining examples of leadership.
I’d like to share one example—Teresa Cherry-Cruz of Bridgeport, Conn., director of the Speech Language Hearing Department of Bridgeport Public Schools. She manages a staff of 22 SLPs and two assistants, supervises the department’s programs for hearing impairment and autism, and collaborates with the district’s program for early childhood enhancement.
Clearly she’s in a leadership position. But how did she get there? Below are a few lessons we might draw from her story.
  • Look for opportunities wherever you are. Cherry-Cruz worked for 17 years in two large public school districts prior to her current position. “Regardless of my assignment,” she said, “I was always encouraged by my building administrators to use my creativity. I learned how to ‘first engage and then marry’ my skills with the skills of special educators, mainstream educators, and support personnel.”

  • Be a catalyst for change. Cherry-Cruz created two school programs supported by the schools’ special and regular education teachers, psychologist, social worker, guidance counselor, and others:

    • “Help Families Connect” offered language-based activities to adult family members of elementary school children to help strengthen their child’s language skills using practical tools common in their cultural environment.

    • “Working to Learn” used the motif of “money” in a language-based program for middle-school students that ascribed financial value to positive classroom behaviors and student performance.

  • Be creative. While working in the schools, Cherry-Cruz realized the importance of community support and created the TOTAL (Teaching Ourselves to Achieve Literacy) summer program for young children and adolescents. The 14-year program drew the support of a local church, community agencies, a city-wide parent center, and graduate interns from two universities as well as civic groups, teachers, and other supporters from four large public school systems.

  • Define your personal vision of leadership. Cherry-Cruz defines school leadership as “an art of influence,” and “the ability to create a consensus and align people behind a vision.” Leadership, she said, “is about being responsible for establishing and communicating clear goals and then motivating and inspiring the positive planned actions of people to achieve them.”

  • Keep growing. New this fall, Cherry-Cruz and her colleagues have created a bilingual language lab that will rotate among the district’s three largest bilingual schools. They also are implementing a non-graded approach for literacy instruction for K–2 students. “The SLPs are involved to ensure quality instruction in oral language skills, and they collaborate with building administrators, classroom teachers, special education teachers, ESL teachers and literacy coaches, social workers, and school psychologists.”

  • Just do it! “We bring a unique skill set into the school system,” she said. “But SLPs must take the lead in bringing this knowledge forward so that it becomes embedded into educational paradigm. We need programs that are flexible and fluid to meet the language needs of all students regardless of race, ethnicity, or physical, emotional, or economic status.”

Cherry-Cruz is just one example of how leadership works in our schools every day. As you grow as a leader, you will be more effective and happier in your work, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Members’ Corner

We all can strengthen the quality of leadership in ourselves. Here’s a quick self assessment:

  • In what ways do you identify with Cherry-Cruz’s work?

  • What are some examples of things that you have done in your facility in terms of leadership?

  • What might you do in your workplace as a leadership activity?

I’d like to hear your leadership stories, challenges, and ideas. To respond, visit the ASHA Web forum on leadership.

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September 2010
Volume 15, Issue 11