‘I know my why’ — ACSA’s first virtual institute for principals develops leadership

July 27, 2020
More than 100 school principals and aspiring principals gathered online for ACSA’s Virtual Summer Leadership Institute June 22-25, which provided an opportunity for school site leaders to reflect, develop action items and discuss ways to help students thrive during unprecedented times. ACSA’s Institute for New & Aspiring Principals and Principal’s Summer Institute, which have been held each summer at UCLA for more than 25 years, were canceled and quickly reformatted to an online conference due to COVID-19 concerns. Wearing their ACSA T-shirts and logging on from home offices throughout the state, principals heard from presenters, including keynotes from Douglas Reeves, Sharroky Hollie, Tom DeLapp and Pam Robbins. They were grouped into job-alike teams led by experienced principals who facilitated group discussions and helped process content in the smaller group setting. “Our leaders are making us reflect and the sharing is very robust,” said Sukanya Goswami, an assistant principal in the Jefferson Union High School District.  Team leader Daniel Hernandez said that having a PD opportunity like this in June is ideal to allow enough time for principals to personally reflect and work with their staff before the start of school.    “It was really valuable to connect with the team, discussing presenters, leadership and our current realities both personal and professional,” he said. “Although there are still questions about the future, sharing in that future was emotionally filling.” Hernandez said principals participated in both formal and informal team-building exercises, and were all able to share and listen to each other’s opinions about topics such as anti-racism, equity, and returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was also a unique way to participate and still tend to family responsibilities,” he added. “One participant even attended from her car as she traveled with family.” The Virtual Summer Leadership Institute was the first ACSA conference for Mirel Rivera, an assistant principal in the West Contra Costa USD.  “As much as we are in different districts and different cities across the state, we are facing very similar challenges just as a world and as educators and as leaders,” said Rivera, who was led by Team Leader Shel Brown. “I found it incredibly valuable in Team Shel to be able to discuss some of these issues and how we are handling it and learn from each other. I built some great networking and relationships and I look forward to continuing to learn together and hopefully see each other at future ACSA events.” While participants said they missed the in-person networking opportunities, many reported that the virtual event allowed them to hone the leadership skills needed to guide them through the next school year.  “I joined the institute feeling overwhelmed and a bit distraught especially because I was not sure what would be my role for the upcoming school year,” wrote one participant in a feedback survey. “After listening to the speakers and going through the exercises with my team, I feel excited, inspired, and guided. The tools provided will help me be better prepared and organized to become a more effective leader. This reflective time has helped me see where I need to grow and that there are multiple ways of getting the work done. I feel supported, but most of all, I know my why.”

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators