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A team from a previous Summer Leadership Institute led by Shel Brown (front row, third from left).
Get ready to work hard, play hard
Summer Leadership Institute reenergizes principals for the new school year
March 27, 2023
Educating young people is hard work, and many principals find themselves exhausted by the end of the school year.
That’s why it’s important for principals to reenergize over the summer during ACSA’s Summer Leadership Institute, a weeklong residential program for site-based leaders and those aspiring to the role.
Participants travel to the UCLA campus, where they will live and learn for five days. They are also sorted into teams based on their current position and experience level.
Each day, participants hear presentations from some of the top thought-leaders in education and take part in engaging teambuilding and personal growth exercises designed to help principals overcome leadership challenges.
During small group discussions, team leaders help participants process information and think about how it applies to their schools.
Schel Brown was an attendee of the institute back in 2014 and has served as a team leader for several years.
“It was an amazing, eye-opening experience,” said Brown, now dean of academics at Lompoc Adult School and Career Center. “It validated some of my beliefs and educational morals while diving deeper into what kind of leadership I wanted to pursue.”
This year’s institute has adopted the theme, “Lead Up — Invigorate and Extend Your Leadership.”
Participants will hear from two keynotes: bestselling author and speaker Jon Gordon, who has consulted with numerous school districts and Fortune 500 companies to develop positive leaders, organizations and teams; and Don Vu, an award-winning elementary school principal who will share his passion for literacy and creating opportunity for newcomer students.
Knowing the challenges facing site leaders and future site leaders, the institute is focusing on several topics this year, including:
  • Staff burnout/tools to increase morale.
  • Managing teacher/sub shortages.
  • Cyberbullying/racial slurs.
  • Building a positive school culture.
  • Handling and improving discipline.
  • Schoolwide communication.
  • Finding your personal leadership style.
Part of the uniqueness of this professional development experience is that it is a residential program, giving participants an unparalleled opportunity to deepen their leadership skills.
“It allows for the attendee to truly step away from personal/family life to focus attention on individual growth,” Brown says.
One of the other perks is the chance to form personal and professional relationships that will carry on for years.
“It’s extremely beneficial to be able to problem solve with like-minded individuals outside of their district or school,” Brown said. “It is important because we are all dealing with the same issues, even in different locations.”
Brown said the friendships forged at the institute stay strong as principals meet up again at events throughout the year.
“Site leadership can be an isolating experience — especially if you are on a site without an AP or other admin,” Brown said. “Having people to collaborate and commiserate with is essential for not only well-being but also to help with the job.” Team leaders make sure to balance the intense professional development with plenty of fun.
“The Summer Institute staff has adopted the mindset of, ‘Work hard. Play hard,” Brown said.
One example is the Thursday night barbecue. Brown said team leaders all chip in their “hidden talents” to make this event special, and to “remind our attendees not to forget about enjoying the moment.”
When he reflects on the most memorable moments from the Institute, Brown says it’s the connections.
“Attendees are able to be vulnerable and share impactful stories,” he said. “The depth of conversation is amazing considering you just met. People open up, share, and really examine themselves. Going from strangers to having such a powerful connection is an amazing experience.”
Summer Leadership Institute
What: Five days of intensive leadership development for principals and those aspiring to the role. When: June 26-30, 2023 Cost: $1,999 ACSA member early bird rate (ends May 29) Register:
A hula hoop exercise from a previous Summer Leadership Institute.
Shel Brown at a Summer Leadership Institute barbeque.
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