Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

A 21st Century Leadership Plan

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

A 21st Century Leadership Plan

Article excerpt

Teamwork and community involvement are keys for this Iowa district.

What does it take to lead a district in the 21st century? It begins with re-evaluating your role, says Les Omotani, superintendent of the 15-school West Des Moines, Iowa, district. Omotani thinks of himself not just as a superintendent of schools, but as a superintendent of education.

"`Superintendent of schools' connotes only that you are in charge of what happens within the walls of the building, and that learning takes place only within those walls," he says. "We all know that learning takes place everywhere, whether it is in school or out in the community."

Part of the re-evaluation process involves considering schools within the broader context of the community. "I often say, `As the community goes, so goes the school, and as the school goes, so goes the community.'"

In 1999, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences recognized the West Des Moines district in its Grammy Signature Schools program for excellence in music education. This year, Offspring Magazine named West Des Moines one of the top 100 performing districts in academics, based on SAT and ACT scores.

Omotani points to those two honors as evidence of the tangible goals of community-based education. "One is a straight academic measure, and the other is a nice recognition of our commitment to the arts," he says. "Our goal is to ensure that our students participate in a broad and general educational experience that has breadth and high expectation. We call it the `Four As'--academics, the arts, athletics, and activities."

Successful school districts develop a synergy with their communities, and Omotani says the Board of Education in his district is outstanding in terms of its commitment.

Leadership in the 21st century will mean leading in new and different ways, supporting ideas such as systems thinking, coalition building and facilitating community learning. Omotani refers to his own office as the "Superintendency"--a leadership team of three associates and him. There is also an administrative leadership team, consisting of building principals, directors of curriculum and others in supervisory positions. …

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