Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lodestar of the Faculty

Zilian, F. (2012). Lodestar of the Faculty. The Independent School, 71(4), 32-38.

The article emphasizes the importance of implementing a Dean of Faculty at private and charter institutions in America. There is much debate about recent cuts to eliminate school counselors, but there has not been little to no discussion on the importance of providing schools with a dean of faculty. In this leadership position, the dean would provide services for not only the teachers, but also the director or principal of a school site. There are six main roles of a dean of faculty, and they are all equally important. Theoretically, the school site would be able to dictate which of  the six roles would be most important, but all six should be present in the educational environment to help the culture evolve, stay peaceful, and maintain integrity. The six major roles are chief advocate, chief cheerleader, chief recruiter, chief tender to the culture, chief mentor, and chief exemplar.
Chief advocate does just that for the staff - advocate for their ideas and perspectives. The chief advocate takes everything about the school culture and delivers it through the lens of faculty members. The advocate should be the first one to speak up about faculty issues and also be able to speak on behalf of his or her members. The advocate provides a service that is similar to a Union representative (this is helpful due to the lack of Union benefits at private and charter institutions).
The chief cheerleader provides the service of appreciating staff members for their hard work. In a classroom setting, it is difficult to feel appreciated much of the time. Teaching is a selfless job with little to no pat on the backs. The chief cheerleader takes time to understand each teacher’s strengths, and he or she points out those strengths for the teachers on a regular basis. This helps the school culture feel more connected and appreciated.
Chief recruiter seeks out new employees that will be beneficial to the school’s culture. The recruiter understands the culture inside and out, and is therefore available to understand what the school is lacking or needs more of. The recruiter sets up interview times, and also understands that he or she is in charge of scheduling times for the candidate to meet the staff. The recruiter works closely with the director in the hiring process.
Chief tender of the faculty culture is the reason that this job is created. The article sums up “faculty culture” by saying it is the dominant beliefs, attitudes, and behavior patterns of the entire staff. A healthy school culture is the formation of the school’s graduates and current students. The chief tender makes sure that all new staff are understanding school norms, monitor different academic departments, problem solve logistical issues, support faculty with outside of the classroom situations (personal that are brought into the professional world), find ways for faculty to connect outside the classroom (happy hours, meals, get togethers), orchestrating professional development that is engaging and exciting for the staff,
The chief mentor makes sure that he or she is the guiding face of the faculty. They have been inside the classroom long enough to help mentor new teachers, and they have the ability to explain situations that they have been in. The mentor’s role is to make sure that he or she knows and understands the teachers as best as possible so that they are able to support them entirely.
A chief exemplar is about modeling and being able to be a figure to be looked at. He or she is highly competent in their subject field as well as the school culture. He or she is upbeat, excited, and is fully integrated with the school. They are invested in making the school a better place, and they are always willing to motivate others so that the school can grow and implement ideas to help shape the culture for years to come.

The question of autonomy is crucial. The school must decide whether the dean will primarily be a subordinate of the head or whether the dean will primarily be an autonomous advocate for the faculty. In other words, will the dean be the "first servant" of the head or of the faculty?” (Fred Zilian, 2010)

“A school can be great without a great head or great dean of faculty as long as it has great faculty who love the school, its students, and the teaching profession. However, if a school has a great head but not a great faculty nor a healthy faculty culture, it will never be a superior school. As the middle manager in charge of the faculty and its culture, the dean of faculty can help lift a good school to greatness -- and help keep it there.” (Fred Zilian, 2010)

“The dean of faculty has six principal roles: chief advocate of the faculty, chief cheerleader, chief recruiter, chief tender of the faculty culture, chief mentor, and chief exemplar. Different schools will give different priorities to these roles, but they all matter.” (Fred Zilian, 2010)

I feel as though this idea of faculty culture is extremely important to a school culture. In a teacher led school, I believe that this idea of faculty is an integral part of the environment and student learning. By having a leader of the faculty, we are providing our teachers with a person who they can connect with. Directors and principals wear many hats throughout the year. By having positions such as dean of students and dean of faculty, the burdens are lessened and productivity is increased. A school could potentially have up to three administrators focusing on three specific areas of growth and success. As a teacher led school, it is becoming more and more apparent that the school culture is fostered and cultivated year by year. Changes occur with each and every teacher that leads and enters into a school. Different backgrounds definitely shift the culture. Having a leader to make sure that this transition period is smooth is imperative.  

1 comment:

Paul North said...

Thanks for your detailed, thoughtful post, Ashley. When I first started visiting HTH schools, I was surprised to learn that the director and site manager are the sum total of administrative/non-teaching staff! (Of course, other specialists are contracted for special education services.) Do you know what motivated HTH to design an organizational structure with fewer traditional leadership roles?

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