- Organization Description
Westshore Academy is a tuition-free public charter school educating students in grades K-8 that is located in Southwest Florida. The school was established in August of 2016 with the mission to have clearly defined, high standards for academic excellence, personal growth and social development incorporated into their curriculum, across all grades. In addition to that, the vision is to have a partnership with the community and be recognized local, state, and national as a model for excellence in academics and citizenship. After their first year of operation the school received an A rating from the Florida Department of Education based on a grading system for student’s achievements, learning gains, promotions to next grade and standardized tests.
Although the school received the highest rating after its first year, the second year was not as successful. The school performance for the next year dropped down to a C minus rating and in doing so the management company, Charter America required that some major changes occur. For example, they requested an action plan be created to assess what is the reason for the dramatic change in the school’s grade. In addition to that, they also wanted to ensure future organization achievements are acceptable moving forward.
A1. Leadership Practices
Krystal King is the Principal and she has been in the education system for 15 years. She has ten years combined teaching elementary grades first to fifth and 5 years as an administrator. She formerly served as principal of Hammock Charter School and has held a variety of educational roles from teacher to curriculum specialist. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and her Master of Education in educational leadership from the University of Central Florida. Ms. King has various leadership practices that are required of her as a principal of a large charter school but the focus will be on the major three. Cultivating leadership in others; improving instruction, and managing people.
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Cultivating leadership in others is the first of leadership practices and this practice enables teachers, other adults and students to assume their part in realizing the school’s vision. For example, as the principal when you allow others to be leaders within an organization, people become more self-reliant and more likely to bring new concepts and ideas to the table. Also, the principal is able to get other outlooks and abilities on getting things done in the school. For example, mentoring programs for teachers who wish to transition to an administrative position and also creating leadership clubs for students that help young people start off early with being a leader.
Second is improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn at their greatest. In other to improve instruction the focus must be on creating a curriculum that is data driving from various assessment throughout the year. Once the data is received lessons and instruction should be designed to fit the needs of students. In addition to that, the principal must make a quarterly observation in the classroom to provide feedback on how the teacher’s instructional abilities are going. For example, students will take a quarterly test like NWEA which stands for the Northwest Evaluation Association and it assists in finding out where students stand when it comes to their academics. Once the test data is received teachers can create lesson plans, curriculum, and intervention services to address the areas that students need support in or provide the more challenging assignment to keep students engaged.
The third and final leadership practices are managing people and it requires being able to develop a team of teachers and staff that will make sure that the vision and mission of the school will be a priority. Correspondingly, being able to recognize when a person is not in line with the standards that entail what is needed in order to be a part of the organization and letting them go if they don’t adhere. In addition to this, her management style is showing support and guidance to help those teachers and staff become a reflection of what the school represents or would like to be. For example, providing training with programs like the “Seven Habits of Effective People” to help everyone develop a growth mindset and change their way of thinking to create a positive school culture for everyone.
A2. Effects of Current Leader on Culture
The school’s culture at the start of the first year of the school being in operation was optimistic and very promising due to the fact that the school’s teachers liked the idea to take the lead in creating an educational environment where they can take the lead on creating a plan of action for what is best for their own students. For instance, the principal agrees to manage the school with the belief that classroom teachers know what was best for their own students and that her suggestion could serve as a guide to help teachers create a learning environment that is specific to what works for their own classroom. Also, The Principal and her administrative staff served as more of a support for teachers when it was needed, therefore given them free rein in how they cultivated their ideas of what learning information should be like. Although the method worked for about a third of the 66 teachers and also enable them to receive an A rating based on the start of the first year, by the middle of the second year the issues of the school not being in compliance with Florida state standards for an effective school and the much lower school grade happen. In addition to that, teachers were not on one accord on how to best educate the school’s students as a whole and some classes meeting the standards and some that were not able to meet it.
B. SWOT Analysis Evaluation
B1. Current Strengths
The first step in a SWOT analysis evaluation is to recognize strengths, that is, benefits that enhance the quality of the school. Although the school has several great strengths, the two that will be the main focus are having an abundance of parental involvement and having highly motivated teachers. The first strength of having an abundance of parental involvement is significant in the success of the school because it helps with better classroom behavior. For example, students are less likely to act out if a parent is present for fear that they may tell their parent or even have someone other than their teacher correct their behavior. Also, parent’s involvement lifts teacher morale. For example, often times teachers are tasked with multiple deadlines for grades, lesson plans, and meetings that may make them feel overwhelmed but when a parent can step in to assist with some of the tasks it can lift a burden off of an overworked teacher. Another strength is having highly motived teachers. For example, motivated teachers think about their responsibility to encourage learning and do what they can to make sure that happens. They don’t think that learning is only about remembering rules, or answering questions correctly, or filling in the gaps, or getting a good mark on the test. They understand that a strong motivational flow in their classroom produces results. In summary, you need to know the existing strengths to keep them as strengths. And plan how to enhance them to see more benefits.
B2. Current Weaknesses
The second step in a SWOT analysis is weaknesses. It is vital to acknowledge weakness to build a stronger school and reduce the impact of the two weaknesses that are as follows. The first weakness is lack of specific and direct training that is standard across the school. Although, the Principal allows autonomy with her teachers in curriculum design, not having a unified and specific curriculum that is based on research methods and proving data outcomes has hurt the school’s current grade. In addition to this, poor test scores due to not having enough advance preparation throughout the school year. Also, the teacher feels like in the current culture of the school that has to teach the test to get the best scores and not focus on the students retaining the information that was taught. Therefore, being aware of weaknesses will lead to a precise plan of action that will create the third part of a SWOT analysis which is opportunities.
B3. Current Opportunities
Opportunities have the ability to just happen. But why leave it up to fate?
SWOT analysis helps to identify opportunities to benefit the school by creating them or even finding already proven methods to turn a weakness into an opportunity. For example, the Weakness of poor test scores provides an opportunity to introduce a new program designed to help students, after school or during their lunch period, to address previous test concerns year-round. This new program will assess students’ ability to understand the curriculum. Not only will the students receive the help they deserve, but the school will also be praised by students and parents alike. Another weakness turned opportunity is the lack of training of teachers that is directly relating to the standards that are required to receive an acceptable grade in the state of Florida. Additionally, the lack of specific and direct training leads to the opportunity of providing new and effective training. For example, education evolves quickly. New concepts and strategies pop up every year. As a result, providing professional development for teachers is vital. Whether the training focuses on using text-dependent analysis in the classroom, understanding how to map your curriculum to state standards, or implementing differentiated instruction, the teachers will require professional development to remain current. The purpose of creating opportunities out of weaknesses is to limit their impact on the school.
B4. Current Threats
Threats in regards to the SWOT analysis are issues that may happen or not. The current possible threats with the current state of the school are parents unenrolling their children out of the school due to the low schoolwide grade not improving. For example, on some social media platforms, some parents have been voicing their grievances about it and demanding that change happen. The main concern with this is that negative public opinions via social media can cause not only current students to leave the school but having adequate new enrollment base on future students. The other threat is teachers resigning due to the challenges of not having the autonomy of being able to teach their students in the way they feel is best. For example, some teachers may feel that the school may lose focus on developing students who desire to understand the process of finding the answer as much as the answer itself. Whereas, when the focus is placed on teaching a test, teachers may feel too much pressure.
C1. Strengths of the Current Leader
Although the current state of Ms. King’s school doesn’t have a positive record, during her schools the first year she had a great track record of an outstanding way of leading her organization as a transactional leader. The three strength that she used to obtain her one-year success can be attributed to having a clear structure, using employee motivation, and making goals achievable. The first strength is a clear structure and teachers/staff of an organization with this kind of management style are informed beforehand of what the company expects from them and what their roles are in the organization. For example, the Principal has a specific outline of what is expected of the school and she follows the blueprint of their sister school in the area that has been an “A” school for the last three years in a row. In addition to that, a clear structure makes sure that individual roles are well-defined, allowing employees to know what is expected of him or her in relation to their position.
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The second strength of the principal is operating on using quid pro quo to persuade employees to provide satisfactory work performance and in turn receive a reward or a punishment. According to (Lynch 2012) “Transactional leadership, in which a leader offers some valuable thing in exchange for the follower’s services. Most traditional relationships between leaders and followers are transactional since most people believe “quid pro quo” (“something for something”) to be the ultimate purpose of negotiation. In such an arrangement, everyone is happy and thus there is no harm done.” For example, based on reward and punishment, this leadership style is useful in motivating employees in becoming productive and efficient members of the team.
The third strength enables the principal to make goals achievable for her teachers and staff. As a transactional leader, goals and objectives are often in the short-term, making them easier to fulfill and less intimidating to achieve. For example, quarterly data reviews of individual classroom students’ assessments would provide gift cards to local restaurants for the top five classes. Also, if the teacher’s attendance was 100 percent based on coming to work on time and not missing any days on a monthly basis. This strength is great to have for this organization because goals are easily attainable, people are motivated to work.
C2. Weaknesses of the Current Leader
Having an honest overview of the areas that Ms. King is weakest in her leadership style will assist in pinpointing the issues and working towards a resolution. The three weaknesses are inconsistent communication with staff, lack of concern for teachers as individuals, and lack of leadership development.
The first weakness is inconsistent communication with staff. (Lynch 2012) States “The active form of this type of management involves assessing employee performance and taking corrective measures where needed. In the passive form, the leader only intervenes where things have gotten out of hand.” In relation to this, leadership only sought teacher input at times, but overall staff consultation was limited. This lack of consultation created difficulties as staff was often viewed as having little influence when it came to student issues. The lack of communication with the teacher contributed to negative feelings toward the principal and unhappiness of employees. This leads to the second weakness of the principal having a lack of concern for teachers as individuals.
The second weakness shows the principal lack of concern for her employees. For example, her main concern as a transactional leader is the output of a successful and productive school. She has no human connection or emotion. She measures her teachers’ value on how much you can do for her. In addition to that, there is no public praise for a job well done. While financial compensation is usually the primary reason people work, but other forms of compensation are valuable too. When employees are given acknowledgement in front of their peers, it signals they are valued as part of the team and will motivate others to possibly do the same.
Thethirdweakness is a lack of leadership development. As a leader who finds that the most important entities that matter are numbers of students enrolled, annual overall school grade and performance of the school overall, in daily operation at the school she does not provide opportunities for training that promotes anything outside of this. Also, there is no time allowed for regular discussions with her team about learning opportunities for growth and advance to leadership positions.
C3. Recommendations for the Current Leader
Three actionable items to improve the current leader’s effectiveness are to move beyond performance, increase opportunities for leadership development, and approach problems proactively. The first actionable item is to move beyond performance. Employees are their best when they feel motivated, engaged, and respected. Although as a transactional leader according to (Smith, R., Burton, N., & Brundrett, M. 2003) “paradigm is frequently criticized for its mechanistic emphasis and tendency to reduce complex interactions to a set of skills to be acquired.” Ms. King ought to encourage ambitions and ideas should be supported. Employees should be recognized when they have ideas that can better the school. In doing so it will ensure that everyone within the organization will be invested in doing what is best for the betterment of the school and not just to reach quota.
The second actionable item is to increase opportunities for leadership development.
With proper mentorship, training, and job shadowing opportunities for leadership development will bring amazing opportunities to the school. For example, creating a leadership development program for your team is a way to offer them the opportunity to develop the skills they need to move up within your organization and grow in their career. Doing this can generate other benefits, too, such as higher employee morale and greater team performance, creativity, and innovation. It can also help your employees to feel more connected to the organization and understand how their work adds value. The third actionable item is approaching problems proactively. (Chia Huei, Wu, & Ying, Wang 2011) stated that “That proactive leaders actively think about what they can do to improve the status quo in their leadership roles. Both their goals and leading behaviors are self-initiated and are aimed at bringing about a better future for the organization.” In relationship to that, leaders cannot wait to address problems when they arise. If turnover is increasing, tasks are taking longer to get done, or conflict is on the rise; leaders need to deal with these problems as they arise instead of waiting for the problem to become unavoidable. Thought needs to be given to strategies that take care of present issues that are not just related to current situations.
Chia Huei, Wu & Ying, Wang. (2011). Understanding proactive leadership. Emerald
- Group Publishing Limited. https://doi-org.wgu.idm.oclc.org/
- Lynch, M. (2012). A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. New York: Routledge.
- Smith, R., Burton, N., & Brundrett, M. (2003). Leadership in Education. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
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