Communicating the role and value of school leaders: ‘Leadership Matters’ expands the discussion of issues, celebrates the profession and increases leadership development opportunities throughout the state

Communicating the role and value of school leaders: ‘Leadership Matters’ expands the discussion of issues, celebrates the profession and increases leadership development opportunities throughout the state

Bob Lee

Leaders can be found just about anywhere. Most have titles, others don’t. But leaders are growing in the early grades among our eager-to-please young souls. They are maturing in our middle schools and they are excelling in high school as they participate in student government, sports and the arts.

Leaders are everywhere in our adult world, too. They’re fighting our wars. They’re playing in the NBA, the NFL and the major leagues. They’re among our PTAs, our site councils and our soccer clubs. They’re in our civic groups, our school districts, our business community and our churches and synagogues. They’re elected to public office.

There are thousands of titles bestowed upon those who lead. But there’s an old saying about leadership that separates the titled from the true: Leadership isn’t a position. It’s an action.

About a year ago, ACSA launched a project called Leadership Matters. It aims to educate communities about the role of school administrators; establish effective recruitment, mentoring and leadership training programs and celebrate the profession.

A small task force–including ACSA President Sandra Carsten, ACSA Past President Sonny Da Marto and 16 committed and tireless school leaders from various job categories–developed an action plan and embarked on a rewarding journey of communication, camaraderie and celebration for our collective action on behalf of California’s 6 million students.

To date the task force has produced and widely distributed materials highlighting Leadership Matters and the role and value of school administration. In addition, each ACSA region has appointed a Leadership Matters coordinator who is charged with implementing the project at the local level.

ACSA leaders also have shared the project with lawmakers and the California Teachers Association, California School Boards Association, California State PTA, California School Employees Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable and more.

The Leadership Matters project began with internal momentum. At region and state ACSA events, banners, balloons and celebrations helped highlight the action of our school leaders. Then the individual action of school leaders, matched with our statewide approach, helped grow the Leadership Matters project.

I’ve enjoyed hearing stories about school leaders in various ACSA regions who have taken it upon themselves to communicate their roles and value in their communities. Some have made long overdue inroads with local news media.

In some communities, business groups have initiated Leadership Matters awards. In other areas, ACSA members have spent time networking about ways to improve communication with aspiring school leaders.

At the state level, we’re working on ways to share information about successful leadership induction programs. We appreciate school leaders who have written, e-mailed or called about their programs, and we encourage more. If you have an induction program you’d like us to highlight in EdCal or another ACSA publication, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail your information to

We also look forward to sharing information about Leadership Matters at statewide events including the annual conferences of ACSA and the California School Boards Association, both later this year.

Active and committed leaders are essential to public school progress and will be the catalyst for improving academic achievement for all students. On the one hand, school leadership provides one of the best opportunities to make a positive difference in our world. On the other hand, increasing expectations coupled with inefficient resources make it difficult to both attract and retain high quality school leaders.

As a long-term, multi-faceted project, the Leadership Matters effort aims not only to communicate leadership issues and concerns and celebrate the profession, but also to expand leadership development programs and opportunities throughout the state, which ultimately will lead to improved school performance and student achievement.

Bob Lee is chair of ACSA’s Leadership Matters task force and director of secondary education for the Manteca Unified School District.

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