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Podcast: Lessons carried from Colorado to Dallas

The key challenges facing school district leaders charged with improving the quality of their schools is creating the demand and will for systemic change, and then creating the capacity to faithfully execute that change.

That was the message emphasized by Mike Miles at the latest Hot Lunch speaker series put on by the Donnell-Kay Foundation. Miles is the superintendent of Dallas Independent School District, where he moved this school year after spending six years as superintendent of Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.

“The mechanics, the processes, which are very much broken in Dallas…[are] not the main issues. The size is not the main issue,” he said. “But the will and the capacity in a system that large, where you have to have pervasive will and pervasive capacity to move it — that’s the real challenge.”

In the presentation, Miles discusses his work over the course of his first year in Dallas, including his efforts to identify and resolve inefficiencies in the school system and to improve the quality of teachers and, especially, school leaders.

Miles’ school leadership training program was recently profiled in the Dallas Morning News. The district is paying 57 aspiring principals a $60,000 salary to spend a year training them on everything from instructional leadership to how to turn off school sprinklers, the newspaper reports:

If the academy works, the district will be scattered with new campus administrators in the coming years who subscribe to Miles’ “Core Beliefs,” preach the value of quality instruction and believe his “Destination 2020” plan will fix struggling schools.

“It was a way to focus on his vision and to make sure that leaders were trained in the direction he wanted the district to go. They have that understanding,” said Karon Cofield, executive director of the academy, which will bring in 50 new fellows next year. “That’s why this is so important.”

You can listen to more speakers from the Hot Lunch series here.

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