Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Fresh Thinking On Public Education: 100 SF School Principals Heading To Deloitte University For Leadership Boost

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 20, 2014

Principals

School principals at Deloitte University.

Deloitte, the giant audit and consulting group, is planning to send as many as 100 principals of San Francisco public schools to its Deloitte University in early June, for a three-day leadership program in a bid to help struggling public schools create a generation of highly motivated and college-bound students.

I spoke with Teresa Briggs, vice chair of Deloitte and head of its Western Region, about the venture and what it hopes to achieve. Here are some notes from our conversation:

- Deloitte wanted to help public schools create a college-bound culture as part of its philanthropic activities in giving back to communities. There are studies that show student performance is influenced and connected to the leadership abilities of school principals. Deloitte knew that its leadership courses were very effective for business leaders, why not offer the same to public school principals.

- In early June about 100 San Francisco public school principals will be flown to Deloitte University, a beautiful $350m campus outside Dallas, to go through the leadership program called "Courageous Principals." It will be partly tailored to their needs but leadership in public schools requires pretty much the same leadership qualities that business executives need and the curriculum will remain largely the same.

- There are about 230,000 school principals, 3.8 million teachers and 50 million students.

- Last year Deloitte tested out the program on about 50 public school principals from around the country. Because of the diverse number of locations it wasn't possible to measure or evaluate the effect on school districts. With 100 principals from San Francisco's unified school district it will be easier to see if, and how such a program can improve student results. A year from now Deloitte will be able to judge the success of the venture.

- Principals that took part in the program last year appreciated that someone was investing in their careers and they also greatly appreciated being with other principals and sharing their knowledge and experiences.

- Deloitte University teaches people key aspects of leadership and how to motivate and work best with others. A key part of the program is its Business Chemistry training that classifies people into a combination of four qualities: pioneer, driver, guardian, and integrator. Knowing your own classification and those of others, provides practical strategies for motivating and working well with others. 

- Deloitte will also find mentors within the business community and match them up with school principals for ongoing aid and education.

- If the program shows promise Deloitte will invite other Bay Area companies to also work with public schools and encourage them to offer their internal training and mentoring programs to teachers and principals, not just from public schools. Salesforce.com, HP, and others would be invited to join in the work in making public schools more effective at  producing college graduates.

Foremski's Take: It's great to see Deloitte trying something new in the public education space especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our public schools are terrible, they are basket cases with 50% drop out rates; yet  they should be showcases given that we have so many tech companies here that are working so hard to change the world. It's difficult to see what, if anything, has been changed by the tech companies.

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco told me eight years ago, when I was on a panel with him, that there was nothing that can be done to help San Francisco Bay Area public schools. He said, Tom, we tried and it can't be done.

Our business leaders often boast about solving hard problems and how they relish such challenges so I was shocked that he gave up so quickly and so easily. 

Chambers and many others, are often discouraged because it seems to be such a very hard problem: how to improve public schools. It is hard but it's not an unsolvable problem. There is a lot that can be done for very little money which would have huge positive effects on public schools. 

Deloitte hasn't given up on public schools and is thinking about the problem and coming up with ideas based on what it knows to be effective. Deloitte has seen how powerful it's leadership training can be for business leaders. Why not teach the same skills to our hard working public school principals? It makes good sense.

Many CEOs will gladly fly to Washington to complain to the government about the poor state of education in the US but they won't walk down the street to their local public school and address an assembly of students. We have all these rock star CEOs and genius visionaries in our midst and they walk past our public schools every day, unable, or unwilling to get involved.

Silicon Valley can't claim to the world that it is inventing a better future for all, when its own schools and communities are broken, and facing the same problems as anyplace else. It's a halitosis of hypocrisy. But Deloitte is a breath of fresh air.

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Deloitte University: 

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Please see: 

Courageous Principals

50 million students are influenced by 3.8 million teachers led by 230,000 principals. What if we start with principals?

The single biggest impact on the future of your community will be made by the children who are in its schools right now. It's important, then, to bolster what shapes their performance, what makes them stronger and more capable, what influences their ability to lead.

Courageous Principals

Honoring the Leaders in our School Systems

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