Build Your Ed Leadership Network to Drive Positive Change

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During the edLeader Panel “Mastering the Art of Building Your Ed Leadership Network,” a distinguished panel of educators and industry veterans engaged in a thought-provoking discussion centered around leveraging personal networks to maximize educational outcomes in their respective districts.

The panel included Dr. Melvin Brown, Superintendent of Montgomery Public Schools (AL), Dr. Monique Darrisaw-Akil, Superintendent of Uniondale Union Free School District (NY), Dr. Danny Merck, Superintendent of the School District of Pickens County (SC), and Justin Jennings, Chief Membership Officer at the Institute for Education Innovation.

The discussion commenced with Dr. Merck sharing insights into his district’s approach, highlighting the importance of strategic planning and addressing teacher shortages. By drawing upon best practices from various districts worldwide, including Finland, he adapted successful strategies to suit the unique needs of his district.

Dr. Darrisaw-Akil emphasized her commitment to preparing students for the competitive job market and closing the opportunity gap, particularly in a district serving predominantly students of color. Her collaborations with the Wallace Foundation and international schools in India exemplified her dedication to providing students with cutting-edge exposure to best-in-class pedagogy and learning takeaways on an international level.

Dr. Brown, leading an urban district, stressed the need to overcome isolation through conference attendance and connecting with innovative organizations. He credited his network for support during challenging times and for helping him navigate his role effectively.

The panelists underscored the benefits of diverse networks, emphasizing the value of collaborating with those from different backgrounds and perspectives. By embracing a culture of learning and shared experiences, they believed it enhanced the quality of education for all students.

Moving on to the challenges of building a network, the panel encouraged educators to prioritize children’s well-being, adopt a learning-focused mindset, and communicate the value of networking to stakeholders. They recognized the importance of investing time in personal development and articulating tangible outcomes arising from external collaborations.

The discussion then shifted to the steps for initiating network building. Starting with a clear understanding of one’s goals and objectives, educators were advised to follow thought leaders on platforms like LinkedIn, subscribe to professional newsletters, and participate in relevant conferences. When introducing themselves, it was vital to showcase the value they brought to the conversation, promoting meaningful exchanges.

The panel emphasized the importance of clarity when requesting one-on-one conversations. Understanding the purpose and value of these interactions, whether seeking mentorship, advice, or friendship, was crucial in building successful connections.

The final segment addressed the challenge of balancing networking with the demands of educational leadership, suggesting strategies such as delegation, building support systems, setting boundaries, and establishing effective communication chains for offline time.

The discussion concluded by highlighting the significance of meaningful and enduring relationships. Openness, reciprocity, and authenticity were identified as key elements for establishing trust and creating lasting connections. The panelists emphasized the importance of collaboration, learning from diverse perspectives, and the personal and professional growth that results from a well-developed network in the field of education.


Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, Mastering the Art of Building Your Ed Leadership Network, sponsored by Institute for Education Innovation.

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Article by Laura Smulian, based on this edLeader Panel.

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