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Running head: EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP PLATFORM

Educational Leadership Platform: Alternative Education Programs


Ryan Sheehan
City University of Seattle
EEA 535: Dimensions of Educational Leadership
Dave Khatib
July 14, 2014

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Educational Leadership Platform: Alternative Education Programs


Having worked for the past 15 years in the field of education, I have had exposure to
many different leaders in the schools and the non-profit agency in which I have worked.
Reflecting upon these experiences has been invaluable in determining that I want to be a leader
as well as the style of leadership that I wish to adopt. From my viewpoint, leadership is not
limited to being designated with the role of leader; rather it is a way of being within any given
setting including a classroom or unique program. As a teacher, I have experienced strong
leadership from administration in some situations and weak leadership in others. Some leaders
have demonstrated strong managerial skills with attention to detail while others have embodied a
more visionary and big picture style. I see the impact that leaders have in schools. I have seen
leaders who inspire staff and students, but I have also witnessed leaders who accept complacency
and predictability. Sometimes I feel that I have learned more about my leadership aspirations by
experiencing what I do not want in a school or program.
While I appreciate that there is value in both ends of the leadership-management
continuum, I believe that a balance of the two is necessary. The leadership style that I aspire to
have will be a combination of management and leadership, but I lean towards the leadership end
of the spectrum. Relationship building is one of the most important aspects for me. Respectful
and genuine relationships will encourage trust, which is crucial to being a leader whom people
will want to follow and work with. Leaders who have the trust of staff, students, and parents are
more likely to ensure accountability from each of these stakeholders because they will more
likely understand the viewpoint and reasoning of the leader. Rather than checking a list of things
that teachers should be doing, for example, updating his or her classroom website, I value going

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deeper into the interactions between staff and students and emphasize ensuring that these are
healthy interactions that respect the student.
I believe that students respond to and work best in settings that are respectful of their
individuality and their creativity. Similarly, I believe that teachers work best in an environment
that values their expertise that allows them to take risks and to step into a role of leadership when
their strengths are needed (Jeff Wilson - Personal Communication, May 2014). Barstow (2008)
identifies power differential roles that are inherent due to specific relationships such as the
teacher-student relationship and the supervisor (administrator)-teacher relationship. The person
in the authority role has many responsibilities in his or her role of power such as boundary
setting, being trustworthy, creating safe space, being sensitive to his or her impact, as well as
inviting and being responsive to feedback. These are important because the person who has less
power in the relationship is vulnerable to harm and confusion if there is a misuse of power.
I believe that leadership can exist at different levels in educational settings, not solely as
an administrator. For example, leaders are needed for specific programs such as alternative
education programs. I am passionate about working with and advocating for at-risk students.
From 2011 through 2013, I tutored struggling middle school and high school students and I
taught English as a Second Language (ESL) for Newcomers to Canada. During the 2013-14
school year I worked in a blended learning environment with a group of ten First Nation
students. The reward factor for me as an instructor in each of these programs confirmed for me
that I was drawn to working with at-risk, struggling, or disadvantaged students.
My beliefs about leadership styles are congruent with my perspective on how to best
work with at-risk students. I believe that building relationships with at-risk students is key to the
success of the program. Roland S. Barth influences me because he emphasizes the importance of

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relationships and emotional connections in schools and focuses on the affective side of education
(as cited in Khatib, 2014). Sir Ken Robinson also impacts me because of his focus on promoting
creativity and programs that are very personalized (2013). I also value the model that Deming
utilizes, called the Total or Continuous Quality Management, in which he emphasizes four
necessary steps for leaders to follow: plan, do, check, and act (as cited in Khatib, 2014). This
practice encourages leaders to be reflective and open-minded to change his or her approach as
necessary.
My first non-negotiable belief is the proper use of language and professionalism from
staff. Too often in my teaching career I have witnessed inappropriate language and attitudes of
teachers, from racist jokes and comments in the staff room to disparaging comments towards
students and their behaviors. Regardless of the circumstances in the workplace when these
attitudes may appear, they are unacceptable and can be damaging to student success. Lagana et al
(2011), found that supportive and non-judgmental teacher-student relationships played a larger
role in student success than class size or composition. Respect for students is shown in the
language and actions of teachers. It is important for teachers to conduct themselves
professionally and to be mindful of their language in a school setting.
Secondly, I believe the use of daily meetings amongst all staff is crucial. This was a
practice with which I was unfamiliar until I began teaching high school. The staff in the school,
including administrators, teachers, educational assistants, office administration, and custodial
staff met every morning for ten minutes or less for prayer and discussion regarding any issues or
upcoming events that involved or affected students and staff. This time was valuable for
decision-making and for staff to be aware of the going-ons in the school. It also encouraged

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consistency and communication between staff as there were fewer surprises that had not been
discussed by staff prior to implementation.
Finally, I believe the use of regular classroom visits is critical from an administration
point of view. Administrators must be aware of what is happening in classrooms. Being present
with teachers and students in their classrooms allows administration to witness interaction
between staff and students. The reasoning for this is two-fold. First, it will provide
administration an opportunity to witness daily interactions between staff and students, so they
can address any issues with problematic interactions. Secondly, the administrator can better
support the teacher if a parent concern surfaces. My goal would be to visit the classroom of each
teacher at least once per week.
I hope to lead an alternative education program that focuses on positive and genuine
relationships between staff and students, the use of a flexible approach, and the right use of
power in order to successfully support at-risk students to overcome obstacles in a traditional
school. The program will include a blended learning approach that allows students to work at
their own pace and provides employment opportunities through Registered Apprenticeship
Programs (RAP) and Work Experience Programs. Instruction based on individualized needs will
be the priority. According to Chalker and Stelsel (2006), Education Resource Centers that
collaborated with the Simon Youth Foundation noticed improved attitude of students toward
their school and achievement as a result of enrolling in the program. They attribute the success of
the program to the practices of student-paced learning, individualized instruction, flexible
schedules, and computer-based instruction. The program was based in a mall and provided
employment, internship and mentoring possibilities.

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Knesting (2008) found that empathetic and caring teachers contributed to the persistence
of students who were identified as at-risk of dropping out. Nakkula (2013) found that caring and
dedicated teachers who provide ongoing support to students, leads to the learners seeing
themselves as capable rather than unintelligent. Teachers in the SFAS (Solution-Focused
Alternative High School) program received training on being adaptable and flexible in their
interactions with students (Lagana et al., 2011). Thus, compassion, flexibility, and empathy will
be a focus of training and ongoing discussion with staff that work in the program that I seek to
lead. Gut and McLaughlin (2012) researched the effect of an alternative education program on
the change in the number of office disciplinary referrals. The program had low student to teacher
ratios (no higher than 10:1) that allowed for credit completion based on skill mastery rather than
on time spent in the classroom. The program that I seek to lead will have a similar approach to
credit completion because this flexibility respects students and their time rather than use power
to keep them in a classroom for a specified time.
Sir Ken Robinson (2013) spoke about the need for a broader and more creative approach
to education in order to prevent students from dropping out. He has suggested ideas such as the
removal of bells from schools, having multigrade classrooms, and incorporating less
standardization. The program I wish to lead will have similar characteristics that remove such
traditional practices and move away from the rigidity associated with typical schools. This type
of learning environment will be more student-centered and student driven in direction.
My mission and vision show that I value safe and inclusive environments, positive
relationships with students, and having a compassionate attitude. As well I strive to create a
flexible environment to meet the needs of all students and I will support and advocate for all
students in helping them to achieve their goals. I believe there is a shift happening in education

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in Alberta with which my mission and vision align nicely. The Inspiring Education Document
(2010) highlights the need for change in the education system. Alberta Education is planning
changes that include putting students first and encouraging flexibility and creativity from
educators.
Students who graduate from the program that I seek to lead will benefit from healthy role
modeling from their teachers. The students will have worked alongside teachers in healthy
relationships and will be better able to develop positive relationships with people. They will
understand the importance of completing tasks and how to be creative in their approach to
problem solving and decision-making. Optimistically, they will be responsible citizens who
contribute to their community and will be well prepared for the work force because of their
exposure to employment opportunities at a younger age. Students who have been identified as atrisk historically have had negative educational experiences. According to Chalker and Stelsel
(2009), students who drop out of high school are more likely to experience detrimental effects
such as unemployment, poverty, time in prison, unhealthy lifestyles, and become single parents.
Students who graduate from this program will hopefully have a more positive attitude towards
education and themselves as learners in school and in their lives and thus live a more fulfilling
and healthy life.

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References
Alberta Education. (2010) Inspiring education: a dialogue with Albertans. Retrieved from
https://ideas.education.alberta.ca/media/14847/inspiring%20education%20steering%20co
mmittee%20report.pdf
Barstow, C. (2008). Right use of power:the heart of ethics. Boulder, CO. Many Realms
Publishing.
Chalker, S., & Stelsel, K. (2009). A fresh approach to alternative education. using malls to reach
at-risk youth. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(2), 74-77.
Gut, E., & McLaughlin, J.M. (2012). Alternative educations impact on office disciplinary
referrals. Clearing House 85 (6), 231-236.
Khatib, D. (2014). EEA 535: Dimensions of educational leadership day 1 [Google Presentation
slides]. Retrieved from
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1OyQ23Hw3fhjS_aFyAVux7ia3VnoCWtQzriEfy
36scx8/edit#slide=id.g35a37eb6a_0114
Khatib, D. (2014) EEA 535: Dimensions of educational leadership day 4 [Google Presentation
slides]. Retrieved from
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1C0Z91d1Kdy8htzGowVHXUxLXOb2Zqk0VfL
kxWx2wulE/edit#slide=id.g35b24ac88_0312
Knesting, K. (2008). Students at risk for school dropout: supporting their persistence. Preventing
School Failure, 52(4), 3-10.
Lagana-Riordan et al. (2011). At-risk students perceptions of traditional schools and a solutionfocused public alternative school. Preventing School Failure, 55(3), 105-114.

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Nakkula, M. (2013). A crooked path to success. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(6), 60-63.
Robinson, K., (2013, May 10). Sir Ken Robinson: How to escape educations death valley [video
file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc