Leading for Equity-Driven, Student-Focused School Leader Success

on May 31, 2024

Four Springfield Public School central office leaders at a table learning together.Working as a public school educator is both rewarding and challenging, especially in today’s complex educational landscape. To be successful, school leaders need supportive district leaders. They need a central office team that creates the conditions for equity-driven leadership, which continuously centers students and fosters a culture of continuous improvement. I am privileged to work alongside the dedicated central office leaders at Springfield Public Schools (SPS) in Oregon who are committed to doing just that.

SPS is a school district of 9,664 students in Oregon’s Willamette Valley that is committed to upholding the dream of opportunity for all of Springfield’s students.

This past school year, SPS central office leadership team participated in CEL’s Principal Supervisor Professional Learning and Coaching, which helps central office teams develop the relationships, systems, and structures to help their principals do their best work to ensure all students thrive. Through intentional learning and application, the SPS team is working to create more equitable learning experiences, particularly focusing on students facing systemic barriers to justice.

Creating Conditions for Equity-Driven Leadership

SPS leaders are persistent in pushing themselves to ensure that principals have the conditions they need to be equity-driven school leaders. Overarching questions that they routinely ask are: “What practices are we disrupting and helping principals to disrupt? How can we align our efforts across different departments?”

In their day-to-day reflections, these district leaders focus on the following key elements in supporting school leaders:

  • How do I help create time for principals to focus on leading for equitable experiences and outcomes for students?
  • How do I articulate district priorities in a way that conveys what is most important for student success?
  • How do I provide clear and consistent communication to ensure all principals are informed and aligned with the most critical system-wide initiatives?

Students at the Center: Fostering Equity-Centered Leadership

The SPS team has been on a multi-year journey to improve student learning and experiences. This journey began with a clear vision aligned with district goals around student success with a mission of “every student, every day”. Springfield’s focus this year revolves around placing students at the center of their coaching and reflections. This helps create a clear connection between how their collaborative efforts support their vision for student experience and learning. Although each team member’s area of focus has unique needs and considerations which can at times conflict with other areas within the district, the SPS team works to avoid this by grounding decisions on student-based outcomes.

Collaborative Leadership and Prioritizing Leaders’ Learning

At the core of Springfield’s approach is a dedication to supporting central office leaders’ learning journeys. It has been inspiring to see how each participant has encouraged one another’s progress and how they foster a learning environment that pushes each other’s practice… Springfield’s culture values being lead learners. Leaders openly share reflections and experiences fostering trust and collaboration. Vulnerability is embraced as leaders try out new practices and support each other along the way. Leaders strike a balance between sharing and listening to facilitate effective learning experiences.

Identifying Larger System Implications

SPS central office leaders are not only focusing on their own individual growth but also working collectively to identify larger implications for the system. They proactively address barriers that arise to implementing what they are learning and measure impact to sustain professional learning. By creating a culture of collaboration, leaders ensure that their efforts can lead to systemic change and improved student outcomes.

One of the Springfield central office leaders shared: “We are very excited about the possibility of success that these intentional actions are creating and look forward to our continued partnership and focus as we support our administrators in transforming their buildings through practices with teachers.”


About the author

Michele Mason joined the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) in June 2019 as the director of instructional leadership. Michele supports district partnerships and provides instructional leadership support for district and school administrators. Prior to CEL, she served as a district administrator, non-profit leader, school administrator and high school English teacher in suburban and urban areas. Michele is interested in how empowered central office staff can support the principal as an instructional, strategic and visionary leader. Michele received her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in December 2021.
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