Collaborative School Leadership for All

A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating Our Way to Better Schools
By Carmen Farina and Laura Kotch
(Heineman, 2014 – Learn more)

tamekiamccauleyReviewed by Tamekia McCauley

We all want to become excellent leaders within excellent schools, right? Carmen Farina and Laura Kotch have written a great book on collaborative leadership that should become a staple for both novice and veteran school leaders.

As someone who has read a thousand (okay maybe not a thousand, but pretty close) books on school leadership, I felt this book was notably well organized and provided essential ideas for collaborating with all school stakeholders. A foreword by literacy leader Lucy Calkins encourages readers to look beyond normal educational jargon and “reach ambitious goals through leadership that rallies rather than shames, leadership that is about influence rather than compliance” (p. viii).

school leaders guide to excel mccauleyThe book is developed around nine major focus areas:

  • Vision Development and Implementation
  • Communication
  • Book Study
  • Celebrations
  • Supervision and Evaluation
  • Culture
  • Growing Future Leaders
  • Planning
  • Parent and Community Involvement

Detailed implementation instructions

Each chapter begins with the rationale for the focus area. Next, the authors provide detailed instructions for implementation of ideas presented within each area. Here is where the good stuff is; the authors provide readers with their actual notes to staff, planning documents, and newsletters. I was pleasantly surprised to see at least 89 (yes I counted) examples and pictures of artifacts used by the authors for collaborative efforts with stakeholders.

Thinking about using an artifact from the book as a model? Farina and Kotch have also included a section “Avoiding Common Pitfalls” that clearly describes proactive ideas in order to lessen oversights. Finally, an evaluation section gives leaders strategies to measure the success of each topic.

Applying the guide to your school

We currently have several teachers within our building who have aspirations to become leaders. I plan to use this book as a professional development tool within my building and district. Our leadership teams participated in a study of Paul Bambrink-Santoyo’s Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools, and this text will add another component toward refining our leadership skills.

Modules can be developed from each individual chapter (there are nine chapters so each one could become a monthly focus) or the study guide included at the conclusion of the book could be used for discussion prompts with leadership and planning teams.

One of the best things about this book is that it was not written just for administrators. If you are a teacher leader (and aren’t we all?) this book is for you. If you are a novice/first-year administrator shaking in your boots, this book is definitely for you. A “I’ve been doing this 20 years” principal? This book is for you also.

Collaboration doesn’t have a label and that is what makes this book a great read.

Tamekia McCauley is a middle school administrator in Kansas City, KS. Middle school is her absolute favorite level and she enjoys preparing students for college and career readiness. She has an Ed.D from Baker University, and her research interests are educational inequalities and minority teacher recruitment and retention. Follow her @DrTamekia.


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