Karla, as always you have provided some quality content for discussion. I will be replying in two parts – this first response is my reflections and responses to your main posting while a second post will seek to address the questions that you have asked.
I was struck by your genuine openness and honesty, marks of authentic leadership. This is “where the head teacher operates in an open and transparent way, sharing not only facts and figures, but also reasons, judgements and intentions.” Harris (2007) in Purdie (2014). It is encouraging that staff have responded so positively to this.
The “shadows of principals past” (Weindling, 1992 in Crow, 2012) seems apt in reference to your legacy of short lived headships before you. I can sympathise with the challenges this creates! I think your approaches demonstrate very dynamic leadership in action. I really like the idea of a professional reading group across both schools as well as introducing learning rounds. Your evidence-based approaches bring to mind the words of Crawford (2014) who says, “the very best educational leaders are dynamic and adaptable and are most effective when they draw upon understandings developed from theory.”
Your comments about becoming a self-renewing school are very interesting and seem to be primarily brought about by a culture of critical reflection. As Brookfield (2017) says, “critical reflection raises our chances of taking informed actions”. I have seen noticeable improvement in my own staff development as we have become increasingly critical in our regular self-reflections.
Relating to your concerns about staff inclusivity and changes, you have two distinct issues to address here. On the one hand you have part-time staff and on the other you have a staffing model overhaul. I would suggest that each issue requires a different response but both involve careful ‘people management’. Whitaker (1997) in Cowie and Crawford (2012) is right when he observes that “people and how they are treated are two of the least significant factors for consideration in schools” but ‘people and how they are treated’ has such a huge impact on the success of a school. Including part-time staff is problematic, especially when some people chose to work part-time. One possible solution is to alternate your meeting days so it is not always the same people missing out. In relation to supporting the changing job specification of your nursery staff, you could refer to Koffer’s ‘Eight Step Change Model’ (referenced by Coates, 2017) which will give you a structure for overseeing these staffing changes.
Finally, concerning your nursery restructuring, success will be in how you support staff, parents and wider community. “Leaders will harness the communicative or performative side of emotion at different times.” (Crawford, 2014) Your own emotional resilience and ‘strength’ will go some way to making this change successful. I would also recommend you work closely with another HT who will be going through the same process.
So, I hope this initial reflections are helpful, I will post my answers to your questions in due course.
Brookfield, S. (2017), Becoming a critically reflective teacher, Jossey Bass Ltd
Cowie, M. & Crawford, M. (2012), Perspectives on identity: Being and becoming a head teacher. In: J. Forbes and C. Watson, The Transformation of Children’s Services: Examining and debating the complexities of inter/professional working, Routledge
Crawford, M. (2014), Reflections on developing as an educational leader and manager, Leadership for Learning, InForm 16
Crow, G. (2012), Professional identities: Developing leaders for inter/professional practice. In: J. Forbes and C. Watson, The Transformation of Children’s Services: Examining and debating the complexities of inter/professional working, Routledge
Purdie, J. (2014), Key factors in early headship development in the Scottish secondary school, EdD. Thesis, University of Glasgow.