Book List for School Leaders

Book Recommendations for Leaders


This is a brief list of books I’ve found that have influenced who I am as a leader. There are thousands more out there worth reading, so this is simply a starting point. Enjoy!

Brown, Brene (2018). Dare to Lead. Penguin Randomhouse. New York, NY.

Collins, Jim (2001). Good to Great. Harper Collins. New York, NY.

Collins, Jim (2005). Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Harper Collins. New York, NY.

Couros, George (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset. Dave Burgess Consulting, San Diego, CA.

Covey, Stephen R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Fireside. New York, NY.

Coyle, Daniel (2009). The Talent Code. Bantam Dell. New York, NY.

Coyle, Daniel (2018). The Culture Code. Bantam Dell. New York, NY.

Dworkin, Martin S. (1959). Dewey on Education. Teachers College Press. New York, NY.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point. Little, Brown, and Company. New York, NY.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers. Little, Brown, and Company. New York, NY.

Kurtzig Freedman, Miriam (2017). Special Education 2.0. School Law Pro. Palo Alto, CA.

Lencioni, Patrick (1998). The Five Temptations of a CEO. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.

Lencioni, Patrick (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.

McAdams, Donald R. (2006). What School Boards Can Do. Teachers College Press. New York, NY.

Rath, Tom (2007). Strengths Finder 2.0. Gallup Press. New York, NY.

Rath, Tom, and Conchie, Barry (2008). Strengths Based Leadership. Gallup Press. New York, NY.

Richardson, Will (2016). Freedom to Learn. Solution-Tree Press. Bloomington, IN.

Robinson Ken (2001). Out of Our Minds. Capstone Publishers. West Sussex, England.

Rose, Todd (2016). The End of Average. Harper Collings. New York, NY.

Schlechty, Phillip C. (2005). Creating Great Schools. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.

Segall, Ken (2016). Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity. Penguin Randomhouse. New York, NY.

Senge, Peter M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. Doubleday. London, UK.

Smart, Jamie (2013). Clarity. Capstone Publishing. Chichester, UK.

Socol, I., Moran, P., Ratliff, C. (2018). Timeless Learning. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.

Theobald, Paul (1997). Teaching the Commons. Westview Press. Oxford, England.

Wells, Richard (2016). A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand is Reimagining Education. EdTechTeam Press.

Wheatley, Margaret J. (1992). Leadership and the New Science. Berret Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, CA.

Wiseman, Liz (2010). Multipliers. Harper Collings. New York, NY.

Zhao, Yong (2012). World Class Learners. Corwin Press. Thousand Oaks, CA.

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I don’t think many people realize the unbelievable things that are happening in public schools across the great state of Texas. I say this because public school teachers, students, and administrators are so busy doing the work, they don’t take the time to effectively share the incredible results. Or perhaps when they do, people don’t take the notice they should.

The team at Dripping Springs High School made a solid attempt to communicate to the community some of the work they are doing in the STEM field. The STEM Showcase was an opportunity for students and teachers to show off their talent, skills, and passions for design and engineering incorporating math, science, and technology. This event was open to the public and I took three of my four children to have some experiences in creation and innovation. I was not disappointed! I’d like to paint a picture of those experiences here in the hope you will see what you missed and spread the word so many others will take these opportunities as they arise and take advantage of the great privilege we have.

Pi Top

They started off on the Pi Top devices. Their task was to create an electronic circuit using the innovation box provided and the lesson instructions. They followed this hands on activity with programming the circuit to perform certain objectives. They lit up LED’s and timed circuit flow. One of my favorite understandings was the fact that the programming was leveled. There was a drag and drop option that not only put the box on the page, but actually showed the coding and forced them to debug the lines of code. My son suddenly understood that when he programs with a pure drag and drop package like Scratch, he is actually writing code!

BEST Robotics

This is last year’s competition robot. It’s controlled by a Playstation controller. Not only does it move with agility and speed, but it can perform multiple tasks such as picking up objects and navigating obstacles. The robot starts with a standardized package of parts and accessories from the organizers, but the team is free to adapt and add their own components so innovation becomes quite important from the outset. This is a team competition and collaboration is critical. Not only do students create the robot, they also prepare a presentation, develop an engineering and a business plan. The team requires a multitude of different strengths from hands on manufacturing to coding and public speaking.

4×4 Competition

The 4×4 team at DSHS was a Rookie to the competition this year. They designed and built these cars from scratch including the programming of the on-board computers. The cars are transmitting GPS and other data constantly which is recorded and analysed. The team competed successfully enough at the national competition to earn a spot in the international competition and they will be travelling to Abu Dhabi in December to compete. The track you see here was released on Friday. The team will be practicing over the next four weeks to complete the series of tasks comprising the competition. They have some surprises in store so watch out for further updates.

Formula One (F1) in Schools

This program has both a high school (F1 in Schools) and an elementary (Jaguar Primary School Challenge) component. Elementary students are challenged to build their own cars out of paper (chassis and body) and a set of provided components (wheels, axles, etc.). The showcase allowed visitors to build their own car and then race it on the test track. High school students are creating their designs from foam blocks using software such as Solidworks. The cars are then fabricated using CNC machines. Students test their products in a wind tunnel, collecting and analyzing the data and making modifications to their designs based on results. The scientific and engineering process is alive and well in this competition. The team components also require collaboration, planning, presentation, public speaking, and marketing.

Girls in STEM

While I wish this were not true and we didn’t have to make a big deal about girls in STEM, it is. We are purposely encouraging and involving girls in all our STEM programs to ensure they are equitably represented. The girls we introduce to these programs love it and shine. There is no difference between girls and boys in STEM or any other program! Rather our job is to connect students to their interests and passions, whatever they are.

Spread the Word

So spread the word about the incredible things happening in this and many other public schools across the state. Encourage your family and friends to engage with the community by attending events at public schools. This is an example of STEM activities, but there are a myriad of opportunities for fine arts, athletics, and other areas. Come join us as we celebrate the brilliance of our young people and help develop them into the leaders of tomorrow.

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#VLR1718 Places to Visit

As I interact on social media, email, and the web in general, I collect things that catch my attention using Google Keep. What follows is a collection of those interesting things which you are welcome to browse, read, share, study, or ignore.

15 Podcasts That Inspire Creativity Sometimes you only have time to listen to interesting articles. These links give you access to what IDEO sees as inspirational.

#IMMOOC3 George Couros is leading this MOOC on #innovatorsmindset and this site leads to all things #IMMOOC3. You can sign up, review archived content, find blog post prompts, etc. Well worth a visit!

Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools: That’s a Mistake This is a general opinion piece from The Atlantic that is worth a read.

Creating a Learning Orientation Versus a Performance Orientation Katie Martin’s blog post makes some great points in a short space. Easy read.

How to Create a True Culture of Innovation in Your School A.J. Juliani puts this brilliantly in perspective: “poking holes in pockets of innovation.”

Student View of The 4 Driving Questions of PLC’s This Tweet caught my attention because of the student perspective of the common PLC questions.

Study Tracks 5,000 of our Brightest Kids for 45 Years Despite everything, teachers are still one of the most important influences on growth – life-changers!

8 Must Read Books for Modern Educational Change Leaders Modern Learners is a must follow on Twitter. They challenge the status quo constantly.

Rethinking Data: How to Create a Holistic View of Students This ties to our concept of student profiles as the starting point for our journey to personalized learning plans (PLPs).

I’m 17: Kate Simonds A must watch recommended by George Couros

The Six Traits of Life-Changing Teachers A stab at defining the undefinable. See this graphic too: Life-Changing Teachers

Student Portfolios: The Narrative of Learning Voice, Co-Creation, Social Construction, Self Discovery.

11 Books to Further an #Innovatorsmindset Additional resources in case you get bored!

How to Inspire a Group of People to Do the Impossible We covered this at #VLR1718

3 Ways Schools Condition Students 1)Grades 2)Awards 3)Compliance vs Challenge

The Innovation Strategy Used by Google and Facebook How Might We?

Three Things The Best Business Ideas Have in Common 1)Potential to scale 2)Iteration 3)Grit

Be More Dog Love this thought!

8 Ways to Fail Your Way to Success What can this mindset do for you?

To Change Everything While Changing Nothing: Going Gradeless The challenge to change everything

How College For All Goes Wrong Ted Dintersmith (Most Likely to Succeed) video

Is Personalized Learning the Future: This High School Thinks So XQ The SuperSchool Project

Are Kids Missing Out By Not Skipping a Grade Something to think about which supports what we are doing in math. What about other subjects?

How to Prepare for an Automated Future “People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central.”

The Science of the Individual: Why Average Doesn’t Make Sense in School Actually, no one is average.

Predictions for the Future Another way of viewing what we are preparing our students for

Balancing Autonomy and Accountability Thoughts from someone else on the topic

Our Ten Most Popular Personalized Learning Blogs of 2016 Education Elements

ISTE Standards for Students

5 Must Watch TED Talks on Education Essential reminders

The 13 Most Innovative Schools in the World

Four Reasons to Worry About Personalized Learning Alfie Kohn at his best

Why Everyone Must Get Ready for The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Retrieval Practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using This is applicable even in project base learning classrooms.

Education Leaders to Learn From This district is doing exactly what we are talking about!

Ten 2 minute videos to get you started on #PBL Don’t wait for the perfect time. Implement, and then iterate. Let students take the lead.

How Senior Capstone Projects Let Students Research—and Present—Their Passions | EdSurge News Similar to what we are doing at DSHS.

To My Son’s Future Teacher | Make & Do This is a powerful letter to which we should pay close attention.

Welcome to the Book Club – The Holdsworth Center Some great books in this reading list.

Demonstration Finally, chaos within boundaries example.

You are paying more property taxes but schools are still getting less | Commentary | Dallas News Commentary on Texas Public School Finance

The Benefit of an Education Every student deserves the benefit of an education. That should be the purpose of an education, and it should be our job as educators to make and deliver on a promise to provide it.

Exponential growth Who cares about the virtue of the endeavor, as long as your product is maximally addictive.

Data mining has also successfully been rebranded to the more palatable Machine Learning. Who wants to stop anyone, human or machine, from learning? What are you, the digital taliban?

How can we turn more of the Twitters and Facebooks and Googles into generics?

Maybe the old cabbie boss was an asshole, but at least that asshole had a face. Someone you could yell at. Have you tried yelling at an algorithm or a customer-rating average?

More engagement. More rage, more fake news, all resulting in more hours spent, more eyeballs fixated, more clicks and taps made.

Everything worth doing is in an app.
So it remains mostly our fault. Our choice, our dollars. Every purchase a vote for an ever more dysfunctional future. We will spend our way into the abyss.

THE IMPACT OF A-F LETTER GRADES Moak Casey Commentary on the new accountability measures

Worker shortage spurs uncharacteristic partnerships connecting colleges, business – The Hechinger Report When are we going to start training folks for advanced manufacturing jobs?

The @DavidGeurin Blog: If You Want To Be A Difference Maker, You Have To Be A Risk Taker Just as it says…

Without the Right Curriculum, Personalized Learning Is Just Another Fad | EdSurge News This is why we are treading carefully and purposefully as we progress.

15 Surprising Things Productive People Do Differently | Forbes Annoying adverts, but strong, simple messages.

Rethinking Giftedness Film – YouCubed The power of labels


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Heart over Head

“The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.” Noah Webster (1788)

My how little things have changed. Webster had the right idea 230 years ago. And then we forgot all that wisdom and proceeded to cultivate the head. Like Sir Ken Robinson points out in his famous 2006 Ted Talk on how schools kill creativity in kids, our goal was simply to produce university professors by educating kids progressively more and more from the waist up, in fact “focusing on their heads, and slightly to one side.” But what about the rest? What are public schools doing to cultivate creativity in kids?

While I can’t speak for others, I can speak for Dripping Springs ISD. Here passionate educators are connecting kids to their interests and passions. They are taking calculated risks to break the mold of tradition. They are doing this by innovating inside the box (George Couros). Examples include accelerating kids in math by testing them all at the end of the year on the next year’s content, and letting those who demonstrate mastery skip to the next grade. This puts pressure on the system to operate differently. For example, if a 4th grade student is ready for 6th grade math, then we bus them to a middle school campus for that class. We’ve already been doing this at the MS/HS boundary for years. And it works. With few exceptions, accelerated kids do better than their on level peers. Why? Because we’ve empowered them  and they remain more engaged with content that is at the right level. Well then, you ask, what about other subjects? Great question! We are starting to experiment with science the same way. In ELA we do a much better job of allowing students to naturally differentiate their own learning around their reading level. Social studies is a little trickier since it is so content based and spending time exploring those stories is so important.

But this personalization of learning is only the beginning. The more important task is to change how we address every child in the classroom every day. What choices do we offer to students to customize their own learning experience? How well do we listen to their voice? We have started an experiment at our high school to actively engage student voice in our curriculum writing professional development. We invite teams of students to participate with teams of teachers during regularly scheduled planning days during the school year. We get substitutes for the teachers and allow the students to miss class to do this critical work. Both students and teachers have been blown away by the conversations they end up having. These conversations are changing what happens in the classroom. Students end up being better served.

At another level, though, students need so much more than challenging academic conversations and experiences. They need love and care. Those who don’t live in the world of a public school will never understand how much love and care pours out of public school staff into kids on a daily basis. We are enhancing this trait by getting to know our kids better than ever before. We are experimenting with the development of student profiles that help us identify and keep in front of us the important traits of our kids. What are their passions and interests? How does this child learn best? What experiences has this child had that I can tap into to enhance their learning? What experiences have they not had that could greatly benefit them? What are the strongest influences in this child’s life? What does this child’s parent know about them that I need to know? What are their strengths? What is their emotional disposition?

If we are truly going to put heart over head as Webster indicates, we must pay more attention to what matters and consciously ignore what doesn’t. In DSISD that means never talking about state standardized tests more than absolutely necessary. We’ll jump through required hoops and our kids will be successful, but we will never celebrate or worry about them. Instead, we will say yes more. We will challenge ourselves to say “What is best for this child?” And then do it.  Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself on Twitter at #IamDSISD.

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The Great Trichotomy

The great trichotomy of my life became apparent today. I started out my day working on the finishing touches of a $51 million school building which will open with 1,700 students PK-8 in two and a half weeks. This is a state of the art facility with geothermal system, rainwater collection, ultra modern collaborative spaces and furniture – literally the best money can buy.

Later in the afternoon I created an almost perfect bun in my 9 year old daughter's hair before dropping her at dance class along with 35 or so other smiling youngsters brimming with talent.

And then I read this article and my heart sank. Education in SA

You see, I feel responsible. I grew up in South Africa and benefitted from a fantastic K-12 and university education that has helped me be successful today. I learned a growth mindset from the challenges I was provided. My education allowed me to arrive in America with nothing, on a dependent's visa, and create a life for my family.

All the while I was inheriting this grounding in my private school, the majority of the population around me was being suppressed. And I didn't know it. The consequences are being realized today.

It is clearly evident to me that high quality public education for all is essential to the future of our planet. So why is there such a sustained attack on the very institution that can provide a higher quality of life for all?

I for one, intend to fight for the right of every child to love learning. I will fight to connect every child to their interests and their passions. I will always strive to inspire and equip children to become lifelong learners and positive contributors to the world.

And maybe, together, we will influence enough children to overcome the opponents of Public Education.

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Visionary Leaders Retreat 2017 Reflection #1

Several thoughts immediately come to mind as I reflect on our first day together as a group. First, the group is growing what seems like exponentially. With seven campuses instead of five and support departments growing to meet the operational needs of the district we have added a significant number of people to our Visionary Leaders Team. What’s exciting about this is the new perspective these leaders bring to the table. This new perspective reflects the immense effort that has gone into the hiring process this spring. We have never settled, but have demonstrated grit and resilience in finding the right people to fit our vision and mission. I am intrigued, however, by the concept raised by George Couros in his book The Innovator’s Mindset that people shouldn’t be hired to fill jobs, but rather that we should hire the right talent and then fit or create jobs for them. In other words we should be hiring the kind of people who will help us the mold our institution into the vision we have for ourselves and not the other way round.

I also see and feel a shift in the culture of the group. There is a much clearer understanding of our collective vision than even a year ago. Language has shifted to reflect this change. This group is willing to be challenged and to challenge each other. They are committed to creating environments that allow students to connect to their interests and passions and empower students to create their own learning paths.

My hope is that through modeling this type of learning, these leaders will create similar environments in their departments and on their campuses, and ultimately teachers will create the same opportunities for their children.

I reinforced with the group the three pronged approach of 1) developing skills in Google Apps for Edu, 2) creating and tapping into PLN’s on Twitter, and 3) Blogging consistently about the excellent work happening in our schools on a daily basis. Departments and schools will be using hashtags to collaborate and support one another (see #vlr1718 to start). As George Couros says, “Innovation is not about the stuff; it is a way of thinking.”

Finally, reflection is a critical component to successful, sustained change. The reflections you see posted to #vlr1718 are evidence of this.

I am incredibly proud to be a part of this exciting adventure and this incredible team. Watch closely as we accomplish amazing things for our children. “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” (Couros)

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Thank Your Teacher

I want to personally thank all the teachers who have changed my life through the years. As I reflect on my journey I can name them one by one and tell how they shaped my present and my future. And they were not only classroom teachers. My wife is one. My children are another. Some were superintendents, some were coaches, some were friends, some were random strangers. They influenced through their interactions and relationship with me. They gave more than they received and I am so grateful for each of them. Most will never know how they influenced, but all will live forever in my heart. 

Thank the people who have changed your life today. Let them know they made a difference. 

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Regional Track Meet

This past weekend the track teams competed in San Antonio at the Region IV-5A Meet. Hannah Biggs and Sydney Cole ran great races and qualified for the State Championships! Results are posted below. Congratulate all of these athletes on a job well done!
Sydney Cole – 1st place – 1600m – 5:15.37 – STATE QUALIFIER
Hannah Biggs – 2nd place – 100m Hurdles – 15.84 – STATE QUALIFIER

Zack Kovar – 3rd place- 800m – 1:57.14

Sydney Loveless – 3rd place – Triple Jump – 37’2.75″ New School Record

Bryce Kalsu – 4th place – 800m – 1:58.40

Avery Kalsu – 4th place – 400m – 57.58 (57.46 in prelims – New School Record)

Sydney Cole – 5th place – 800m – 2:21

Lightsey Puryear – 7th place – 300m Hurdles – 50.61 (47.67 in prelims)

Justin Wright – 7th place – 110m Hurdles – 15.71

4x400m Relay – Sydney Burtch, Kyndall Womack, Frankie Lord, Avery Kalsu – 6th place – 4:03.76

4x400m Relay – Nate Blevins, Trevor Greenman, Zack Kovar, Bryce Kalsu – 8th place – 3:26

The State Championships will be held on Friday, May 12 at the University of Texas. Running events begin at 6:00pm.

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Picasso Through the Eyes of Third Graders

These student creations are truly amazing, after a rather brief introduction to Picasso and some of his works. We talked about cubism and how Picasso took his subjects apart and put them back together in different, creative ways. Also, how he tried to paint his subjects from different angles at the same time. I give you Picasso through the eyes of Mrs. Rogers Third Grade Class:
We thought these might brighten your day. 
“We love you and miss you Mrs. Rogers!”


Your Third Grade Friends

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Life Changers

‪You know you have life changing teachers in your school when on the way to his destination imagination tournament at 7a.m.  on a Saturday morning, your 10 year old boy is knitting‬ a personalized beanie for his brother’s birthday. 

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