Leaders at Ravenscroft and Center for Creative Leadership Discuss Partnership Triumphs, Trials, and What Comes Next

How do key leaders at Ravenscroft School (North Carolina) and the Center for Creative Leadership assess their partnership in the new education model Lead From Here? What do they most like about working together? What’s propelling them forward? I take you behind the scenes of this pioneering partnership in my podcast with Head of School Doreen Kelly, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Colleen Ramsden, and Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Project Director Christopher Ward.

In Clip 1 below, Doreen, Colleen, and Chris share the successes and false starts from their distinct vantage points.
In Clip 2 below, they describe the beginnings of this partnership and its rewards.
In Clip 3 below, they talk about the future of their partnership and the potential of CCL’s leadership model.
The excerpts below have been condensed and edited.

On Success Stories from the Partnership (Clip 1 Excerpts)

Doreen Kelly: “As head of school, one of the key relationships that I hold and trust is my relationship with the board of trustees, the governing body of the school. We recently came off a complete and full-attended board meeting to talk about generative topics. As for what this work has meant to us as an organization, I would say our organizational hygiene is very healthy. We’re equipped with tools throughout the organization to model that collaboration between two nonprofits, and we feel that work is distinctive.
“So having our whole board trained — developing a common language throughout our community, preK to 12, with all the various constituencies — has been key. As educators we’re getting better at taking constructive feedback. For the concept of growth mindset to prevail, we have to be able to do that, to a person, and we’re very excited about that.”
Colleen Ramsden: “As assistant head of school, I can share a little more specific example. I had a dad call me recently and say, ‘I was driving in the car and my second-grade son was in the backseat. And he said to me, ‘Dad, you’re going over the speed limit.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m really just staying with the traffic, so it’s OK.’ And he said, ‘No, Dad, you just need to lead yourself. Don’t worry about what others are doing.’ ” And that’s one of the things we’ve taught students at school — how to lead yourself before you lead others in order to change your world.”

On False Starts and Lessons Learned (Clip 1 Excerpts)

Colleen Ramsden: “One of my main roles has been the entire planning, development, and implementation of Lead From Here. And one of the mantras that we’ve used at Ravenscroft and CCL is that we are making the road by walking. There have been lots of false starts because this is brand-new. It’s not a canned program off a shelf.
“One of the things I wish we had done when we first started was involving students, especially upper school students, into the planning. Their voice is really important, and we would do that differently if we had an opportunity.”
Christopher Ward: “There were times where I felt like we needed to allow faculty room to put some of the ideas we were introducing into play in their classrooms. And yet I wondered about the level of support they needed as they tried out the ideas. Some needed the support; some didn’t.
“So we had to get better at anticipating needs and providing a range of support for a range of needs. And I’ve been proud of this partnership’s ability to learn as it goes.”
CCL and Ravenscroft leaders.jpg
Colleen Ramsden, Christopher Ward, and Doreen Kelly.

On What the Three Like Most About the Partnership (Clip 2 Excerpts)

Colleen Ramsden?: “In my role as the assistant head of school for academic affairs, I love the opportunity we have to learn and grow together as two nonprofits. We at Ravenscroft have always been the experts in the child development area, and the Center for Creative Leadership is the expert in leadership development. But together we have used our skills to develop a unique approach to developing citizen leaders.”
Doreen Kelly: “As head of school, I would say the opportunity to engage in the professional development of employees in our industry, and to provide them with specific skill sets and competencies, is really among the most invigorating work I’ve done in my career.
“And that opportunity doesn’t largely exist in our industry in a deep and meaningful way. How that has transformed our organization is among one of many highlights about this partnership.”
Christopher Ward: “From CCL’s standpoint, this really is a true partnership. That word is used often, but we have brought intentionality to creating our partnership, to collaboration and to interdependence. We are very open and honest. We’re very transparent. We make strong, strong efforts to work together and make decisions together, even to the point of giving each other really good, clear feedback that’s both positive and constructive. It’s been really, really exciting.”

On How the Partnership Came About (Clip 2 Excerpts)

Doreen Kelly: “As head of school, I know that all of us want to live and work in healthy environments where children are allowed to develop to their full potential. I was beginning to think about how well we do that intuitively as an organization, but I wondered what it would mean in a preK to 12 environment to be more intentional about the development of citizen leadership.
“It was during that time I was connected to folks through the Leadership Beyond Boundaries program with the Center of Creative Leadership, who had a very similar question about what it would mean more globally for folks to develop specific skill sets around exercising citizen leadership.
“At that point it appeared almost immediately that we had a shared vision around this work and direction, alignment, and commitment on this concept. So we elected to come together to pursue this question more deeply in preparing young people to become the best citizen leaders they could be.”

On Future Outcomes Driving Ravenscroft Forward (Clip 3 Excerpts)

Colleen Ramsden: “From my role as assistant head of school, our next step in the coming year is around parent education. We know that for something to be really successful, it has to live not only at school but in the home.
“And so we have started offering parent education workshops on the same topics that we’re working on with our students and our faculty and staff.
“For example, a workshop on giving and receiving feedback is happening in January [2016] for our parent body, using the tools that the Center for Creative Leadership has created called SBI, Situation, Behavior, and Impact. We have modified that tool to make it appropriate for parents and children to have feedback conversations. And we’re looking forward to continuing to develop our parent education so that they are supporting what we’re doing at school and we’re supporting what they’re doing at home.”
Doreen Kelly: “From my perspective, our goal is to share the work we’re doing. We think we have a public purpose; the word is getting out about what we’re doing. We’ve had schools from around the country and India and England come to visit us to learn more about Lead From Here. Many folks are presenting nationally and internationally at conferences, and we’re beginning to have a good deal published about this work in various sectors as well. So we’re very, very excited about not being selfish about what we’re learning about ourselves and as a part of this journey.
“It’s quite exciting to have gotten a call today from the president of a national company after he got our materials. He was so moved by the Lead From Here work. His comment was that it was so crushingly beautiful that he wondered, ‘If it could work at a school like Ravenscroft, why couldn’t it work in a company like his?’
“That’s another key question for us to begin to ponder. We face a journey of seeking, having questions, and exploring. It’s the kind of thoughtful development we’d like to see in every member of our community: to start with a key question and to engage in it and wonder about it and seek knowledge around it and grow and improve.
“It’s among the most dynamic work I’ve done in my entire career. And I’m just so honored to be a part of this partnership.”

On Opportunities for Growth with CCL’s Model in Schools (Clip 3 Excerpt)

Christopher Ward: “What’s exciting is that the growth opportunities exist sort of exponentially in the hearts of those who are imagining what education could look like next. We’re a part of a movement that exists in education to develop the whole child for a complex and interdependent world in the future.”
Ari Pinkus
Ari Pinkus

Ari Pinkus is digital editor and producer at NAIS.


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