A publication of Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
You Should Really Get Out More
“Principals, during the day, have no business in the office.” -Baruti Kafele
When talking passionately about the principal’s role in closing the achievement gap, Principal Baruti Kafele of Newark Tech High School in Newark, NJ, draws strength and determination from Black leaders and the civil rights movement but, even more so, from teachers and students he interacts with daily. For Kafele, face time is crucial.
“I will not be in my office during instructional time reading emails, making phone calls, doing paper work,” said Kafele at a Teaching and Learning Conference session titled “Effective Instructional Leadership for Raising Achievement Levels of African American and Latino Students.”
“Principals, if we’re going to be effective in closing this achievement gap, then we have to be in the classrooms all day long,” he said. “We have to be in the hallways in between classes, in the cafeteria, at a table with our students, engaged in interactions with our students.”
It all boils down to putting instructional leadership at the fore, asserted Kafele. “Anybody can manage a building. Management is not what we’re in this business for. We’re in this business so that we can lead these students instructionally [and] make them into high achievers,” he said.
To see this philosophy in action, go to one of Kafele’s staff meetings at Newark Tech. You won’t see a group of educators mired in administrative issues. What will you see? “If I’m the instructional leader, and it’s not just a [title] I use – I’m really the instructional leader – then I’ve got to be that for my staff and my students. So during staff meeting time, I’m training staff. I’m doing PowerPoint presentations in every staff meeting, and I’m keeping them fired up.”
He’s also engaging staff in difficult discussions on achievement disparities between students of color and their white peers.
“If we’re going to talk about closing a gap in our leadership capacity between African American and Latino versus Asian and white students, then it requires us to talk about race, doesn’t it?” Kafele noted. “We all have our different views and opinions there, but if we don’t talk about it and sweep it under the rug instead, then we don’t deal with the issue. So let’s put the seat belts on and deal with the issue.”