An examination of leadership development strategies of fast-growth public-school districts in Texas.
The Lamar Consolidated Independent School District (LCISD) hires over a dozen campus administrators annually. This has created a repetitive struggle to find internal candidates who are effectively prepared to fill these leadership vacancies. Over a 3-year period (2015–2016 through 2017–2018), LCISD hired a total of 65 campus administrators. It is the opinion of the researcher and LCISD leadership that the qualifications of candidates could be improved by implementing strategies to identify and develop future campus administrators from within the system. The purpose of this study was to determine the leadership development strategies utilized by high-performing, fast-growth public-school districts in Texas to inform and advance a leadership development program within LCISD. The researcher concentrated on a purposive sample of 4 public- school districts—including LCISD—that had implemented leadership development programs and received an overall academic performance rating of A or B on the Texas Accountability Rating System in 2018. These districts also had student enrollment above 30,000 and enrollment growth over the previous 5 years of at least 10%, or a net increase of 3,500 or more students. This purposive sample was selected to be uniquely representative of LCISD based on performance, enrollment size, and growth characteristics. The researcher used a series of focus group dialogues designed to obtain thoughts and perceptions on leadership development programming in a permissive, nonthreatening environment. The focus group dialogues included a total of 20 district-level administrators from the 4 participant school districts, who each had significant experience in designing, implementing, or overseeing leadership development programming. Fifteen final themes emerged from this qualitative study. These themes included: a) principal development programs, b) assistant principal development programs, c) diversified development opportunities, d) leader standards, e) stakeholder input, f) culture of feedback, g) continuous program development, h) external input, i) mentoring and coaching, j) contextual considerations, k) crucial conversations, l) time constraints, m) leadership equity, n) candidate quality, and o) employee retention. Findings revealed in this research may advise practitioners in high-performing, fast-growth public-school districts on how to develop and implement effective leadership development programs.