September 1, 2016
Online Journal - School Improvement: How to achieve it?
Dr. Dennis Marshall, General Vice-Present/Director of Education, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Oshawa, ON

Principals, along with their faculty and school boards, are (or should be) always focused on school improvement.  The success of their efforts are dependent on four elements:  attitude, action steps, collaboration, and initiative. 
 
Attitude
In order to convert an idea into an action, one must first embrace the change idea with a positive attitude.  Attitude makes a difference: a positive attitude supports change; a negative attitude discourages change. A positive attitude indicates that you have embraced the ideas for change as your very own, and will do whatever is necessary to implement them.  Stakeholders who display a positive attitude are more likely to work together to bring about the required change than those who don’t. 
 
Action Steps 
The best way to build a house is to work with a blueprint outlining the features that must be considered and the construction steps that must be taken. By carefully following the blueprint, skilled workers will be able to reduce a complex task into manageable steps for goal achievement.  
 
We can apply the analogy of the parts and the whole in building construction to the implementation of school improvement recommendations.  When recommendations are broken down into action steps, they become easier to implement.  Each action step leads you closer to achieving the recommended goal.     
 
Collaboration
A third element that supports organizational change is collaboration.  Collaboration strengthens relationships, indicates unity of purpose, and makes goal achievement possible. Those who collaborate place the interest of the organization above personal preferences.  Those who refuse to collaborate place their own interest over the interest of the organization, and thus become a hindrance instead of a promoter of change.  When people work together as a team to achieve shared goals, the task becomes easier to implement, and there is a greater appreciation for what is accomplished.
 
Taking the Initiative
The fourth element in this school improvement strategy is that of taking the initiative to get the job done. Procrastination makes goal realization remote, but taking the initiative brings about desired change on a timely basis.  
 
It takes one person to become a change agent and set the stage for organizational change. For example, if a teacher decides to take the initiative to bring about change in teacher/student relationships, his/her initiative will sow the seeds for change within the larger context of the school.   When his/her colleagues see the transformative effect of the initiative, they too will support the change and will be motivated to act.   
 
A Great Opportunity Awaits Us
A great opportunity awaits us when the new school year begins in September 2016. School administrations, faculty, and school boards will be asked to implement the recommendations of the SDACC Education Summit, which took place in the fall of 2014. 
 
The goal of these recommendations is to take our educational system to a higher level, to ensure that our children and youth continue to receive the excellent education they deserve.  What will it take to achieve this goal? 
 
As suggested above, success will be ours if we embrace the SDACC Education Summit recommendations with a positive attitude,  divide each recommendation into action steps for ease of implementation, demonstrate a collaborate spirit showing unity of purpose, and take the initiative to get the job done.
 
If we do these things well, we will not only achieve our school improvement goals, but will transform our schools into schools of excellence, offering to our children and youth the quality education that they deserve and that will prepare them to serve God both now and for eternity.