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The school years touched by the pandemic tested the mettle of school leaders in unprecedented ways. While many had weathered crises of varying magnitudes before it, COVID-19 was the longest, most widespread test of school principals and administrators’ skills in managing schools in crisis conditions.

I am a member of the Virginia State Board of Education and was a school principal in a high-poverty community. When the governor shut down Virginia’s public schools by executive order on March 13, 2020, a range of deep emotions consumed my faculty and staff. As they pivoted their mode of instruction, they also became more acutely aware of the dire situations of many of their students, many of whom were experiencing traumatic home environments, food insecurity, and a severe lack of resources for continued learning at home. It fell on me to help staff process their emotions as they tried to support students.

In normal times, principals make many consequential decisions during fast-paced days in which they deal with site management, faculty and staff leadership, academic and instructional guidance, and the mental, social, and physical needs of every individual in the school. To this list of many and varied skills, the pandemic added questions of how best to prepare principals to lead during crises and recovery. Researchers and state policy leaders alike will doubtless continue to explore the extent to which abilities to manage crises are key to effective leadership, as well as ways to help more school leaders develop these dispositions. …


Preparing School Leaders for Crises



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