While attending last summer’s National Principals Conference, rock star principal Jason Markey gently guided us through the dimensions of NASSP’s new Building Ranks framework. As the day unfolded, my eye was drawn to one dimension: Human Capital Management. I had never heard of this concept, and to be frank, it seemed sort of archaic and of another century. Managing people as capital? It didn’t sound at all like something I wanted to be involved in.

Building Ranks: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective School Leaders states that human capital management occurs when “school leaders realize that efficacious individuals will succeed, thrive, and contribute.” Again, I’ll be honest: I had to look up efficacious, which has its roots in efficacy—which translates into “something to produce a desired result.”

The light bulb illuminated: What am I doing at my school to foster the professional dreams of my teachers and students? Efficacy is about being mindful of people’s intentions and purposeful in helping to shape them.

Since I didn’t know anything about this in July, I took it as a challenge that, starting in September, I would help my community focus on its future role potential. I also took it as a personal challenge to guide this learning within my school. My virtual tour outlines some of the steps we’ve taken over the course of the school year, including:

Rollout to Staff

I presented “Human Capital Management” to my staff in an afterschool autumn gathering and was met with the following:


Wide eyes.

An awkward pause.

I then defined the phrase. Found synonyms for efficacious. I told the staff that I was interested in where they wanted to be in five years and how could I help. Silence became murmur. Retinas returned to normalcy while heads nodded in the affirmative. The awkward pause transitioned to an understanding of purpose.

Gathering Data

But how to gather the data? This initial foray into the topic felt too personal for a survey, so I took the liberty during December one-on-one meetings to ask the question, “Where do you want to be professionally in five years?” Follow-up questions focused on how we can start this journey.

Being Actionable

The notion of human capital management also made me reflect on how the school has already began work in this leadership dimension without realizing its official moniker.

When you provide teachers with opportunities for leadership and administrative oversight in particular areas, you are really providing hands-on experiences to test the waters of their potential next adventure. Without thinking very hard, I came up quickly with instances of a teacher transitioning to department head, another investigating an administrative license, and a third who took on tremendous responsibility in transforming an underused space in the school into a retail center based on a collaborative dream.

More recently, I have teachers use time during an in-service period to design a solution to either an existing problem or area of growth for the school. Inspired by the works of George Couros and Daniel Pink, our two FedEx Day experiences—so named because of the rapid delivery of the solutions educators devised—were really exercises in the possibilities of human capital management, giving teachers the autonomy to become leaders and effect change.

Embracing the Unknown

I don’t think I will truly know what the virtual tour will look like until the first week of January.  What I do know is that January will be the perfect time to visually share how we demystified the term and, in turn, recalibrated some of our purpose at the school. Since the new year is a time for reflection and renewal, what a perfect venue to see our resolutions to date.

January’s virtual tour will be a 30-minute journey through some of these beginning conversations that reflect actionable leadership. Building Ranks has been a catalyst for reflection and forward planning. We hope to share with you some stories about how Joseph Case High School is helping both its teachers and students live their dreams.

This blog is part of NASSP’s Virtual Tour Series. Be sure to visit NASSP’s Facebook page on January 15 at 9:00 a.m. (ET) to participate in the live tour. Brian McCann will also be leading the #PrinLeaderChat on Twitter on January 19 at 9:00 p.m. (ET).

Brian McCann is in his 16th year as principal of Joseph Case High School in Swansea, MA. He is a 2018 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter (@casehighprinc).

About the Author

Brian McCann is in his 16th year as principal of Joseph Case High School in Swansea, MA. He is a 2018 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter (@casehighprinc).

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