Less than 20 percent of students are taught in schools within rural areas nationwide. They are often invisible to much of the nation. Political leaders rarely encounter them, and they become overlooked in the story of American education. The 2019 Why Rural Matters report, released in November by The Rural School and Community Trust, shines a spotlight on many of the issues surrounding schools in some of the country’s poorest and most challenged areas. But those issues aren’t the whole story.
I hear so much more about rural education from leaders such as our 2019 National Assistant Principal of the Year, Meghan Redmond, who is committed to changing the narrative about rural schools. Meghan’s school is in a remote Alaskan village that can be reached only by boat or single-engine plane. While they may not have much, the students at Chief Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok, AK, have deep community roots. Each student is well known, and everyone in the community relies on one another. The relationships are strong and meaningful—the condition to which every school in the country aspires. Meghan’s school thrives not despite its rural attributes, but because of them. That’s the story of rural schools we have to tell.
The success of your schools begins with leadership. NASSP’s commitment to empowering principals and enhancing your leadership was the spark that ignited our new Building Ranks™ framework for school leadership. With 15 leadership dimensions divided into the two domains of Building Culture and Leading Learning, Building Ranks demystifies the principal’s job. It gives us a common vocabulary for talking about our work, and it specifies those areas where principals need to excel to lead high-performing schools.
To the principals in rural schools—and school leaders across the nation—thank you for the extraordinary work you do each day. You are building the future we all share, and we are invested in your success.
While this topic of rural schools should be kept top of mind, also of vital importance is the issue of safety in schools. As you make your way through the February issue, you’ll notice our special section on school safety and trauma. As principals, you’re committed to the success of your students, and that begins with ensuring students can learn in an environment that is safe and offers them the physical and mental health supports they need to thrive.
Executive Director, NASSP