A Pathway to Success

As the first woman and first person of color to serve as principal of Langley High School in McLean, VA, Kim Greer is keenly aware of what it’s like to create her own pathway to success. Her experiences have inspired her to lead in a way that makes sure every student is seen and valued, a focus she also brings to her role as a member of the NASSP Board of Directors. “The students who we are serving today are a more diverse group—there are more kids of color,” she writes. “However, that diversity is still not reflected as far as who they see in the teacher and administrator ranks. It is going to take a concerted and intentional effort from all of us who work in education to make sure we are promoting our profession as one where women and people of color want to be and can make a difference in our education system.”

Leading While Female

Fewer women than men serve in leadership positions at the secondary school level. In a roundtable discussion, three school leaders talk about the barriers women face in pursuing these roles, the challenges they must navigate once they enter the principalship, and the supports they need to succeed. These leaders include Elena Ashburn, central area superintendent for the Wake County Public School System in Cary, NC, former principal of Needham B. Broughton Magnet High School, and the 2022 North Carolina Principal of the Year; Anuradha Ebbe, deputy associate superintendent of middle schools for the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, WI, former principal of Cherokee Heights Middle School, and the 2022 Wisconsin Principal of the Year; and Moss Strong, principal of Homedale Middle School in Homedale, ID, and the 2022 Idaho Principal of the Year.

From Teacher to Principal

Teaching high school was Julie Kasper’s calling, and she did it for more than 20 years without much thought of becoming a principal. But over time, she decided to make that move. She recalls telling herself:

  • It’s time to stop complaining about the need for change and to start contributing toward change.
  • It’s time to start serving others in ways that would make a difference in new ways.
  • It’s time to start re-embracing my “why” that led me into education all those years ago.
  • It’s time to take the advice I had been giving my students for so many years about risk, vulnerability, and reward.

Now, as the principal of Century High School in Hillsboro, OR, and a member of the NASSP Board of Directors, she wants to make sure other women, especially at the secondary level, are encouraged to follow her example and pursue careers in leadership.

Lifting Each Other Up

Despite the challenges that Lora de la Cruz faced growing up, educators helped lift her up, and through her own career as an educator and leader, she has sought to do the same, especially for students and women of color. “The higher that educators climb through the ranks, the fewer women we see in leadership positions,” writes de la Cruz, a deputy superintendent in Boulder, CO. “It’s long past time to change this.” She has some advice for principals who are women of color:

  • Know the origins of your leadership story.
  • Shine a light on talent.
  • Let your moral imperative guide you.