More to read … Equity … and Crisis Leadership

More … to Read

THREE timely sections of great reads this month:

Current Books ♦ Equity ♦ Crisis Leadership.

A brief note about what I found compelling in each.

CURRENT Reads:                                    

Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done

by Charlie Gilkey  | 2019

How to ideas on setting up projects.  No more than 5 big projects at a time.  Review at the end of each day: a) celebrations; b) nagging items; c) top three for the coming day.  Then check out for some down time and start in where you left off.

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

by Monique Morris, Mankaprr Conteh, et al. | 2018

Includes a mix of statistics, first-person accounts from Black girls, and interviews with adults.  Makes the case that engaging students results in more just rules and greater ownership of rules.  Large section at the end offers suggestions for students, parents, teachers.

The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us

by Paul Tough  | 2019

Your SAT/ACT scores determine where you are admitted.  Colleges walk a narrow line between admitting diversity and meeting tuition targets.  You are your test score.  Offers intriguing excepts – Uri Treisman at University of Texas who has helped students of color and low SAT scores do well in mathematics.

Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead, and Live Without Barriers

By Jo Boaler | 2019

Six practical strategies for growing your brain through intentional practice.  Lots of encouraging examples.  Pushes growth mindset beyond mathematics to include other subjects as well as life and leadership.  Also cites Uri Treisman’s work.  Lots of practical ideas on what to do … and not do.

They Called Us Enemy

by George Takei Justin Eisinger , et al. | 2019

Graphic novel telling the story of the Japanese internment.  Tells how his parents lost everything and were then turned out the street to start all over.  As a young man he was angry with his father for not fighting harder, until he learned how significant his father’s leadership had been.  Author went on the Star Trek fame.

Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

by Craig Fehrman  | 2020

Tells the story of how our presidents handled their legacies.  In the beginning you didn’t brag and didn’t even let much be printed until you had died.  But there was a demand to know more about the issues and the personal stories.  Book tells the parallel story of writing, books, publishing as America came of age.  Lots of interesting aspects.

84, Charing Cross Road

by Helene Hanff  | 1990

Okay, not exactly current.  May qualify as a good beach read.  Charming and witty.  Short book of letters exchanged by a NYC playwright and a London bookstore owner.  Author writes asking for books, gets catalogs in return.  She buys rare books for $1 to $5 and gets detailed letters of credit.  They become friends.  She sends care packages to the staff.  This book made her famous. Full of humor.


Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

by Zaretta L. Hammond  2015

Explains why cultural identity engages the brain in positive ways.  Shows how to grow relationships and put good ideas to use.  A great place to start.  Gives staff multiple ways to engage in work that will make a difference for students.

Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us (Issues of Our Time)

by Claude Steele  | 2011

Lots of research and practical examples of how our environment shapes us.  Women do less well in math due to stereotypes.  African Americans do less well taking tests.  White men do less well in athletic tests.  And he demonstrates how schools can reduce these tensions / threats by creating ‘identity safety.

New Kid

by Jerry Craft  | 2019

Picture and story line is priceless.  Creates a “you are here” moment that gives glimpses of what it is like to be a student of color under pressure from several perspectives.  Graphics provide great opportunities to put them on the table during a staff meeting and ask … What is happening here … What happens in our school … What could we do differently?

Culturally Responsive School Leadership (Race and Education)

by Muhammad Khalifa , H. Richard Milner IV, et al. | 2018

Combines research with two years of ethnographic work – spending time with students, teachers, principal and community.  Makes a powerful case for doing work differently, for giving voice and choice to our communities of color.  Growing students; identity culturally and academically.  Lot of tools, rubrics, surveys for transformation.

Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change

by Stacey Abrams  | 2019. And her recent book, Our Time is Now

Mentioned frequently among the top 10 women likely to become Democratic Vice President nominee for 2020.  Powerful African American woman served as Speaker of the House in Georgia and then lost a narrowly contested race for governor.  Book is full of challenges faced and challenges overcome.

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas  | 2017

Reads like a “you are here” eyewitness account to the killing of an armed young Black man – the eyewitness being a young Black girl in the car.  She shares her grief and gut wrenching decisions as she lives through the aftermath … at her white school … her neighborhood of color … giving statements to the police … and then to the media … in the midst of violent protests.  Her identity is stretched to the limit and beyond.

Last Bus Out

by Beck McDowell  | 2010

True story of a young Black man who saved two school bus loads of Katrina survivors.  Tells his story of his uneven education caused by frequent family disruptions.  When he escaped from New Orleans he was given a new start in Southern California.  Even with lots of help, counseling and support the challenges were nearly overwhelming.  Finally, asking the right people at the right time helped him overcome learning gaps and find his way.

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: The Power of Opportunity to Change Young Lives

by Milbrey W. McLaughlin, Greg Darnieder, et al. | Apr 10, 2018

Well told story of a community project in Cabrini Green Chicago.  Tells how young organizers brought church groups together to provide after-school support for teens.  Year after year they created systems of support that gave youth confidence and competence to stick with schooling.  Mentorships and field trips provided opportunities to see the future.  Virtually all, even initial dropouts, went on to become successful middle class adults.

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity

by Nadine Burke Harris M.D. | 2019

Tells of the origination of ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – and tells how trauma stunts our ability to learn.  Author shares her challenges to promote solutions in the face of biases in the community and in the profession.  Her message, growing in scope and power, can now be found on YouTube.

Excellence Through Equity: Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to Guide Achievement for Every Student

by Alan M. Blankstein, Pedro Noguera, et al. | 2016

The best overall perspective.  Edited book includes chapters on the full range of issues that need to be addressed including both culture and academics.  Chapters near the end give examples of several districts that have made significant progress and point the way to some promising practices.

Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel

by Celeste Ng  | 2017

Set in Cleveland.  A young girl and her single mother move into a rich White neighborhood.  Initially this seems to be the ideal of post-racial America.  Then things gradually unravel and take both families White into uncharted territory.  Hence the title, little fires everywhere.  Shows how connected we are for good or for ill.  Now a movie.

Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division (Leading the Four Types of Teachers and Creating a Positive School Culture)

by Anthony Muhammad  | 2017

Time for Change: Four Essential Skills for Transformational School and District Leaders

by Anthony Muhammad  (Author), Luis F. Cruz  (Author) | 2019

Author is a popular conference speaker.  Speaks and writes from a solid basis as an award winning teacher and principal.  Books are filled with practical and passionate ideas for transforming our schools to better meet student needs.  Listed here are two of his many books.

The Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance in Urban Schools

by Yvette Jackson and Reuven Feuerstein | 2011

Builds on brain science, identity and a strengths based approach to point the way to student success.  Book is full of pedagogy – coaching for teachers – to grow students confidence and competence.

Just Schools: Building Equitable Collaborations with Families and Communities (Multicultural Education Series)

by Ann M. Ishimaru and James A. Banks | Dec 27, 2019

Shows how we can do more than ask for input or engagement.  Invite families in as experts, create authentic relationships, share power.  Create family leadership design collaboratives.  Truly work together to create agency and transformation through collective inquiry.

How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Shows how racism is structural, built into every institution.  We can’t undo racism by working with individual students. And we can’t just use words to make a show of support.  Needed are concerted partnerships to change the institutional biases that create the uneven playing field.

Opening Doors: An Implementation Template for Cultural Proficiency

by Trudy Tuttle Arriaga and Randall B. Lindsey | Jan 22, 2016

Retired superintendent of Ventura (CA) Unified Schools tells of her 14 years as superintendent – opening doors by creating cultural proficiency layer upon layer. Provides methodology for evaluating impact of decisions.  Includes implementation plan for making schools culturally proficient.

CRISIS Leadership:                                   

You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most

by Leonard J. Marcus, Eric J. McNulty , et al. | 2019

Based on examination of national emergencies over the past decade.  Outlines proficiencies: know yourself, grasp the situation, connect with others.  Full of tools for turning unknowns into knows and creating the relationships and decision-making skills needed to survive in crisis.  Excellent book for navigating uncertain times of COVID.


by Steven Johnson, George Newbern, et al.

Studies what we know about long range decision making.  Map the problem by listening to everyone.  Make predictions by considering multiple solutions and their consequences.  Then and only then begin to narrow toward a decision.  Do so by considering the odds.  Avoid either or decisions.

The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves

by The Arbinger Institute  | 2019

Seeing others as individuals with their own needs and interests.  Seeing others’ needs as important as your own.  Looking for win-win solutions.  Includes stories of how community policing has transformed communities.  Part of a series of books by Arbinger Institute.

A Sense of Urgency

by John P. Kotter

One of a dozen great books by Kotter.  One the leading experts on successful change.  This book makes the case for urgency.  We all come together in a crisis and find a way to work together.  How to recreate that sense of purpose and urgency for our most important work.

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory

by Tod Bolsinger | 2018

A fun read based on the journals of Lewis and Clark.  Their expedition was perfectly prepared for a world that didn’t exist.  Literally they hoped to canoe their way to the Pacific – only to find themselves 10,000 feet up in the Rockies.  They had to adapt or die.  And they did.  Lots of lessons for us as we navigate uncertain times.

Leadership on the Line, With a New Preface: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Change

by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky | 2017

From the Harvard School of Government.  One of several books about ‘adaptive’ leadership.  We can only change things when we embed ourselves in the systems and seek to truly understand them.  Even then we can only act … than respond to the reaction our action creates.

Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World

by Sharon Daloz Parks

Sharon Parks has summarized many of the key ideas from Heifetz into a book that is easy to grasp.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual

by Jocko Willink  | 2020

This is the third book I’ve read from Willink.  All include a practical no nonsense approach to leadership – many from his crisis experience as a Navy Seal.  Includes examples from a wide variety of settings.  Much of his initial learnings come from Iraq where the situation was constantly changing.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins , et al. | May 12, 2015

Tells how they began in Iraq – totally outmaneuvered and outsmarted.  Gradually they learned to be nimble and learn from networks.  Waiting for information to make it up through the command structure was always too little, too late.  Lots of lessons for our times.

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable

by Patrick Lencioni | 2000

Another great read – and short – from Lencioni.  Novel part is maybe 100 pages (I listened to it).  Executive summary at the end is far shorter.  The four obsessions:  Cohesive Leadership Team; Organizational Clarity; Over Communicate Organizational Clarity; Reinforce Organizational Clarity through HR.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Novel (aka) a great business book!  Tells the futility of trying to diagnose and repair a system from the outside.  Only by working inside the system and working with the people do we stand a chance of successful goal accomplishment.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

by Dan Heath | 2020

Another great book by Heath (Switch, Made to Stick).  Prevention is the focus.  He has great examples from dental care and auto safety to Chicago Public Schools and how they increased graduation rates dramatically.  Offers specific ideas for gathering and using data to get better.

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

by Adam M. Grant PhD, Brian Keith Lewis | 2013

Lots of good research by the author and others showing that it really is better to give than receive.  Givers, with some coaching, outperform Takers and Matchers.  Great suggestions.  One we certainly use now:  Use a protocol to normalize asking for help.  At the end of the meeting everyone makes one 30 second “ask.”  And then the expectation is that each of you make do one “5-minute” favor in response to one of the asks.  Creates a giver’s network – an organizational culture based on giving – with better results and better relationships.


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Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

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