Vital Signs for Education

Vital Signs for Education

4-minute recap of this month’s blogs

“Vital signs” measure our essential bodily functions like pulse rate, temperature, respiration, and blood pressure. Vital signs tell us when our body is distressed and needs medical attention.  

Education in Distress

Public discourse is contentious. Mental health is compromised for kids and adults. Education seems to be in lingering distress even though we have outwardly returned to normal.   

“Vital signs” for K-12 education

Here in this issue are vital signs that may point the way forward for education success.  

Leadership health is one of those vital signs

Two Dozen Book Reviews on Leadership, Equity, and Culture.  4 min read.

Where do leaders gain that inner strength to withstand unrelenting pressure? The reviews this time include a medley of resources for transformation in troubling times.  

  • A Failure of Nerve, A longer review.  2 min read.
    Author Edwin Friedman says a steady leader is essential to counteract inevitable sabotage and emotional blackmail.
  • Adaptive Leadership, a collection of articles from McKinsey, suggests seeking out root causes, broadening relationships, and several other good steps.  
  • 6 Types of Working Genius, by Patrick Lencioni, reminds us that we need a well-balanced team to implement any project with success.  
  • Resilient, by a Christian psychologist, urges respite from constant stress and applying Biblical insights to maintain our equilibrium.  

Goal Setting is one of those vital signs.  4 min read.

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Goal setting stands at the crossroads of success. Aligning district goals, strategic plans, superintendent evaluation, and school improvement plans multiply your impact. Bob Marzano’s mantra is 4 years + 4 goals = Student Success. And in this issue, new research sent to me by Horace Mann League reports on how effective district goal setting can be.  

Success for Each and Every Student is one of those vital signs.

The health of one affects the health of all. We don’t say we are healthy except for a temperature of 103 degrees. Our schools cannot be declared healthy until we are serving students well. Two blogs sum up five years of learning from a dozen districts and three networks on the vital signs for equity.

Creating a movement – a lasting legacy – is another vital sign.

Turning Moments into a Movement  5 min read.
Moments and glimmers of success will not leave a lasting legacy for our students or us. Needed is a concerted effort to generate momentum and then a movement that continues long after we are gone.  

Tribute to John Fotheringham, who passed away on October 24, 2022

  • I am delighted that WASA will be honoring John in the January Hotline, although no words will do justice to his impact on so many lives.
  • I was down and out after leaving Pasco and then Shoreline under a cloud. But John never doubted me. He was my encourager and cheerleader.
  • And he finally helped me land in Marysville. His calls out of the blue were regular boosters of encouragement. He remembered my career and talents better than I did!
  • I stopped to see him in late July and thought he was doing remarkably well. I was surprised at how quickly the end came for him.  
  • His ability to think big ideas and get them down to magical next steps was amazing. In these last years, I marveled at how he did that for his family—with his life story, thoughtful, personalized gifts, and the plan to provide for the future wealth of his grandchildren.
  • John was a true friend and encourager to the end.  – Larry 

Update on Schools for Africa

I was fortunate to visit Schools for Africa in Nigeria this past summer. This Nigerian non-profit serves 3000 nomadic students who have never been to school—the last and the least of Nigeria’s nearly 200M people. I serve as board chair and help raise funds. Throughout my visit, I was overwhelmed with the grace, dignity, and joy of teachers, students, and village leaders—all overflowing with joy while living on less than $2 a day.  


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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

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