Professional Education

Leadership Institute for Superintendents: Systemic Reform in School Districts and Schools

Spring 2015

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What You Will Learn

Understand how to improve your district as a whole. Develop essential skills and strategies to implement standards-based, systemic reform where effective leadership and effective teaching in every classroom are the most critical variables. 

Program Overview

Superintendents today are faced with the challenge of developing quality school systems that create opportunities for success for all of their students. In the complicated environment of standards-based reform, superintendents need to be able to improve their districts as a whole. To do this, they must understand how to work with leaders in their districts to improve entire systems—and refuse to settle for just a few good schools.

The Institute focuses on the practice of leadership and the development and implementation of policies that drive and sustain reform at the school system level. You will analyze topics from developing and leading high-performance learning organizations to implementing sustainable change. The Institute begins by outlining the standards-based framework: clear expectations for what students should know; curricula that align with learning standards and provide teachers and students with rigorous content to develop knowledge and skills; professional development for administrators and teachers that improves the quality of instruction and leadership; and assessment for both use in reflecting on practice and in systems of accountability. Throughout the Institute, the elements of the framework are aligned, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts and leading to systemic reform with a focus on improving the quality of instruction and leadership.

Program Objectives

  • Develop and implement policies that drive and sustain reform
  • Lead high-performance learning organizations
  • Acquire a more entrepreneurial approach in leading your district
  • Foster effective leadership teams
  • Manage your human resources more strategically
  • Develop the local capacity to sustain change
  • Create budgets and spending plans to maximize financial resources
  • Recruit, support and retain a strong teaching force through the next decade
  • Understand the characteristics of quality work and the elements of the future of learning
  • Learn strategies to support data-driven decision making
  • Lead effectively in an era of public accountability

2014 Session Topics  

The 2014 program  included the following sessions:

Leadership of Systematic Reform: Opportunity and Coherence in a Changing Context of Reform
Thomas Payzant and Andrés Alonso

Leadership, Strategy and Performance: Allocating Resources to Support a Focus on District Goals
James Honan

Working with School Boards: Crafting a Common Mission to Advance Student Achievement
Andrés Alonso and Deborah Jewell-Sherman

Moving Forward: Building the Capacity for Effective Family Engagement
Karen Mapp

Conditions for Change in Districts: Principles for Improvement that Lead to Cultures that Promote Great Classroom Learning
Richard Elmore

Including Ourselves in the Improvement Equation: Engaging Our Own Immunity to Change
Robert Kegan

Leading Teams: Understanding and Developing the Conditions for Effective Team Work for Leadership Teams
Monica Higgins

Strategy in Action: Bringing Together the Work of Many in Support of a Focus on Instruction
Rachel Curtis

Leading Readiness for Higher Standards: Supporting Schools for the Common Core and Higher Expectations for All Students 
Sonja Santelises

Who Should Attend

  • Superintendents and assistant superintendents
  • Central office administrators responsible for developing quality school systems

Faculty Chairs

Andres Alonso is Professor of Practice at HGSE. A graduate of the School’s Urban Superintendents Program, Alonso served as CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools for six years. While in Baltimore, he led a reform effort that yielded marked improvement in achievement and climate data across all levels, and the first increases in enrollment in 40 years. Previously, he was chief of staff and deputy chancellor for teaching and learning during the first phase of New York's Children First reforms. He spent 12 years as a teacher of English Language Learners and students with disabilities in Newark, N.J.

Thomas Payzant is Professor of Practice, Emeritus at HGSE. Previously Payzant was superintendent of the Boston Public Schools from 1995 until his retirement in 2006. During this time, he led significant systemic reform efforts that narrowed the achievement gap and increased student performance on both state and national assessment exams. Before coming to Boston, he was appointed by President Clinton to serve as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education with the United States Department of Education. In addition to his tenure in Boston, Payzant has served as Superintendent of Schools in San Diego, CA; Oklahoma City, OK; Eugene, OR; and Springfield, PA. 

Enrollment Instructions

Leadership Institute for Superintendents is an application program. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications are reviewed by the admissions committee and decisions are returned within five working days.

Step One
You will be asked to provide your personal and institutional information to complete the application process.

Step Two
Upload your CV/resume as a single MS Word or PDF document. Generally your CV/resume should include your current job title, professional experience and your education.


The comprehensive tuition includes all instructional materials and refreshments. Participants receive a certificate of participation and a letter confirming clock hours of instruction.

Payment or a purchase order is due 30 days after registration. If acceptance into the program falls less than 30 days prior to program start date, payment is due upon acceptance. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses.


Hotel accommodations are made available to participants at a reduced rate. Detailed program information and accommodation options will be provided to all admitted participants. The Harvard Graduate School of Education is not responsible for non-refundable travel arrangements or other planning expenses incurred. We recommend that you not make lodging and travel arrangements until you are admitted to the program.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be submitted via fax or email. Full refunds will be given up to 30 days prior to the start of the program. Due to program demand and pre-program preparations, cancellations received 29–14 days prior to the start of the program are subject to a fee of 10% of the program tuition. Cancellations received within 13 days prior to the start of the program and no-shows are subject to the full program tuition. Please note: cancellation fees are based upon the date the written request is received.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education reserves the right to change faculty or cancel programs at its discretion. In the unlikely event of program changes, the school is not responsible for non-refundable travel arrangements or other planning expenses incurred.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The Harvard Graduate School of Education affirms the right of all individuals to equal treatment in education without regard to age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, handicap, national origin, or any other factors that are extraneous to effective performance. The Harvard Graduate School of Education will accommodate anyone with disabilities.