June 14, 2016

Penn GSE’s John DeFlaminis brings distributed leadership to a struggling district

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In 2014, the York City School District was in crisis. Its budget was busted, and student performance had bottomed out. A proposal to convert the district to all charter schools fizzled, but the glaring problems remained.

John DeFlaminis works with administrators across Pennsylvania

Seeking to dramatically change the district from within, administrators and the teachers' union partnered to have Penn GSE’s John DeFlaminis introduce distributed leadership to York schools and help overhaul their curriculum. DeFlaminis has been called the “gold-standard” of distributed leadership, based on his academic research and his experiences implementing the principles when he was the superintendent of the Radnor Township School District.

For the last year, DeFlaminis — executive director of Penn GSE’s Penn Center for Educational Leadership (PCEL) — has been at work in this city of 44,000 people two hours west of Philadelphia. “For the first time, teachers are being treated as lifelong learners,” one York principal said.

Distributed leadership has worked in other tough situations. In the decade since Philadelphia’s Northeast High School adopted its principles, only one teacher has requested a transfer, a turnover rate almost unheard of in the district.

“It literally saved our school,” said Northeast Principal Linda Carroll. “It’s still saving us.”

You can read the full story on DeFlaminis’ work in York here.

DeFlaminis is the lead author of Distributed Leadership in Schools: A Practical Guide for Learning and Improvement, published this spring by Routledge. The book is filled with case studies explaining how educators can incorporate distributed leadership in their schools.