When you think about the cornerstones of our society and the institutions that carry the most weight, various influences come to mind right away. You might think of decisionmakers in Washington and Frankfort, or companies like Twitter and Facebook that have become leading sources for news and information. Given the events of the last 18 months, your thoughts may go to the health care and criminal justice systems. And of course, you think of education and our schools.

Dr. Ron Chi

Dr. Ron Chi

Schools are an integral part of our communities; they are foundations to our workforce and economy. But, like all aspects of society, education is evolving — and not just a little. Education is undergoing a major paradigm shift, accelerated by things like the pandemic and important discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion. And with much of the country, including Kentucky, struggling with workforce participation and workforce readiness, more conversations are taking place about the important link between education and the business community.

Schools can close these gaps by modeling leadership to students and empowering them to take on these roles within their own communities. Today’s students really do have the potential to change the world, and through more effective and collaborative school leadership, we can help ensure their long-term success.

In light of all this, the role of school principals has never been more important. The Kentucky Chamber Foundation continues to lead the way in ensuring our principals are serving their students, teachers, schools and communities as effectively as possible. To carry out this part of its mission, the Kentucky Chamber Foundation established the Leadership Institute for School Principals back in 2011, and since then, has trained more than 400 school principals from 95 counties. As the Leadership Institute begins its tenth year, the lessons I learned from participating in the program are as relevant as ever as education and our commonwealth continue to evolve.

As school principals and administrators, we devote so much time to developing other leaders that we don’t always have the time to reflect on our own leadership. The leadership institute training created time and space for participants to recognize our gifts and talents, while making us more aware of our growth areas and opportunities to improve.

The leadership institute also gave me an opportunity to engage with, and learn from, my peers — another thing we don’t always get to do as school principals, but one that benefits us tremendously from a professional development perspective.

In education, leadership does not stop with one person. The most effective leaders are those who are able to engage and mobilize others to take on leadership roles, both in and outside the classroom. By becoming stronger, more impactful leaders ourselves, we can be more effective in developing those types of leaders among our faculty, staff and students. And ultimately, we can do a better job of serving our students by preparing them for their lives beyond the classroom. 

Education and industry go hand-in-hand, and by working together, we can show the next generation what schools can and should be. The Kentucky Chamber Foundation and many businesses across the Commonwealth recognize this important link and understand that by investing in today’s school principals and leaders in education, we’re investing in the workforce and business community of tomorrow.

This year, as we celebrate a decade of the Leadership Institute of School Principals, please join in committing to being the best leader you can be and to never stop learning and growing. The future of Kentucky is counting on it.

Dr. Ron Chi is a 2013 graduate of the Kentucky Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Institute for School Principals and serves on the Leadership Institute’s Board of Managers. He can be emailed through Kathryn Parrish at kathryn@runswitchpr.com

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