Transformative Principal
Discover the secrets of school leadership in this weekly interview podcast with top leaders in education.


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I had the great pleasure of speaking with Dr. Fidel Montero, the principal of Alta High School (Twitter) in Sandy, Utah. Fidel is inspiring from the first moment that you speak with him. He is incredibly smart, very caring, and wants students to be the most successful people they can be. Here is his TEDxCSDTeachers talk: Care. This is part two of my interview with him. I hope you enjoy it. We barely scratched the surface of what makes him transformative.

  • How he counsels teachers and puts them in their areas of strength.
  • How he evaluates himself and the initiatives he implements.
  • How he delegates and guides the implementation of his vision.
  • Michael Barber - Deliverology
  • Some missteps the school took as they rolled out some new initiatives.
  • How he responds when people complain about being overworked.
  • How he gets feedback from teachers.
  • What you can do to be a transformative principal. The President’s Club


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Transformative Principal on Stitcher

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I had the great pleasure of speaking with Fidel Montero, the principal of Alta High School (Twitter) in Sandy, Utah. Fidel is inspiring from the first moment that you speak with him. He is incredibly smart, very caring, and wants students to be the most successful people they can be. Here is his TEDxCSDTeachers talk: Care

  • The Doctoral research that Fidel conducted for his degree in urban school management.
  • Parents pick up on who is being supportive, regardless of whether or not they spoke the native language of the parents.
  • The demographic shift that Utah is currently experiencing, and why he wanted to conduct his research in Utah.
  • Specific strategies for engaging and supporting Latino families in your school.
  • Microagression
  • The balance of talking about race when your race is either the same as your demographics or different.
  • How including multicultural families in your school and recognizing their heritage and history actually encourages them to feel more pride in your country.
  • His work with Greta Pruitt in Los Angeles Unified School District to teach parents to work together.
  • His thoughts on School Improvement versus CSIP plans.

Thanks for tuning in! Have a Good Life.



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Show Notes

Andy Greene is a transformative principal at Candlewood Middle School. We talk mostly about professional practice and professional development. Andy is a master at these two things. I learned so much from Andy, and I am so thankful he took the time to speak with me.

Here are some bullet points from our discussion:

  • How he ensures that teachers are continuous learners

  • How he ensures that faculty meetings are like miniature college courses.

  • How he uses backwards design for his faculty meetings.

  • How he ensures that teachers come to faculty meeting and make sure that they all get something out of it.

  • Mission and Vision Document

  • Professional Expectations Document

  • How he helps everyone see they are a member of a team.

  • What it means to bow low.

  • This:

  • How he has hard conversations with teachers and balances that with positive feedback.

  • When he decides to divulge information to teachers about how they are perceived.

  • The importance of having staff that can tell you how things are really playing out among the staff.

  • The intentional things Andy does to make sure his staff feels that they are in a comfortable learning atmosphere.

  • Seek first to understand before being understood.

  • How Andy would approach a staff that he needs to “clean up.”

He sent a bunch of stuff over to me, and sharing is caring, so here it is for you. First, he sent two files that I read from in the interview:

Expectations 2014 (Word Doc) - This document goes over the expectations he has for the staff at his school. Updated as often as needed, and discussed just as often. There are some great gems in this document.

Mission and Values (Word Doc) - This document discusses what the mission and values of Candlewood Middle School are. Again, there is some great information here.

PLCs (Word Doc) - We didn’t get a chance to discuss this document, but it includes a lot of great information about PLCs and some great quotes to get people thinking about them.

The following are emails that Andy sends out to his staff after each mini-university-course faculty meeting. You can tell that he spends time thinking about what to say to his staff, how to motivate them, and encourage a culture of learning. He pretty much never lets up.

An example of a “post-discussion” faculty meeting conversation

    Good discussion on objectives yesterday…[refer to the packet from yesterday for other examples]

A personal example to help clarify!

Faculty Meeting

Big Idea For the Year-Staff will understand that standards are not curriculum: curriculum needs to reflect best practice and user needs while also honoring standards. Essential Question-What is understanding? What follows for curriculum and unit writing? Faculty Meeting Instructional Objective-At the end of the meeting, staff will be able to identify the three types of “learning” for their upcoming unit: acquisition, meaning-making, and transfer.  

Other example

Big Idea: Student should understand that good readers employ specific techniques to help them make meaning of what the text says.

Essential Question-What do good readers do, especially when they don’t comprehend a text?

Lesson Instructional Objective-Student will be able to use identify the two persuasive techniques the author employs in  _____.

Let’s continue the discussion! A reminder…please have a manila folder for each faculty meeting so you can keep the handouts that are given out… Yesterday, there was a packet that we did not have a chance to get to but we will use it in October. To save paper, I do not want to make other copies!



Another example of CC vocabulary for all classes…

Good Morning,

As I start to look at some of the assessments that faculty members are sending in, I want to encourage everyone to use the verbs we have discussed not only as you ask student questions in class, but how you frame your questions on assessments.   Here are some suggestions:

  • Instead of saying “Which inequality is represented in the graph below,” add the word “Evaluate” at the start of the sentence [e.g., “Evaluate which inequality is represented in the graph below, and pick the best response from the choices listed.”

  • Instead of saying “Which is the best title for the series of maps at right,” add the word “Suggest” [e.g.,  “As you look at the graph to the right, what would you suggest would be the best title from the choices below.”

  • In music, tech, art, LOTE, etc, use sentences such as “What conclusion can you draw from the information presented?” “In measures 15–20, cite the key signature and dynamic levels.” “Summarize the information regarding the best tool for this particular job and explain why it is the one you would recommend.” “Distinguish between the choices below; which country is considered to be the birthplace of the Spanish language.”    I encourage everyone to plan your lessons keeping the vocabulary words “upfront and center.”




Per our discussion at the faculty meeting…

Whenever you can integrate the cognitive and the conative skills identified below into your unit plans, please do so. In addition to the vocabulary terms we have discussed, these are skills that every teacher can incorporate [where applicable]. Use your creative juices to determine where-in your content area-these would work best.

Cognitive skills are traditionally defined as those needed to effectively process information and complete tasks.  Cognitive skills are required for tasks involving retrieval, comprehension, analysis, and utilization of knowledge.  The majority of the practice standard skills from the CCSS are best classified as primarily cognitive in nature.

Conative skills are traditionally defined as the skills that allow a person to examine his or her knowledge and emotions in order to choose an appropriate future course of actions.  A useful way to think about conative skills is in terms of interacting with others and controlling oneself.

Within the framework, Marzano and Heflebower (2012) identified specific classroom strategies that teachers can employ to teach cognitive and conative skills in their classrooms.  This category included key words and phrases such as:

  • Construct arguments
  • Develop ideas
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Integrate information
  • Respond to others’ arguments
  • Compare arguments
  • Explain flaws in arguments
  • Decide if arguments make sense
  • Decide if arguments are correct
  • Determine domains to which an argument applies
  • Clarify arguments
  • Improve arguments
  • Draw conclusions
  • Justify conclusions

To help teachers address this category of skills, we identified three specific cognitive strategies from the Marzano and Heflebower (2012) framework:

  1. Generating conclusions
  2. Identifying common logical errors
  3. Presenting and supporting claims

Another category of practice skills that we identified was perspectives.  This category included key words and phrases such as:

  • Points of view
  • Open-minded
  • Divergent cultures, experiences, and perspectives
  • Varied Backgrounds
  • Collaborate
  • Interact with others
  • Reflect
  • Step back
  • Shift perspective
  • Different approaches

To help teachers address these skills, we identified four specific conative strategies from the Marzano and Heflebower (2012) framework:

1. Becoming aware of the power of interpretations 1. Taking various perspectives 1. Interacting responsibly 1. Handling controversy and conflict resolution

In effect, we selected specific classroom strategies for each of the categories of practice standard skills that we identified in the CCSS.

Cognitive Strategies

Teachers can use the following ten strategies in the classroom to embed the cognitive strategies found in the ELA and mathematics practice standards into instruction:

1. General conclusions 2. Identifying common logical errors 3. Presenting and supporting claims 4. Navigating digital sources 5. Problem solving 6. Decision making 7. Experimenting 8. Investigating 9. Identifying basic relationship between ideas 10. Generating and manipulating mental images


Visible Learning…

Expert teachers can identify the most important ways in which to represent the subject that they teach.

In Visible Learning, it was shown that teachers’ subject-matter knowledge had little effect on the quality of student outcomes!  The distinction, however, is less the ‘amount’ of knowledge and less the ‘pedagogical content knowledge’, but more about how teachers see the surface and the deeper understandings of the subjects that they teach, as well as their beliefs about how to teach and understand when students are learning and have learned the subject.  Expert teachers and experienced teachers do not differ in the amount of knowledge that they have about curriculum matters or knowledge about teaching strategies but expert teachers do differ in how they organize and use this content knowledge.  Experts possess knowledge that is more integrated, in that they combine the introduction of new subject knowledge with students’ prior knowledge; they can relate current lesson content to other subjects in the curriculum; and they make lessons uniquely their own by changing, combining, and adding to the lessons according to their student’s needs and their own teaching goals.

As a consequence of the way in which they view and organize their approach, expert teachers can quickly recognize sequences of events occurring in the classroom that in some way affect the learning and teaching of a topic.  They can detect and concentrate more on information that has most relevance, they can make better predictions based on their representations about the classroom, and they can identify a greater store of strategies that students might use when solving a particular problem.  They are therefore able to predict and determine the types of error that students might make, and thus they can be much more responsive to students.  This allows expert teachers to build understandings as to the how and why of student success. They are more able to reorganize their problem-solving in light of ongoing classroom activities, they can readily formulate a more extensive range of likely solutions, and they are more able to check and test out their hypotheses or strategies.  They seek negative evidence about their impact (who has not learnt, who is not making progress) in the hurly-burly of the classroom, and use it to make adaptations and to problem-solve.

These teachers maintain a passionate belief that students can learn the content and understandings included in the learning intentions of the lesson(s).  This claim about the ability to have a deep understanding of the various relationships also helps to explain why some teachers are often anchored in the details of the classroom, and find it hard to think outside the specifics of their classrooms and students.  Generalization is not always their strength.

The results are clear:  expert teachers do differ from experienced teachers – particularly in the degree of challenge that they present to students, and, most critically, in the depth to which students learn to process information.  Students who are taught by expert teachers exhibit an understanding of the concepts targeted in the instruction that is more integrated, more coherent, and at a higher level of abstraction than the understanding achieved by students in classes taught by experienced but not expert, teachers.





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In this second part interview, Sharyle and I discuss the following:


  • Community helping out those who need it.
  • What the best parts are of having a new intern every year.
  • She answers the question of how to be a transformative principal. Look at the big picture.
  • She answers the question of what is in her office that inspires her. Then we talk about all the great ways she has involved her community in her travels, and how she gets them to see the big picture of helping others.
  • Because she is so involved in her community, she knows what skills and
  • Partnership with Apa Sherpa Foundation and Healthy Draper. Article about Apa Sherpa’s retirement
  • Going to Peru and involving the whole school.
  • Going to Africa and involving the community and school.
  • How she convinces parents and her community to get on board with her ideas.
  • How she connected Meet the Masters art program with music and dance.



Establishing Roots in the Community with Sharyle Karren - Transformative Principal Episode 013

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Sharyle Karren has been a principal for the last 22 years! She has a lot of experience and this interview is a really great opportunity to learn from a great principal about how much she has helped students over the years.

In this interview, we talk about the following:

  • Her history as a principal and some of the trials she went through.
  • The common theme through her experiences is that she had a positive attitude and knew that the people she worked with were amazing individuals.
  • How she opened a new school, her current school.
  • Establishing positive community relationships.
  • How she went to each local organization and “dug her roots into the community”.
  • How she established walking field trips to further establish a positive community relationship.
  • How she manages intern principals. She has a great balance of allowing interns to make decisions, but making sure that they know that they need to talk to her. She gives them an opportunity to learn, but allows them the authority to make decisions
  • What things she keeps for herself and refuses to delegate to her AP or interns.
  • Challenges associated with training interns and Assistants.
  • How she establishes relationships with schools that are close by.