Reducing Future Shock Through Innovative Leadership

Richard Bernato Ed.D.‬

Leadership Redefined Podcast with Comsewogue School District

If ever there were times that try men’s souls it is now. Whether these concerns were either symptoms of root causes too complex to unscramble here, or the causes of probable futures we’ve yet to identify, let alone prepare for, makes for a deep and provocative conversation!

It can be argued that Alvin Toffler forecasted these in his book, Future Shock, written decades before now. His premise was that the world’s acceleration of trends was unfolding so rapidly that people would not have the ability, the capacity, to cope with the pace of change. As a result, he posited, individuals would suffer from emotional and psychological difficulties to survive.

The current pandemic certainly applies here. We are participants in a rapidity of change within an emerging future that seems to control us rather than its opposite. We in education leadership positions can certainly speak to the challenges we have had in grappling with its effects on our schooling systems from academic, technological infrastructure, and human relationships perspectives.

School districts’ responses to the demands of safety, instruction, and support vary in proportion to the extent to which leadership, its community, and staff stakeholders have “futured” for the capacity of its systems to adapt to this emerging future. More importantly, they will need to recognize how to leverage the changes they have had to implement that will have value beyond the immediacy of this pandemic’s ravages. They need the capacity to align the present with their preferred future and the other way around.

Today’s podcast explored one district’s actions and dispositions about these challenges. Superintendent Jennifer Quinn, Assistant Superintendents Jennifer Polychronakis and Joe Coniglione met with us to help us understand the capacities, and the actions they have embedded into the community culture of the Comsewoque School District in central Suffolk County New York.

Many aspects of our conversation have great worth. Their descriptions of how their technological infrastructure was well equipped to serve every student’s and teacher’s needs was certainly noteworthy. Clearly their strategic foresight is to embed technology into problem based instructional strategies that have and will extend well past the current crisis.

What was most noteworthy perhaps transcended the “business” of teaching however. That was about relationships. Anthony Bryk’s landmark book about school reform in Chicago schools documents how efforts to improve schools in that urban environment were only successful where there were emphases on establishing consistent trusting exchange of people’s collective basic assumptions, beliefs, and values.

The same is no less true for the Comsewogue School District! Virtually throughout the podcast all and each of the participants spoke with great energy about their concerns for their staff’s self — imposed pressure to do all possible to see to their students and their families’ needs. This extended past the technology, past academics, to assuring that families had food and basic needs met.

Yes, Dr. P, it also accounted for Maslow!

Watching this podcast will assure all educators of our real roles in shaping a culture that cares, no matter what the times may demand.

Bryk, Anthony, et al. 2010. Organizing Schools for Improvement. University of Chicago Press. Chicago

Toffler, Alvin. 1970. Future Shock. Bantam Books. N.Y.



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Leadership Redefined

Leadership Redefined

On Leadership Redefined we break down issues and inspire action to help recreate our educational system.