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A School District’s Journey to Excellence

A School District’s Journey to Excellence
Lessons From Business and Education

  • Bill McNeal - North Carolina Association of School Administrators, Wake County Public Schools
  • Tom Oxholm - Wake Stone Corporation

Foreword by Jim Hunt Former Governor, North Carolina

July 2008 | 208 pages | Corwin
Written by an award winning superintendent and a successful educator and business person, this book is about courage, heart, brains and homeùfour assets that are essential to effective education. Educational leaders must have the courage to do the right thing, open their hearts to care for others, use their brains to continuously improve, and promote caring and nurturing homes.A School DistrictÆs Journey to Excellence shows educators how to become adept at employing these four assets along with appropriateápractices to successfully educate public school children. The authors help superintendents, school leaders, school boards, and their constituencies understand the importance of implementing new methods and illustrate how to facilitate: Increased student achievement Progressive instructional leadership Better use of precious resources Strong school-community and school-business relationships Readers will find a realistic perspective on the best practices that work inside schools and how school boards and the greater community can best collaborate with school leaders to serve our children. Filled with sound educational and business practices, rich examples, cases, and data, this book will become a critical how-to manual to foster productive school change.
Foreword by Governor Jim Hunt
About the Authors
1. Leadership in Context
2. Leadership and Courage


Organizing Your Leadership

Communicating With Your Public

Business Partnerships That Make a Difference

3. Leadership and Brains
Goal Setting and Planning

Making Use of Retreats

Training Leaders

Measuring Success

Dollars and Sense

4. Leadership and Heart
Students Matter Most

Teachers Matter Most

Parents Matter Most

Involving the Entire Village

5. Bringing It All Home
Making a Home of the School


A. Selected Readings Organized by Chapter

B. Criteria for a Superintendent's Evaluation

C. Recommendation for National Superintendent of the Year

D. National Recognitions for WCPSS and Wake County


"Good commonsense ideas are embedded throughout. The more we document success, the greater the chance that others will replicate effective strategies."

Jill M. Gildea, Superintendent
Harrison Elementary School District #36, Wonderlake, IL

"A must-read book for every school administrator. It blends business principles with excellent leadership in one of America’s largest school districts to create a model for achieving excellence in school districts everywhere. This is a well-written, practical illustration of how a leader makes things happen."

Larry Price, Superintendent
Wilson County Schools, NC

"McNeal and Oxholm offer a glimpse into the alignment required between district and community interests for public schools to regain the trust of the public and to emphasize academic gains as a unifying force for the future."

Tony Habit, President
NC New Schools Project

"Could easily serve as a handbook for successfully leading any school system, large or small, during this challenging era of high-stakes accountability. The real-world examples gave me numerous ideas and perspectives that I will act on immediately."

Shirley B. Prince, Superintendent
Scotland County Schools, NC

“This book of lessons is an outstanding review of the key elements to earning and holding the public trust. McNeal and Oxholm come from very different backgrounds, but their shared values identify the disciplines that are critical to building a successful public school system in an environment of high attention and scrutiny."

Harvey Schmitt, President and CEO
Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

"Written from actual experience and provides specific responses to specific challenges. If a school system is interested in results rather than rhetoric, then it should follow the teachings in this book as the gospel."

Phillip J. Kirk, Jr., Chairman Emeritus
North Carolina State Board of Education

"A remarkable tool for educators and communities. We are fortunate that a very effective former superintendent and successful business person are willing to share their quest for ensuring that all students are well prepared for their futures.”

June St. Clair Atkinson, State Superintendent
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

"This book will broaden your view of school systems and show you how a bureaucratic organization can be operated in a flexible, sensitive, effective, and efficient manner. Regardless of your role, you will benefit from the insights of a great board of education member and a great superintendent."

Ann Denlinger, President
Wake Education Partnership

“Bill McNeal and Tom Oxholm share their story of success in an urban school environment. It’s all here—courage, hard work, communication, patience, and persistence. The Wake County story commands the attention of all who truly value the public school as the essential bedrock of our democracy.”

William C. Friday, President Emeritus
University of North Carolina

"McNeal’s experiences as a teacher, principal, and superintendent coupled with Oxholm’s perspectives as a businessman and school board member make this case study a must-read work."

Edwin Dunlap, Jr., Executive Director
North Carolina School Boards Association

Sample Materials & Chapters



Chapter 1

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781412941587