Mikel Royal is a district advisor on the George W. Bush Institute’s School Leadership Initiative working with Austin Independent School District and Granite School District.
Mikel Royal is a district advisor on the George W. Bush Institute’s School Leadership Initiative working with Austin Independent School District and Granite School District. Through her experiences as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, principal supervisor, and central office administrator, Mikel brings vast expertise to the role. During her tenure as a central administrator at DPS, Mikel was charged with developing a preparation pipeline for school principals.
You have dedicated most of your career in education either as a principal or supporting principals. Why have you put your focus here?
I began my career in education as a parent volunteer in my oldest daughter’s kindergarten classroom. I saw for the first time the difference between classrooms with high quality teachers and classrooms with ineffective teachers. Volunteering in classrooms provided me two very distinct understandings about public education in our country. First, when students are placed in classrooms with highly effective teachers, they are more likely to meet and exceed their learning potential. Second, when students are placed in classrooms with ineffective teachers, they are more likely to be unsuccessful in reaching or exceeding their learning potential. It was the latter that drove my passion for equitable learning experiences for all students.
By design, the role of the principal is positioned to create a culture that leads to an effective school and effective teaching within that school, resulting in students reaching their true learning potential. Supporting and leveraging the role of the principal is, in my opinion, the key to long-term improvements in the public school system. A highly effective principal can act as the sense maker of internal forces and external forces, and ultimately lead a school from current state to aspirational state.
What about teachers?
I believe teachers have the most important job in the entire school system! They are on the front lines and the closest to the students. It is critical that they are highly supported, and well prepared to do their job effectively every day. The role of the principal is positioned to continuously support the teacher, and create conditions in which the teacher thrives while serving all students that come into the classroom.
You helped develop the Principal Pipeline at Denver Public Schools (DPS), why is this pipeline so important and why should other districts look to implement something similar?
As the project director for the Wallace Foundation’s DPS Principal Pipeline Initiative as well as the DPS Principal Supervisor Initiative, I have had the opportunity to be a leader not just in the DPS school district, but a leader in the country for this work.
In Denver, we started at the foundation level. We defined our expectations for our school leaders by creating a school leadership framework. Having a common definition of an effective school leader is a powerful tool for aligning all components of a principal talent management system. The school leadership framework details districtwide, shared expectations for school leaders, and it sets a foundation for recruitment, selection, leadership preparation, professional learning for school leaders, and performance reviews.
Over the course of the past six years, it has become common practice to use the DPS School Leadership Framework to guide human capital decisions and discussions. Our evaluation system provides a common definition of how an effective school leader performs, and what the results within a school should be with an effective leader. With this framework in place, the culture in DPS has shifted to a competency based, data driven human capital system.
The framework provides a foundation for our other pipeline work at DPS.
- The DPS School Leadership Framework which ensures candidates for principal and assistant principal positions meet the high standards of school leadership.
- Learn to Lead, an effort to develop assistant principals into the role of principal
- DPS was the first and only district in Colorado to provide an alternative principal licensure program. Denver Lead Today serves to recruit and attract highly skilled diverse leaders seeking licensure to serve in the roles of assistant principal or principal.