All Posts By

Sharon E. Kiger


Executive Coaching for Charter School Leaders Improves Leadership and Schools

Charter school leaders face daunting challenges compared to their private and public school counterparts. That said, public and private school leaders also have very complex and demanding jobs. Executive coaching can provide leaders with the support they need to meet the challenges and strengthen their leadership. Here we focus on executive coaching for charter school leaders.

Charter school principals do not have central office services like public schools or the financial resources enjoyed by most private schools, yet they have similar responsibilities. They are responsible for all aspects of running a school, nurturing trust between adults and students, managing limited financial resources, and balancing the inescapable demands of multiple constituencies school communities. They must recruit students and teachers, supervise and support teachers, secure and manage facilities, raise money, manage school finances and work with boards, to mention a few.

Inadequate facilities, recruiting excellent teachers, high teacher turnover, low faculty morale, constant fundraising, low student achievement, discipline problems, and balancing the budget are a few of the issues that keep charter school leaders awake at night. Furthermore, while taking care of the urgent, time for the important is rarely found. Strategic planning, quality review, schoolwide improvement planning and new initiatives are lost in the dust.

Despite the plethora of challenges, charter leaders are deeply devoted to the missions of their schools. They find satisfaction in the passion they feel for the mission of the school, the opportunity to make lasting change in students’ lives and the autonomy they have as leaders. Many passionate, talented people are stepping up to the challenge of charter school leadership.

While passion and devotion to a school’s mission are necessary, they are not enough to be a successful charter school leader. Experience and leadership training are critical.

Executive coaching is perhaps the most effective way for charter school leaders to learn and get support on the job. Research shows that leaders perform better when they are coached rather than “supervised”. Clearly, someone who has made it into a school leadership role has demonstrated considerable skill already. Yet the overwhelming demands faced by charter school leaders can quickly lead to burnout or pushout.

Coaches can help leaders avoid burnout and pushout, continue to be successful, and become more effective. Through careful listening and effective questioning, executive coaches provide support and guidance as leaders negotiate the complexities of headship and improve their leadership skills. Coaches also provide resources and advice as appropriate. However, more often than not, school leaders arrive at their own answers with assistance from the coach. That’s the beauty of coaching and being coached.


Last Step in the College Admissions Process – How to Make Your College Decision

Megan got a good start on college planning her junior year. As a senior, Megan has heard back from all of the colleges to which she applied. She was accepted at five, rejected at three, and wait-listed at two. Two of her colleges are in-state universities that she applied to “just in case” she did not get into other schools. The other three she has visited and liked them all, but now she has no idea how she will make her final college decision.

The countdown to graduation has begun and many high school seniors would like to delay the college decision process for as long as they can. Realistically, however, they know that they must choose a school and send in a deposit by May 1st.

For some students this may be easy because one school stands out among the rest. For others, there may be two or three schools that could be good options. How do you make that final college decision?

1. Make sure you have all the facts. During their college planning, some students may have heard generalizations about schools but are a little vague on the specific facts. This is the time to get those answers. If students have questions they do not feel were sufficiently answered, call the school and speak with the person who can clarify the situation. Do not hesitate to contact the director of financial aid, a college coach, or an academic advisor. Making your final college decision depends on research and specific information.

2. Consider revisiting the schools. Pick up a newspaper, look at the bulletin boards around campus, and talk with as many different people as you can. Do not hesitate to ask students or professors what they really like about a school and if there is anything they don’t like. Do not make a final college decision based on one person’s opinion, but talking and listening to many people will help you decide whether this is the school for you.

3. Reconsider your priorities. When you were going through the college planning process, what made this school stand out when you initially added it to your list? Do you want a challenging academic experience or one that is balanced between academics and extracurricular activities? If you are interested in music or theater, can you participate if you do not major in one of these areas? Does the school appeal to you because of its name, or do you feel it is really a good fit? Answering these questions honestly will help you make a good college decision.

4. Have a talk with your parents. Throughout your college planning, you and your parents have probably had some discussions about the schools that interested you. They may have some ideas of their own or feel that one college or university is a better choice than another. Listen to what they say, but be prepared to answer questions or concerns they may have about a particular school. They want you to be happy and they know that making your final college decision requires time and thought.

5. Make your final college decision and don’t second guess yourself. Of course you will probably feel some anxiety, but this is normal and expected as you take the final step in the college planning process. If you make the college decision with your head and with your heart, there is no reason to believe that you haven’t chosen the best school for you.


When Professional Development & Middle-Adulthood Collide – Relaunching Your Career

Most people launch their careers in their twenties and thirties with the focus of career development mainly on early adulthood. And what is the ambition at this age? For many, it’s getting to “the top” as soon as possible. Some people achieve this goal in their early forties with twenty to thirty career years still ahead of them. Others perhaps do not use goals in their careers; their careers just evolve!

Nonetheless, middle-adulthood, those years from forty to sixty, are often overlooked in career plans. Some of the thinking goes like this: If I make it to the top by forty I won’t have to worry about anything else. But what do you do when you make it to “the top” and still have all those years ahead of you? To this writer, it is a prescription for mid-life crisis!

Consider this: In our Twenties we go through the trial and exploratory stage of career development where we search for direction. In our Thirties we are in the transitional stage, synonymous with movement and advancement. The Forties and beyond are considered the stability stage; ongoing with a sound foundation. The irony is that as we move into our forties (middle adulthood) most of us have not done it all. Some of us are forced to restart our careers due to downsizing, soft industries, red flags in our company, being passed-over etc. In some cases we need to get away from a not-so-perfect situation or jump-start a stalled career. In others, we are searching for personal self-development or for a second career or to strike out on our own.

For these reasons and any number of others, most professionals will experience changes, or even upheaval, in mid-life. The answer in not “buy a Harley”. According to the Department of Labor and the Job Search Handbook, most professionals will undergo seven to eleven job changes and two to three career changes over the course of their careers. Not only is the market demand for selected skills and career fields changing, but so are our roles as professionals and the way we manage our careers. Thus, career planning is more important than ever.

If you are in middle-adulthood and wondering what to do for the remainder of your career (and assuming that early retirement is not in the picture), don’t panic. I have a simple three-step process that I have found in my many years in career marketing to make all the difference in the world.

First, you need to get to know yourself and what it is that you enjoy most; what it is that when doing it does not feel like work. Dr. Charles Ehl, former Dean of Continuing Education at Stonehill College in Easton, MA: “Regardless of past industry or direction, people can be empowered to control their professional destiny through an approach that fuses self-needs analysis, good targeted research and tactical planning in the use of certain techniques beginning with getting to know themselves.” By that Dr. Ehl means understanding for themselves-about themselves: What it is that they really value; what they feel they stand for; what it is that drives them to do what they do; what it is they enjoy doing most-are most passionate about; and finally, although it does not necessarily end with this, where they are looking to take themselves, why, and with what end in mind. Through this exercise, the notion of your optimal market will emerge. For example: If you find that your interest in creative writing is so great, you find you are happiest when you are engaged in it, perhaps a move into editing or speech writing, or a move into the publishing industry at large; or developing newsletters for an association, entering the advertising arena or other creative industries may be best.

Second, you need to figure out how to attract your audience – contacts that can help you move towards your goals. Do what politicians do: Get outside impartial viewpoints to provide you with some idea of how others (your audience) may perceive you, and learn about them-do your research. Developing a networking communication strategy and your “talking points” with this knowledge and the fresh ideas about you that others can provide; and with a focus on the needs of your target audience, you will separate yourself from the average person and ultimately paint your own landscape.

Finally, once you have your audience’s attention, you will need to talk about yourself. Don Ventura, R.L. Stevens & Associates, a private career marketing firm, suggests using a Story Technique. Ventura says, “Compelling stories which incorporate specific examples of your experiences, achievements and contributions that relate to your market and put you in the right light will be remembered well after the interview is over.” People remember your stories more than duties and responsibilities. Here are three concepts that will help you when developing a communication strategy and talking about yourself:

Success Concepts

You must have a purpose; a personal philosophy. In today’s uniquely competitive job market the lifespan in an executive position may only be 5 years in some cases (clearly, not as Evergreen as it once was). Jim Sabin, a CIO with The Shaw Group, Inc. the leading Global provider of services to the power industry: “With executive positions in IT, for example, as interchangeable as mouse pads, the need for a sharply honed purpose for ‘Plan A’ and stratagem for ‘B and C’ for that matter, has never been more apparent.” Purpose could be what it is you feel is important in running a business or what you feel is the business of business; it must be carefully thought out and presented. Think in terms of a one-page presentation to the company directors. You will need to come up with as many success concepts as you can from your past professional experiences and when you begin to assemble your thoughts for your presentation, try to include as many of them as possible. Here are some relevant themes to consider:

1. Personal mission statement

2. Core values; core strengths

3. Driving factors; motivations

4. Level of integrity

5. Value placed on quality

6. Visioning, strategy and facilitating

7. Performance standards you hold for yourself

8. Professional goals

9. Leadership philosophy; management style

10. Communications capabilities

11. Practiced client/public relations

12. Leveraging skill-sets

13. Creative expertise

14. Business knowledge; market intelligence

15. Managing resources

Trigger Concepts

The easiest way to attract people’s attention and to help them get to know you is to adopt simple words and phrases which will have an immediate “trigger” effect, such as:

1. Strategic partnering

2. Impact presentations

3. Bringing ideas / vision to utility

4. Bringing products to markets

5. Entrepreneurial talent

6. Driving revenues; growing profits

7. Structuring and restructuring

8. Building responsible teams

9. Managing talent

10. Start up; turnaround; re-emergence

11. Enterprise development

12. Crafting solutions

13. Staying ahead of the curve

14. Managing change-driven environments

15. Driving “large dollar” projects

Philosophy, along with Success and Trigger Concepts is a winning combination. It provides you with control and sets the tone for all future discussions and posturing for negotiations.

Story Technique

One of the most important tenets in product marketing applies here in career planning: Differentiate your product from others in the marketplace.

John Folcarelli, Labor Attorney and Human Resource Manager for Laidlaw Education: “Most people involved in planning their career tend to fly by the seat of their pants rather than exercise control over the process as it unfolds. For instance, in the interview, instead of simply reacting to questions imposed by the interviewer, the job candidate can and should attempt to take on more responsibility for influencing the direction of the interview.” The Story Technique does just that. It is a method for bridging your qualifications and past successes to the needs the targeted company. It is also a great example of how to use your Success and Trigger Concepts in presenting the right image and distinguishing you from the competition.

Your stories should tell about actions that you took to bring about positive changes. Story techniques cover the “before”, the “action” and the “after.” You can begin by first explaining what had existed that required your attention: Situation. Next consider how this new challenge may benefit the enterprise and you: Opportunity. Briefly describe what you did: Action. Lastly, describe the outcome and its benefits to you and the company: Results. Here are two examples of the use of the story technique, or, “S.O.A.R”:

(S) I was selected by top management to lead a corporation into the US market and (O) recognized an opportunity to have a big impact on operations at a wholly owned subsidiary.(A) Over a two-year period I developed a cohesive staff which went on to develop 1.5 million square feet of office properties at $350 million which (R) produced over $25 million of net operating income and $4 million net cash flow for the corporation resulting a promotion to President of the wholly owned subsidiary.

(S) The ownership of a physical therapy and sports medicine company recruited me to (O) lead, grow and concurrently stabilize a $4.7 million health systems company staffed by 85 professionals. (A) I developed and executed all business plans and opened new markets in industrial and corporate health promotions, (R) positioning the company for its very profitable $6.6 million sale, $2.5 million more than the ownership had anticipated.

A strong, well-articulated Philosophy, sound Success and Trigger Concepts, and persuasive examples of your successes using the Story Techniques (SOAR) are essential for securing a quality position.

More Than Just a Task

There is certainly more to consider beyond these concepts. Nonetheless, the purpose here is to stimulate your thinking if your situation calls for a serious look at your career. There are times when a simple career adjustment may be called for and other times when a complete change is necessary. In any case, restarting your career in middle-adulthood can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. Approach it with enthusiasm, dedication and confidence (but for goodness sake, don’t forget “technique”).


Discrimination in Schools – Math and Science Teachers Underpaid

The Seattle Post in Washington reports that science and math teachers are paid less than teachers of other subjects. Nineteen out of thirty Washington school districts pay math and science teachers less than high school instructors of other subjects. When we are taught throughout elementary and high school that math is a subject we must take seriously as it is used in every job that you get in life, why are its teachers paid less? Especially with the subject of science, this subject its extensive as it involves labs, dissecting and a lot of hands on lessons, it seems odd that science teachers also get paid less than other teachers. Schools that discriminate against its teachers are wrong. Since teachers are unionized why isn’t the union protecting the math and science teachers as equal teachers like the history and English instructors?

They say that because Math and Science teachers leave schools before they receive promotions since they are recruited out of their jobs to higher tech companies that pay higher than teaching jobs. How are schools going to be able to hire and keep effective math and science teachers if they are easily swayed to other companies because of the low pay they are receiving from the schools? Its important for schools to keep and maintain good relationships with its math and science teachers as these subjects are important for students to do well in college. The better-prepared students get with their math and science classes in high school, the easier the transition will be when going from high school to college. Since math is such a fundamental subject why aren’t schools paying the math teachers more to keep them at the schools and help the students do better in the math subjects. If math teachers are constantly being recruited out of schools to higher paying tech jobs, then schools are also constantly hiring new math and science teachers to fill their places.

This results in inexperienced math and science teachers coming into the schools and teaching students a subject that is so fundamental for a student’s success in their educational career. Students deserve to have well educated and well-experienced teachers teaching them these subjects as they are subjects that you either get or don’t get. Teachers need to have experience in teaching a diverse group of students with different learning abilities and learning speeds. Some students learn different than others and students need that individualized attention that only comes from teachers that have had years of experience in actual classrooms working with a group of students with different learning abilities. Its so important for students to learn from effective and experienced teachers. If such important subjects in schools are being taught year by year by new teachers since the pay is son low that they are getting recruited faster than the school can promote them or give them raises, it seems that the schools should start the pay higher. In turn this will get students getter grades, better test score and in turn, better school ratings.


Freshman Advice Tips to Help College Bound Freshman Settle Into College Life

Most of us feel excited the first week or two of college life, a new experience and freedom unlike any we have ever known; it’s a rite of passage. However, with that rite of passage comes self-doubt, a little apprehension… big changes! Just remember, given time you will settle into your new routine as a college freshman and those feelings of doubt and apprehension will soon subside! For now, just focus on making good decisions that create a routine for success in college.


There are times in life when most of us feel like we want to disappear… like we don’t belong somewhere or don’t deserve to be there. This happens often for college freshman. Just remember, you do belong! You worked hard to get into the right college or university. You put a lot of effort into making your freshman dorm room into your new home, even down to picking out the color scheme. You probably even bought a new college wardrobe. So now is the time to get a return on your investment and the best way to do that is by getting involved:

Show up and participate fully in classes. Push past your fear when you are sitting in class. Push down the thought that your question is dumb and just ask it. Undoubtedly, there are several other students asking that very same question and having those same thoughts. You will gain your professors’ respect, boost your self-confidence and emerge as leader among your fellow college students.

Join or start a study group, extending your participation beyond the classroom. Join campus clubs and organizations that interest you, especially those that can make a positive impact on your future career goals. College sanctioned clubs and organizations are also a great way to meet new friends with common interests. If you haven’t selected a major, getting involved by exploring clubs and organizations on your college campus may help you gain a little insight, assist you in selecting a college major over the next year.


It is important to remember why we attend college in the first place… to learn and prepare ourselves for a successful future! Because there are a limited amount of hours in a college freshman’s day and juggling is difficult for most of us to master, it is important as a college freshman to set a realistic schedule for yourself that includes:

  • Class time
  • Study time
  • Activities; and
  • Personal time for doing laundry and cleaning your dorm room…

It’s all up to you now. Be forewarned, it is inevitable that you will meet an older college student who seems to party all night, blow off classes and still make good grades who will encourage you to follow in their footsteps. it’s important to remember that most of us have to put in the time and the effort to make good grades. Many college freshman who do not put in the time and effort will probably be on academic probation the next school year or worse, drop out. So schedule your priorities and time wisely then stick to it!


Mom or dad won’t be at campus to keep you on track so it is up to you now to make smart choices to stay healthy:

  • Keep your dorm room clean and organized, free of germs. Freshman dorms and residence halls are a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
  • Don’t burn the candle at both end. Sleep is a must have essential to stay healthy and make good grades in college.
  • Eat right and work out. Good eating habits and exercise are good for the mind, spirit, body and your grades!


It is essential as a college freshman to make it a habit of staying connected.

  • Call, text, or Skype mom and dad at least once a week.
  • Keep in touch with your friends back home.
  • Reach out to new friends on campus.

And remember, when you are having a stressful time or difficulty in class, to reach out to your professors and advisors before you are in too deep. They see it all and are probably one the best resources you can have in college.

These are just a few tips to help you settle into college life! Have a happy, healthy, and successful freshman year!


Career Tests for Teens – How the Newest Assessments Reveal Your Child’s Perfect Career Path

Most of us remember a day in our teens when our high school guidance counselor called us in for career counseling. She scrutinized and evaluated us, gave us tests with cryptic questions, and in the end proclaimed with some certainty that our career destiny was to become a fireman-or a stonemason, or a math teacher, or something equally mysterious. As baffling as this process was, if you’re the parent to teenagers, you probably find yourself wishing you could give them such definite career advice.

With so many career options in the modern workplace, it can be difficult for parents and teens to narrow down the choices. The good news is, those career tests your guidance counselor gave you have come a long way. Today’s career assessments provide an accurate, sophisticated, and time-effective way to help your child discover their career aptitude. Tests of your child’s personality, preferences, talents, and interests provide you and your teen with essential information as you make choices for college and beyond.

Do you know whether your child is a structured traditionalist, or a sensitive artist? Do they do their best work in solitude or on teams? One of the most widely used career assessments for teens, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), assesses your child’s personality type on four scales: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving. Based on these measures, the test results provide information on careers, industries, and work environments that are good choices for your child’s personality type. Knowing your child’s personality type is crucial to choosing a career path that will motivate, challenge, and satisfy them.

Extensive research has been done using the MBTI to correlate personality type with career success, so that once your child knows their type, they can benefit from the career experience of thousands of similar types. The test results will help them to understand the key factors for their job satisfaction, crucial stressors to avoid when choosing a career, and some common pitfalls they may encounter as they start on their career path. Although your child’s interests may change over time, their personality type will remain constant, and preparing your child with an awareness of their personality type will benefit them for the rest of their life.

To discover the best career for your child, it is also important to understand how their interests, hobbies, and favorite activities can inform their career choice. The Strong Interest Inventory®, a well-researched and widely used career test, assesses your teen’s interest level in six major career categories: Conventional, Investigative, Realistic, Artistic, Enterprising, and Social. Then, it matches your teen’s test scores with the interest profiles of successful professionals to rate the careers that are the best match for them. The Strong Interest Inventory results can help your child to understand the day-to-day tasks that certain jobs require, and how their interests match up with possible careers.

Both the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can be taken with the assistance of a qualified career counselor. You may choose to visit a counselor in your area, or you can have your teen take these tests online. If you feel your teen may need ongoing coaching, it may be best to visit a counselor in person. However, many families find that it is most convenient to access these career tests for kids online.

However you decide to take the tests, you can ensure you get the most out of the assessment by reviewing and verifying the results with a qualified counselor or coach. Both the MBTI and the Strong are designed to be interpreted and explained by a professional with training in the use of the assessments. Your counselor or coach will help you to make sense of the results and apply them to your teen’s individual situation, and will assist you in planning the next steps for your child’s career exploration.

The sheer variety of career options today is astounding. Your teen has a dazzling, and sometimes overwhelming, array of choices. With so many options, teens and parents will benefit from using the excellent personality and career tests that have been developed to help students choose a rewarding career. Not only can these assessments provide much-needed direction, but they can help steer your child towards a career that will challenge and satisfy them for many years to come.