A Catalyst for Change

January 19, 2014 |

General Colin Powell once said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Dr. Susan Szachowicz is a perfect example of a great simplifier who offers solutions that everybody can understand. The retired principal from Brockton High School in Brockton, Massachusetts was the keynote speaker to a group of 300+ educators at the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Symposium on January 16, 2014. If you were fortunate enough to have been in the room, you were surely inspired, motivated, renewed, and reinvigorated.

Her message was simple: Leadership Matters. Every principal in the United States should be required to hear Dr. Szachowicz’s story about her beloved Brockton High School and the performance transformation that took place under her tutelage.

Brockton High School, according to many schools with the same demographics and obstacles, should not be performing at the highest levels. A decade ago, Brockton was a failing school with a failing attitude. Fast-forward to 2014 and you will find the same high school recognized as a top performing school in Massachusetts and the country.

How did this occur? Who is responsible for this excellence? Like any great leader, Dr. Szachowicz will pass the credit on to her team, but I would have to politely disagree. The campus leader will make or break the success of their school. In Brockton High School’s case, Dr. Szachowicz led this school to greatness. She “gets” it.

Undoubtedly, the best skill Dr. Szachowicz exhibits is her sense of humor. When describing the amazing turnaround at Brockton, she included hilarious and inspiring stories of what she and her team experienced during the decade of change, saying over and over, “you just can’t make this stuff up!”

The Brockton case study is proof that public schools can reform from the inside if they have the leadership, the will, and the support to do so. I feel honored to have listened to Dr. Szachowicz and I challenge all Texas principals to lead with the kind of courage and tenacity Dr. Szachowicz demonstrated every day during her tenure at Brockton High.

Linda Villarreal
Former Raise Your Hand Texas Community Ambassador
Corpus Christi & Coastal Bend

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