An alarming 55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned (National Education Association). This includes classroom teachers and those in leadership roles. The stress and toll of the pandemic has resulted in a retention crisis, with many seasoned educators opting for early retirement because, “The extra money is just not worth it.”

What are the districts that are keeping their best educators doing right? How are they fostering learning communities that aren’t toxic to its staff? It’s all about capacity building.

By definition, capacity-building is a measurable improvement in an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission through a blend of sound management, strong governance, and dedication to assessing and achieving results. In other words, it’s an assets approach to an educational culture.

When capacity of internal leadership is built, everyone brings something of value to the table. Administration, teachers, students and community all have important roles that collectively drive educational success. It creates a sense of belonging and autonomy… the belief that “We’re in it together” through the good and the bad.

These strong cultures aren’t formed by chance. They are carefully cultivated and include:

  • Onboarding processes and procedures that demand collaboration and agency from the get-go
  • Proper time carved out for staff focused on engagement
  • Open communication between staff and administration
  • Community participation and recognition in the staff and students’ success

A capacity building culture cannot (and should not) be on the shoulders of one individual. As wonderful as it is to have a beloved leader such as a superintendent or principal, the culture is built to thrive beyond any single person. Because the intellectual team is in place based on part identity and part belonging, the culture has solid roots that will sustain beyond one person leaving the organization. The best leaders know that they are the least important person on the campus, and that the measure of their success lies in how the campus operates without them.  

Capacity building is rooted in dignity. In the most difficult times, dignity is what gets educators through the finish line. To know in their hearts that they are not alone, and that their individual contribution is necessary on a much higher level than checking off their daily tasks. Educators got into the profession because of passion… let’s set up cultures that reminds them of that passion and why they should stay.