Richard Kastl was named Executive Director over schools in the Northeast Secondary Network amidst another summer of Dallas ISD leadership turnover. Over the last year, East Dallas schools lost an Executive Director and three principals to Richardson ISD, with others leaving in the typical principal reshuffling that happens at Dallas ISD.
But Bryan Adams High School, where Kastl was principal for five years, was a model of consistency and success over the years. But when you are successful, you get tagged for the next position. Kastl was promoted to Executive Director where he will coach and guide school leaders, and several of his assistant principals were picked off to lead other schools around the district, including Michael Moran, who will be the fifth principal of Woodrow Wilson High School in five years.
Time will reveal whether Kastl will be able to replicate the soaring scores and stabilization that he brought to Bryan Adams at other high and middle schools in Dallas, but he is confident that he can use what he learned in turning around Bryan Adams (from Improvement Required to earning all but one distinction from the state in five years) to do just that.
Part of his role will be hiring new principals, and Kastl emphasized the importance of staying power for a school leader. He made it part of his role as a leader as well. When he was named principal of Bryan Adams, he committed to four years at the school. “I knew that is what the school needed,” he says.
Principals should avoid chasing the next promotion and paycheck, but instead be ready to give everything to their school. “True leaders aren’t searching for title. They are searching for influence,” Kastl says. “It’s a lifestyle. You are the face of the school, and you are going to take the blame and the credit.”
Kastl has two children of his own, but knows that his students may suffer more than his own kids if he isn’t there for them. “The student group needs it sometimes more than your own family at times,” he says.
Being a great principal is about having a purpose, Kastl says. “When it is about purpose, you can do a job all day every day. It is your life. When you wake up, you are thinking about it. You are dreaming about it.”
For Kastl, keeping principals around is tied to the coaching they receive. He sees his role as helping leaders grow their schools and keeping distractions off their plate. He will be happy to step in and deal with community members who are upset with something over which the principal has no control, such as a state mandate. “I want to support them and shoulder the burden,” he says.
Dallas ISD reorganized leadership so that Executive Directors no longer oversee an entire feeder pattern from elementary to high school, but will instead oversee several high schools and their feeder middle schools. Kastl sees this as an advantage. Now he can be a conduit between the middle schools and high schools and help align the academics and extracurricular activities to best serve the students.
“How do we take what is happening in one school and share it? Every school has something good that others can learn from.”
Kastl allows see the new alignment as a way for principals to have more contact with each other and collaborate during what can often be a lonely position. “The greater that network is, the greater retention rate,” he says.
Kastl’s hope is to create a community of leaders who are effective and developing, but he knows that sticking around is essential. “If someone stays, the school will get better. If you have an effective leader, capitalize on that.”
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