Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies (FLAGS)

Staff and faculty of FLAGS focus on relational leadership--a concept that requires support and commitment from all stakeholders. They use their resources efficiently to provide opportunities for shared decision making.

The ten “Beat the Odds” schools were selected after an extensive review of a Parthenon Group study and data from the New York City Department of Education. These schools’ innovative programs and outstanding leadership resulted in a higher than average graduation rate for students who typically either dropped out or did not graduate on time.

Background Study

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The personal is professional at FLAGS High School.

It’s the biggest issue facing leaders trying to lead successful organizations – how much of their energy should be focused on task components and how much should be focused on creating relationships. Leba Collins-Augone, principal of the Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies (FLAGS), believes she and her staff can motivate students by getting to know them extremely well.

Collins-Augone and her staff practice relational leadership by addressing each student by name and by greeting them with a “good morning;” by calling them early in the morning to make sure they are coming to school; and by sitting with them in individual referral sessions to determine if problems outside of the classroom are affecting academic performance. The staff and administrators customize leadership through interpersonal actions. Consequently, students know they are valued.

To be sure, Collins-Augone emphasizes the importance of academics. For example, she reviews each report card and makes comments directly to the teacher on how to improve it. In the minds of the FLAGS staff, however, nothing takes the place of knowing each student personally.

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Communicating about students keeps faculty and administrators on the same page.

Relational leadership succeeds only with support and commitment from all stakeholders – the principal, assistant principal, guidance counselors, teachers, and students. Collins-Augone focuses resources to provide opportunities for her staff to participate in decision making. One human resource—the itinerant assistant principals—has proven to be especially useful in advancing student learning.

There is an informality to the structure of FLAGS that blurs traditional hierarchical lines of authority. For example, a cabinet system provides constant communication between teachers and administration about a variety of issues. The process serves to keep people involved, and helps them feel as though they are legitimate and valued community members.

Teachers keep their eyes open to students’ needs.

Sometimes what appears to be a lack of organizational structure can be the result of an abdication of responsibility; at FLAGS, loosely structured organizational systems represent genuine attempts to encourage creative behavior. FLAGS promotes a kind of fluidity that fosters personal responsibility for one’s actions. Operationally, this means the principal may not always be the most appropriate person to lead a particular change effort. A teacher or student may be the better change agent. The more opportunities teachers and students have to interact about important concerns, the more chances there are for leaders to emerge naturally.

Uniforms create a sense of pride among FLAGS students.

In spirit, relational leadership focuses more on people and less on matters of administrative oversight. People are committed to the expectation that every student will graduate in four years. To make this goal a reality, FLAGS provides a cultural haven of stability and order where students can remove themselves from the distractions of daily life and focus on academics. Moreover, in keeping with the FLAGS culture, students wear uniforms. Although one might think students would chafe at such a requirement, students say that uniforms make them feel professional and distinguished.

FLAGS makes students feel special and unique. More and more FLAGS students are graduating on time, and doing so with their eyes trained on a promising future.