Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


Lessons for a New Reality 

Guidance for Superintendent/Teacher Organization Collaboration  

by Robert Barkley Jr., Educational Research Service, Alexandria, Va., 2011, 134 pp., $18 softcover


Given the economic and political atmosphere school leaders must now exist in, the ability to communicate and collaborate with faculty associations over a variety of issues has become a strength that school boards now seek when searching for superintendents. With that in mind, Robert Barkley Jr.’s Lessons for a New Reality provides a different prospective to this challenge.

Written from the perspective of organized labor, the author, a former official with the National Education Association and the Ohio Education Association, offers insights into the union mindset when it comes to collaboration with management.

The book’s introduction rehashes many of the familiar issues addressed by many school leaders. What the author offers here is nothing new or particularly insightful, and in some cases, his thinking is outdated. While Barkley cites the lack of teacher mentoring programs, most school district leaders are aware of their necessity and many systems now have some form of mentoring, often in partnership with their teacher unions.

Barkley constructs his book in two main sections. In the first, titled “The Lessons,” the author draws from his own experiences, primarily as a teacher and union negotiator, to cite situations where superintendents failed to communicate or collaborate with the district staff.

The second section, “Supportive Essays,” is a series of short diatribes by the author with references to others in the area of leadership and change. This is perhaps the weakest part of Barkley’s book. It is presented in a structure of short lectures that function as a primer for school administrators, and nothing in this section should be a revelation to any superintendent.

This book may have greater relevance to superintendents in states with a strong union, especially in terms of maintaining open lines of communication with faculty. 

Reviewed by Marc Space, superintendent, Rough Rock, Ariz.


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