Bringing Business Leadership to the Classroom

"Talk to me about what building human capital means…"

Kaya Henderson is the Deputy Chancellor of DC Public Schools, and she's in Houston to present a lesson more often seen at business conferences: how to make the most of the people in your organization.

"In order to build great teams, there's the selection piece, there's having a vision…"

Henderson is just one presenter at the summer institute run by the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, or REEP. Her students are teachers and school administrators from across Houston, who aspire to be school leaders. Henderson says education CEOs need to know how to manage human capital.

"For a long time we thought, well, if we had an aligned curriculum, or if our facilities were better, or if we had tests at every grade level, that that would be the silver bullet. And I think we're just starting in our field to encroach upon this idea that people are more important than anything else."

And that's the idea behind REEP — that successful school leaders need training in leadership, management, and even accounting, just like great business leaders — and they need to know how that applies to education. Executive Director Andrea Hodge says the goal is to turn REEP students into entrepreneurs.

"When people typically think of entrepreneurship, it's that I'm starting a new company. We think it's more than that. It's about taking ideas and driving them to fruition."

REEP is the only school leadership program in the country which is housed within a business school. Students get the costs of their MBA degree reimbursed — with money largely provided by the Houston Endowment — if they stay in school leadership for 5 years in Houston.

"Accountability, what's accountability? And culture?"

Steve Khadam Hir has been a science teacher for 4 years, in HISD and a charter school. He says there are some unexpected benefits of being in an MBA program.

"Building a network of not just other educators, but also leaders Houston-wide across different industries, just to really really make other people aware of this education crisis that every city is facing, the country is facing."

Some people might object that a school is not a business; but Marina Sabatini, who's been a teacher in Aldine for 10 years, says this program offers a perspective educators rarely get.

"In most education programs you get taught theory and theory that focuses on how it's been done in the past. Here you get, 'This is what's been done in the past, now how can we make this better? What are the problems that we see now, how can we change them effectively?'"

Several of last year's students have already been promoted to leadership in HISD and charter schools. Now they'll have to see if they can break with the past to make that real change.

From the KUHF Newslab, I'm Melissa Galvez.
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