“The most valuable thing for me about the sessions for Soul of Leadership is that you somehow manage to slow down time. In our work in schools, things happen fast, fast, fast and people want decisions fast, fast, fast…In our sessions there are so many ways that you model and teach slowing down. I’m working to use those techniques in my work life so that I can slow down and improve my decision making.” Experienced Principal
We envision schools where all principals have the self-awareness, emotional intelligence, skills, and tools to build relational trust and lead learning communities where teachers thrive, collaborate, and challenge each other to do their best work, and where students feel seen, heard, inspired, and free to be joyful, successful learners.
“There is a real risk of burning out. I feel it, and I see it in my colleagues. The risk is even higher among administrators with high levels of compassion and sense of responsibility. These are the administrators that we can least afford to drive out. This work has allowed me to embrace rather than suppress these traits in ways that make me more effective and able to lead in a more sustainable and meaningful way.” —Beginning Elementary Principal
The principal matters. Focusing on students alone is not enough. Research supports the understanding that a school leader’s capacity for building a collegial adult community is the foundation for an innovative, successful school. Change is hard. It demands that educators trust each other, and creating new school models requires that adults establish practices that sustain them in their work. A 2021 report by the Wallace Foundation synthesized two decades of research on principal practice and found strong evidence that effective school leaders impact equity and student achievement by building productive adult school climates of trust and collaboration.
Yet the challenges of the principal’s role are increasing substantially. The 2022 (National Association of Secondary School Principals Survey finds that half of all school leaders report stress levels so high that they are considering a career change or retirement. Four out of ten report they will leave within three years.
We can’t expect principals to build healthy work environments for their colleagues when they teeter on the brink themselves. A 2019 Annenberg working paper, Turnover at the Top, found that principal turnover is associated with significant decreases in student achievement, as well as increases in teacher turnover. The disruptive effect of turnover is due to the principal’s influence on school climate and teacher collaboration, which are associated with teacher effectiveness.
“The most valuable thing for me about the sessions for Soul of Leadership is that you somehow manage to slow down time. In our work in schools, things happen fast, fast, fast, and people want decisions fast, fast, fast… In our sessions there are so many ways that you model and teach slowing down. I’m working to use those techniques in my work life so that I can slow down and improve my decision making.” —Experienced Elementary Principal
Since 2018, the Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA) has offered a unique professional learning experience for school leaders called the Soul of Leadership: Courage, Presence and Integrity. Over 150 PK-12 school leaders from a range of districts across Massachusetts have participated so far.
The Soul of Leadership builds leadership capacity by providing school leaders with an experience of building relational trust in a group. Drawing on the fields of mindfulness, social emotional learning, contemplative practices, neuroscience, and the arts, Soul of Leadership presents concrete strategies and tools that help principals build their own resilience while also building the resilience of their adult school community as a foundation for student learning. During the in-person training, participants receive a 200-page guidebook of protocols that they can bring back to school to facilitate team-building and reflection, and build muscle for challenging conversations that inevitably arise when educators commit to continually innovating for student success.
Soul of Leadership was developed by Pamela Seigle, Chip Wood and Rick Rogers, educators with decades of experience in schools. Pamela and Chip have been facilitators for the Center for Courage and Renewal (CCR) for more than 20 years and previously developed Leading Together: Building Adult Communities in Schools ®, based upon the work of CCR and Dr. Parker J. Palmer.
Pamela was the founder of Open Circle®, a highly regarded social emotional learning program which was based at the Wellesley Center for Women. She also served as Executive Director of Courage & Renewal Northeast, an affiliate of CCR. Chip’s career in education spans 51 years including 33 years as a teacher, principal and curriculum coordinator. He was a co-creator of Responsive Classroom®, a highly respected approach to social emotional learning. He is also a well-known author of four books in the fields of child development and education. Rick brings 29 years of experience as a school principal in suburban and urban schools. He provides coaching to school leaders in several Massachusetts schools and teaches aspiring leaders at Salem State University School of Education.
Our offerings include:
“Participation in the Soul of Leadership program has been a significant source of strength and empowerment for me… I feel healthier, more grounded, more balanced and more joyful. As a result, I am a more effective leader, better able to meet the needs of those (students and teachers alike) who rely on me to make a positive difference in their lives.” —High School Principal
The Center for Creative Leadership (2018-2020) and Dr. Julia Mahfouz from University of Colorado Denver (2020-present) have conducted ongoing external evaluation of the program. Quantitative results were based on pre- and post-surveys using measures designed to capture changes in participants’ mindfulness, levels of burnout, and psychological assets of hope, optimism, efficacy, and resilience. Qualitative results were drawn from in-depth interviews with participants.
Findings demonstrated the impact of Soul of Leadership including:
Read a feature article in Education Week about this work: SEL for Principals: How a Professional Development Program Serves Their High-Stress Needs
Soul of Leadership Bios
Program Developers & Consulting Facilitators
Pamela Seigle considers it a privilege to work with teachers and principals in building equitable school communities where everyone feels valued, seen and heard. She led Courage & Renewal Northeast, started as an affiliate of the National Center for Courage & Renewal and is the founder of Open Circle at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She has served on many nonprofit Boards, including as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library. Pamela is co-developer of Leading Together: Building Adult Communities in Schools and Soul of Leadership. She brings her love of singing and the belief that the arts connect us to our shared humanity, into her work in schools and non.-profit organizations.
Chip Wood is an elder in the fields of education and child development, carrying the soul of a five-year- old as a life-companion, and, for better or worse, never abandoning the corny nickname bequeathed him by his parents. He has served the public as a teacher, principal and curriculum coordinator, is a co-founder of Responsive Classroom, and has been a facilitator prepared by the Center for Courage and Renewal for twenty years.
Program Coordinator & Facilitator
Rick Rogers has been the program coordinator and a facilitator for Soul of Leadership since it began in 2018. He also serves as an adjunct instructor in the Salem State Educational Leadership graduate program and as a leadership coach supporting school leaders. He brings over 40 years of experience in public education as a teacher and a principal in both suburban and urban settings. He was also a facilitator for the National Institute of School Leadership. He is passionate about the principalship with particular interest in promoting inclusive and culturally responsive school communities with a strong professional learning culture.
Marco Curnen has been an educator for more than 25 years. His journey has included numerous roles in public schools: high school Spanish teacher, principal of a K-8 school, and currently, as the assistant principal at a dual-immersion (Spanish/English) JK-8 school. Through his work in schools and facilitating adult learning experiences, Marco strives to be an actively – as in, each and every day – anti-racist educator and instructional leader who aspires to find that elusive balance between working hard and slowing down enough to reflect on the impacts of his – and others’ – work.
Jennifer Francisco has been an educator for 30 years, including 20 years as the principal of the Berkley Community School. Before serving as a principal, she worked as an assistant principal and a grade four teacher. As a school leader, she works diligently to ensure that the students in her care are receiving a top notch educational experience, and that her staff is supported as they work to lead high quality educational learning in their classrooms. She believes that every interaction with students and staff is a teachable moment, and works to preserve the quality of those interactions each and every day. Jennifer has a particular interest in leadership, which has driven her participation in Soul of Leadership since its inception. She joined our team of facilitators in 2021.
Ed Kaufman has been involved in education for forty years, as an elementary teacher, junior high math teacher, college counselor, and college instructor in psychology and education. Before partial retirement, Ed taught and was principal at the same elementary school for 23 years. Since then he has done interim principal work and remote learning administration, and particularly enjoys consulting with principals individually, and in small and large groups.
Nancy MacKay was Co-Director and Senior Program Manager for Open Circle, a universal, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program formerly based at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College. Her role and responsibilities at Open Circle included program and curricula design and development, program leadership, and supervision of the training team. Nancy has been involved in education, training and development for over 30 years as a teacher, trainer and consultant. Along with her Open Circle experience and expertise as an elementary educator, Nancy has designed and implemented courses, workshops and seminars for businesses and nonprofit organizations focusing on the development of leadership skills. Nancy has been a facilitator for Soul of Leadership since 2020.
Brenda Maurao has been a dedicated educator for over twenty years, thirteen of which have been in school and district administration in both urban and suburban settings. Brenda has been a part of Soul of Leadership since its inception and is committed to embedding this approach into the adult community in schools. She recognizes the importance of being genuine and transparent and taking the time to establish relationships. Brenda currently serves as principal at the Mary Lee Burbank Elementary School in Belmont (K-4). Brenda also serves as a program supervisor for student teachers at Framingham State University, MASCD board member, and Wellness for Educators Facilitator.
Pipier Smith-Mumford has been an educator for over 40 years, starting as a high school guidance counselor, moving to administration as a principal of a 9th grade campus, and then a PreK-8 school. Presently, she is working as a Senior Lecturer and Field Director in the Education Leadership and Policy Studies program at Boston University Wheelock College School of Education and Human Development while also mentoring new principals, and consulting with area school administrators and faculty on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. She has been a facilitator for Soul of Leadership since 2019.
Rick Swanson became principal of Hingham High School in 2017 after serving as assistant principal for ten years. A former history teacher and coach, he remains animated by the same values that first led him to an inner-city classroom in Chicago. An educator for more than twenty-five years, he continues to believe in the capacity of our public schools to transform society. He believes his students “not only develop their skills and expand their knowledge in powerful ways. They know what it feels like to belong to a genuine community, drawing inspiration both from their teachers and from each other. They leave our school wanting to improve the world and believing they can.” Rick has been an active participant in Soul of Leadership and joined our team of facilitators in 2021.