________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover Leading With Passion and Purpose: Creating Schools that Help Teachers Teach and Students Learn.

Christopher M. Spence.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2009.
128 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-236-4.

Subject Headings:
Educational leadership.
School environment.
School management and organization.

Professional: School administrators.

Review by Jonathan Pitt.

*** /4


To directors, I offer this advice: the secret to success is finding some way to unite your efforts with those of the board, so that together the central office and board members can come to see themselves as a team. The relationships between the board and the director will make or break you. Pay attention to this relationship. Don't assume that lack of friction is good news. Problems can sneak up on you.

Many people will recognize the cover photo of Leading With Passion and Purpose: Creating Schools that Help Teachers Teach and Students Learn, and that's because the author, Christopher M. Spence, is a former professional football player in the Canadian Football League. Christopher M. Spence earned a doctorate from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto and has been the Director of Education of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board since 2004. He will assume the role of Director of Education for the Toronto District School Board for the 2009/2010 school year. He has published a number of titles including The Skin I Am In: Racism, Sports and Education (1999), On Time! On Task! On a Mission!: A Year in the Life of A Middle School Principal (2002), and The Joys of Teaching Boys: Ignition Writing Experiences That Meet the Needs of All Students (2008).

     Spence's purpose in Leading With Passion and Purpose: Creating Schools that Help Teachers Teach and Students Learn is to present an educational leadership roadmap for the creation of an effective school environment. The mile markers used to direct readers throughout his book include Spence's own lived experiences and observation anecdotes.

     It is a passionate book by a school board administrator who is consistent with the popularized literature (e.g. David Booth, Stephen Covey, Michael Fullan). Each chapter illustrates a separate theme or topic. Chapter two presents some of the most valuable content in the book regarding the idea of promoting an enhanced learning environment. Chapter three introduces excellent material on the monitoring of student progress and the roles of Principals, Superintendents, and Directors of Education. Spence is not afraid to tackle the tough issues facing mainstream schools today. For example, in chapter four and five, he brings to light the crisis of poverty in education. Chapter five also calls attention to anti-racist education and puts emphasis on the need for students and parents to have a voice in the institutional decisions that impact on them so profoundly. Chapter six contains meaningful procedural knowledge associated with the various roles of school boards and trustees. A series of considerations for school improvement planning can be found in the appendices.

     In general, I recommend this book for principals and supervisory officers. It is also recommended for anyone conducting research in the area of educational leadership in the Canadian context.


Jonathan Pitt is a university professor in the Faculty of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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