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Leading Together:
Building Adult Community in Schools

“Leading Together has all the critical features needed to become a model for school change: effective school leadership, positive adult relationships in schools, and relational trust.”
– Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman, University of Virginia, Final Report

Leading Together: Building Adult Community in Schools is the Center for Courage & Renewal’s training and coaching-based professional development model focused on enhancing and supporting the adult community in schools. The program’s aims are to improve professional capacity, relational trust, collaboration, quality of instruction, and ultimately student outcomes.


“Leading Together gives teachers and staff more energy and more capacity for doing the hard work that they’re doing back in schools.”
— Margaret Golden, Program Director

“Building trust will be ongoing. We’ll always have to be thinking about each other and how we build a stronger school for our students, as well as keep ourselves healthy.”
— School Leader

Collaborative, supportive school communities are critical to helping students succeed in learning and life. Leading Together is built on a simple idea: the quality of adult relationships within a school community has the biggest impact on a school’s ability to improve. It’s a direct link. Schools are only as effective as the social relationships of the people within them. Positive adult relationships, built upon trust, make a powerful difference for students.

Leading Together is our leadership program for K-12 schools. It draws on the Circle of Trust® Approach principles and practices first articulated by Parker J. Palmer, in his groundbreaking book, The Courage to Teach. Leading Together does not impose change from without. Leading Together inspires change from within the heart of the school community.

Leading Together prepares school leadership teams to build relational trust in their own adult community by:

  • cultivating self-awareness
  • building relationships
  • fostering teamwork and shared leadership
  • strengthening capacity to listen and be fully present in teaching, leading, and relationships
  • sharpening ability to focus and maintain attention
  • addressing conflict constructively
  • reconnecting with what originally inspired us to become educators

Leading Together is grounded in a logic model developed in collaboration with Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman and colleagues at the Social Development Laboratory of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, who are conducting a comprehensive evaluation.

Open PDF Read the Leading Together Two-Year Study Final Report from the University of Virginia (July 2014).

Leading Together is the only existing intervention that brings principals, teachers, and other school staff together to pause, reflect, learn skills, and then, return to their school to produce change.”
– Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman, University of Virgina, Final Report

Leading Together is supported by The Angell Foundation, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, and 1440 Foundation, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The research was also supported in part by Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia.

To receive more information about this project, contact Margaret Golden at  Also meet the Leading Together team.


How to Build Trust in Schools. See this article in the Huffington Post (February 20, 2015) by Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D., Education Director, Greater Good Science Center.


Research shows that the degree of relational trust among the adults in a school is a key variable in the success of school reform initiatives and their ability to raise student achievement. The consequences of this lack of community and connection are stark:

The Challenge - Education Statistics3-4 YEARS Average tenure for principals in public schools.

46% Number of teachers who leave the profession within the first 5 years.

$7 BILLION A YEAR Annual dropout rate for teachers is higher than the annual dropout rate for students in some urban school systems.

3-5 YEARS Cost of that teacher attrition.

When educators collaborate in an environment that invites them to bring their best selves to work each day, students and schools flourish. Our pilot program, Leading Together: Building Adult Community in Schools, addresses this need.

Because of your support, more teachers and school leaders are working to overcome these staggering facts by using Courage & Renewal practices to build relational trust.


Bryk, Anthony S., and Barbara Schneider. Trust in Schools: A Core Source for Improvement. New York. Russell Sage Foundation. 2002. & Bryk, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 2010

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