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Writing recently about Dr. Carlos J. Finlay Elementary School — one of the schools honored this year with Ed Trust’s Dispelling the Myth Award — reminded me of a striking incident that happened when I visited the Miami school with Ed Trust’s director of research, Christina Theokas.

A group of teachers were telling us all the things they do to make their students successful. They spoke passionately about the strength of the school’s culture and how they considered the school to be their second family.

Curious, I asked how quickly the culture could be destroyed if a bad principal were to be appointed. I half-expected them to say that the teachers would be able to drive out a bad principal or that the strength of the culture would protect them. But the teachers responded immediately and almost in unison: “Two minutes.”

Yet another reminder — as if any were needed — that highly functional schools are highly dependent on good leadership, and that teachers know they work better with good leaders.

“We have an amazing principal who empowers us,” is the way reading specialist Maria Del Castillo put it.

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