Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase, Superintendent of Schools, Westbury Union Free School District

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase, with a Bachelor of Science in Communications Arts from Norfolk State University, holds a Master of Arts in English Education and a Master of Education from City University of New York Graduate Center and Mercy College, New York. Her award-winning doctorate in Executive Leadership is from St. John Fisher College, New York. With a 30-year tenure as an educator, 10 of which as Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Chase currently leads the Westbury Union Free School District (New York) garnering notable results. As a transformational leader, Dr. Chase received numerous awards, citations, and accolades. In addition to changing the trajectory of students’ lives, she is a consulting author of two national textbooks series and co-authored It Takes a Village to Raise a 21st Century Student. Currently, Dr. Chase hosts a visual podcast, Strictly Education. Dr. Chase is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 


As an educational leader with a decade-long tenure as Chief Executive Officer/Superintendent of Schools, I have found immense joy in steering the trajectory of school districts. While the responsibilities are indeed weighty, the fulfillment derived from shaping students’ educational experiences and supporting the growth of our faculty and staff is immeasurable. In this article, I will delve into several key strategies that educational leaders can employ to find joy and satisfaction amidst the challenges of leading a school district.

One of the most rewarding aspects of educational leadership is the opportunity to make a positive impact on students’ lives. By anchoring ourselves to the district’s mission and vision, we can stay focused on the greater purpose behind our work. Whether it is enhancing academic outcomes, fostering equity and inclusion, or instilling a passion for learning, staying aligned with the mission brings a sense of fulfillment and joy.

In the fast-paced realm of education, it is relatively easy to become consumed by the myriad challenges and setbacks we encounter as school chiefs. However, it is essential for educational leaders to pause and celebrate successes, both big and small. Whether it is acknowledging student achievements, recognizing the dedication of our faculty and staff, or highlighting progress towards district goals, celebrating successes uplifts morale and fosters a positive work environment.

Building strong relationships with students, families, faculty, staff, and the community is paramount for effective educational leadership. By prioritizing open communication, active listening, and collaboration, we not only enhance outcomes but also cultivate a sense of belonging and unity within the district and community itself. Personally, collaborating with our Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and engaging with the Superintendent Student Advisory Council brings a profound sense of connection and purpose to my leadership role. Relationship building enables me to learn about the needs of the community and students I joyfully serve. Another way educational leaders can cultivate a sense of community and belonging within their districts is by fostering inclusive practices and initiatives. By prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, leaders can create an environment where all students, regardless of background or circumstance, feel valued and supported. This can involve implementing inclusive curriculum and programming, establishing support networks for marginalized groups, and actively addressing issues of bias and discrimination.

Embracing innovation is essential for addressing the complex challenges facing modern education.  Expanding further, educational leaders can enhance their effectiveness by fostering a culture of innovation and creativity within their districts. Encouraging teachers and staff to explore new teaching methodologies, experiment with technology integration, and design innovative programs can not only improve student outcomes but also invigorate the entire educational community. Providing support and resources for professional development in these areas can empower educators to embrace innovation and adapt to the ever-evolving educational landscape.

Whether it is implementing new teaching methodologies, integrating technology into the curriculum, or designing innovative programs, educational leaders have the opportunity to spark inspiration and creativity within their districts. Moreover, leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, has empowered me to analyze data more effectively and support our school principals in the decision-making processes. Educational leaders can optimize their impact by leveraging data and technology to inform decision-making and improve outcomes. By harnessing the power of data analytics, leaders can gain insights into student performance, identify areas for improvement, and allocate resources effectively. Similarly, embracing technology tools and platforms can streamline administrative processes, enhance communication, and facilitate personalized learning experiences for students.

Continuous learning and professional growth are indispensable for educational leaders to stay informed, engaged, and effective in their roles. By investing in professional development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and networking events, we can expand our knowledge base, gain fresh perspectives, and reignite our passion for the work. Furthermore, educational leaders can strengthen their leadership skills by seeking mentorship and professional coaching. Connecting with experienced leaders in the field, participating in leadership development programs, and seeking feedback from peers and colleagues can provide valuable insights and support for growth. By continually investing in our own development, leaders can inspire and empower others to do the same, creating a culture of continuous improvement and excellence within their district.

As educators and educational leaders, we do not discuss our own wellness as often as we should. In fact, many of us spend more time prioritizing the wellness of our own students, staff, and personal family members that we oftentimes neglect our own wellness needs.  In essence, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is paramount for sustaining longevity and effectiveness in educational leadership. Prioritizing self-care through activities such as exercise, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones rejuvenates the mind, body, and spirit, enabling us to approach our work with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Our attitude about the work can shape how we approach the work. Starting each day with a sense of gratitude can profoundly impact our mindset and outlook. Instead of focusing on the inevitable challenges we face, begin the day by listing the things we are grateful for. This shift in perspective can set a positive tone for the day ahead and cultivate a mindset of abundance and appreciation. While this shift in mindset is not easy as a daily task, it is simple to take at least three minutes as you awake each morning to think intently about gratitude. Gratitude facilitates joy in the work.

Finally,  John Dewey tells us, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on the experience.” Reflecting on our experiences and recommitment to our values and vision reinforces our sense of purpose and direction as educational leaders.

Engaging in self-reflection cultivates stronger leadership skills, encompassing better communication, conflict resolution, and the ability to inspire and motivate others. Leaders modeling reflective practices set a positive example, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and learning among educators and staff. By staying true to our beliefs and aspirations through reflective practices, we can find joy and fulfillment in the meaningful work of leading a school district.

While the demands of educational leadership are considerable, the opportunities for joy, impact, and fulfillment are equally abundant.  By embracing innovation, fostering inclusion, leveraging data and technology, seeking mentorship, and prioritizing self-care, educational leaders can navigate the challenges of their roles with resilience, purpose, and joy.  There is joy in educational leadership if only you are courageous enough to find it.

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