Jon Laffoon is the Superintendent of Star City School District, in Southeast Arkansas. He has served many roles in Private, Public, and Charter schools. This experience gives him a broad and unique perspective that opens the landscape of possibilities for leading innovation.
Jon has led large scale change and has been centrally involved in the creation of the “school within a school concept”, a “flexible schedule”, and creating “virtual environments”. As an educator, Jon’s philosophies are grounded in student centered learning. His experience in successfully failing repeatedly has allowed him to remove barriers and create innovative learning environments.
Jon talks about his coaching background, his school and district, and his passion for reading, especially works on leadership (2:16)
Mike’s career path, starting in junior high school when he already knew he wanted to teach and coach students, 7-8 years of coaching, and moving into administration and now into his first superintendency (4:20)
What is a school within a school, and what are some of the benefits of this approach to education? (8:33)
An interesting discussion of flexible scheduling and its benefits for the students (16:45)
How blending traditional classrooms with virtual learning environments led to better outcomes for high school students (23:18)
Why Jon decided to move from coaching and teaching into school leadership (27:57)
How Jon got through some very rough times in the first days of his admin career (31:05)
Never underestimate the powerful impact teachers and admins can have on a student (34:47)
It’s going to be hard to keep your connection with students after moving from teaching into administration, but with hard work you can do it (37:35)
School leaders must learn to live with disapproval from some of their colleagues and subordinates (39:10)
Jon’s tips for planning your day for maximum productivity and effectiveness, including his favorite app for getting things done, Wunderlist (40:15)
Dealing with self-doubts and with living life in the fishbowl of school administration (43:06)
Successful admins must have a growth mindset and must work to constantly improve (45:10)
Jon says Energy Bus is the best book he’s ever read, and thinks every school leader should read it (46:34)
Jon’s advice to admins on working with your students – stay in contact with them with one on one conversations, surveys, by being out and active in the hallways and classrooms, etc (48:24)
Jon’s advice to admins on working with your teachers – don’t lose sight of how hard your teachers are working every day (51:06)
If Jon had a time machine, and could go back and give his younger self advice when he was just starting out in administration, he would tell younger Jon that the most important thing to focus on early on is remembering that it’s not about policies and rules; it’s about people and relationships (52:51)
The quote Jon tries to live by:
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
Books mentioned in this episode
Connect with Jon Laffoon
Educators Lead is a podcast created to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. This show is for you if you are interested in educational leadership as an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, teacher or someone who hopes to be a school leader one day. Educators Lead offers inspiration and practical advice to help you lead more effectively. Jay Willis interviews school leaders weekly to discuss why and when these educators made the decision to move into school leadership, challenges along the journey, and stories that made it all worthwhile. Educators Lead is a great resource for any educator looking to make a greater impact.
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