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The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence

Lessons From a Transformational Leader
By: Richard D. Sagor, Deborah Rickey

Foreword by Sheldon H. Berman

Based on the successful methods of Dealous Cox, this book describes a leadership philosophy based on the search for wisdom through personal reflection and community.

Full description

Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12, Elementary, Secondary
  • ISBN: 9781412996457
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2012
  • Page Count: 192
  • Publication date: April 10, 2012

Price: $39.95



How to bring out the best in your staff—and in yourself

Research shows that the single variable that makes the most difference in student performance is the quality of the teacher. How do we keep teachers motivated in the face of increased pressure for grades, class sizes and media attention? How do we attract and retain high-quality teachers? This inspiring text offers a refreshing alternative to the portfolio and high-stakes accountability models of school improvement. Based on the successful methods of Dealous Cox, The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence describes a leadership philosophy based on the search for wisdom through personal reflection and community. The authors share their experience with this leadership style and document the sustainable results of transformational leaders working with teachers as partners rather than adversaries. These results include

  • Consistently improved teacher performance
  • Improved teacher quality
  • Greater professional satisfaction for teachers
  • Stronger community support for schools

Richard Sagor and Deborah Rickey have tracked this established leadership model for more than 30 years. Their work shows how, when sustained over time, these leadership principles have transformed professional behavior throughout school districts and made a long-term difference for teachers and students.

Key features

In chapter 2 the reader is introduced to the model of transformational leadership that will be explored and illustrated throughout the book. This is accomplished by an examination of the 3 key leadership functions of the transformational leader:

a) The development and nurturing of a shared community vision

b) The development and nurturing of an "ethic of continuous improvement," and

c) The development and nurturing of the organization's commitment to productive and ethical human relations



Richard D. Sagor photo

Richard D. Sagor

Richard Sagor recently retired from his position as professor and director of the Educational Leadership Program at Lewis & Clark College. In 1997 he founded ISIE (pronounced “I see”), the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education, to work with schools and educational organizations on the use of action research and data-based school improvement while he was a professor of educational leadership at Washington State University (WSU).

Prior to his work at the university level, Sagor had 14 years of public school administrative experience, including service as an assistant superintendent, high school principal, instruction vice principal, disciplinary vice principal, and alternative school head teacher. He has taught the entire range of students, from the gifted to the learning disabled, in the areas of social studies, reading, and written composition.

Educated in the public schools of New York, Sagor received his BA from New York University and two MA degrees as well as a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Oregon.

Beyond his work as a teacher and administrator, Sagor has had extensive international consulting experience. He served as a site visitor for the United States Department of Education’s Secondary School Recognition Program and has worked with the Department of Defense’s overseas schools, numerous state departments of education, and over 200 separate school districts across North America. His consulting has focused primarily on leadership development, the use of data with standards-based school improvement, collaborative action research, teacher motivation, and teaching at-risk youth.

His articles on school reform and action research have received awards from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Educational Press Association of America. Sagor’s books include The TQE Principal: A Transformed Leader; At-Risk Students: Reaching and Teaching Them; How To Conduct Collaborative Action Research; Local Control and Accountability: How to Get It, Keep It, and Improve School Performance; Guiding School Improvement With Action Research; Motivating Students and Teachers in an Era of Standards; and Collaborative Action Research for Professional Learning Communities.

Sagor can be contacted at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education, 16420 SE McGillivray, Suite 103–239, Vancouver, WA 98683, or by e-mail at rdsagor@isie.org.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Foreword by Sheldon H. Berman



About the Authors


1. The West Linn School District

District Context

2. Three Key Leadership Functions

Transformational Leadership

The Development and Nurturing of Shared Community Vision

The Development and Nurturing of an Ethic of Continuous Improvement

The Development and Nurturing of the Organization's Commitment to Productive and Ethical Human Relations

Quaker Theology: As a Belief System and a Metaphor

3. Making a Virtue Out of a Necessity: The Beginnings of the People Strategy

The People Strategy for School Improvement

Supervising the Probationary Teacher

Annual Celebration of Excellence

4. Hiring the Very Best

The Eye of the Proprietor

Faculty Recruitment/Selection at West Linn High School

Reflection Questions: Hiring the Very Best

5. Making Continuous Professional Learning an Organizational Norm

Professional Development and the People Strategy

Professional Development Strategy #1: Budgeted Building and District Funds

Professional Development Strategy #2: Professional Growth Planning

Professional Development Strategy #3: Tuition Reimbursement

Professional Development Strategy #4: Cooperative Master's Program

Professional Development Strategy #5: Professional Development Fund

Leading Through Limited Partnerships

Reflection Questions: Making Continuous Professional Learning an Organizational Norm

6. Providing Responsive Developmental Supervision

Four Key Concepts Governing Supervision

Supervision When Professionals Are Having Problems

A Veteran Teacher Struggling With Classroom Management

Reflection Questions: Providing Responsive Developmental Supervision

7. Differentiated Supervision: Evaluation Outside the Box

Supervision and Evaluation at West Linn High School

When is Traditional Evaluation Necessary?

The Proposal for a Differentiated Supervision System

Reflection Questions: Differentiated Supervision

8. The Extended Shadow of the Leader

An Outside Superintendent

Example #1: Assigning Students to Classrooms at Cedaroak Park Elementary School

A Keen Eye for Talent

Example #2: Multiage Classrooms at Boeckman Creek Elementary School

Reflection Questions: The Extended Shadow of Leadership

9. The Acceptance of Uncertainty

Scientific Management and Proven Practices

Feigning Certainty

Choosing a District-Wide Computing Platform

Providing Developmentally Appropriate Education at Willamette Elementary School

Uncertainty and School Culture

Reflection Questions: Acceptance of Uncertainty

10. Hubris: An Ever Present Concern

The "Worrier in Chief"

The Political Context of Public Schools

Owning Up To Flaws

The High School Annual Report: Warts and All

The Gang of 1,000

Reflection Questions: Keeping Hubris at Bay

A Final Word






Other Titles in: Leadership | Reflective Practice

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