Personal Wellness Leads to Organizational Health
BY JEFFREY R. LEWIS/School Administrator, June 2021

Health care executive Jeffrey Lewis sees school organizations benefit when their leaders are resilient.
I followed closely the impact of COVID-19 nationally, especially among local education leaders, throughout last spring. As the president and CEO of a health care foundation, I recognized the widespread burnout that Natasha Singer of The New York Times called a “crisis among educators that could lead to a wave of retirements, undermining the fitful effort to resume normal public schooling.”

A nationwide survey in August 2020 by the National Education Association indicated 28 percent of educators said the coronavirus had made them more likely to leave teaching or retire early, including 55 percent of veteran teachers and 20 percent of teachers with less than 10 years of experience. If left unchecked, this burnout crisis could result in the loss of an entire generation of experienced educators.

Healthier, more resilient leaders have a significant positive impact on their organizations and employees, research suggests. Thus, our organization predicted healthier, more resilient education leaders would impact the teachers and students they serve. Yet performance coaching and wellness support tools for the education field are not readily available, leaving a gap in the market we hoped to fill.

Eleven education leaders, three superintendents and eight other administrators enrolled in the program free of charge. The strategy was twofold: 

1 ) Provide the school district leaders with tools to better manage their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being; and 

2 ) Demonstrate how using charitable dollars as venture capital could develop an innovative solution to a complex problem.

While the leadership coaching initially was designed to span the summer, the participants’ responses were so overwhelmingly positive the program was extended through December.

JEFFREY LEWIS is president and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment and EMC Health Foundation in Turlock, Calif.