PMP374: Accelerating Student Voice with Dr. James Flynn

Dr. James Flynn has been a teacher, coach, Assistant Principal, Principal of the Grades 3-6 Intermediate School in Burlington City, Principal of Burlington City High School, and is currently the Director of Planning/Research, Evaluation, Operations, and State and Federal Programs for the Burlington City School District, Burlington, New Jersey.  Jim’s principal practice included a number of Student Voice initiatives and his research study and dissertation was titled “High School Principal’s Perception and Experience with Student Voice and Youth-Adult Partnerships.”  Jim recently presented a session at the NASSP’s Ignite Conference in Denver titled, “Foster Agency, Advocacy, and Citizenship through Student Voice and Youth-Adult Partnerships.” Jim has run 9 New York City marathons.

For his dissertation, he interviewed 10 high school principals across the nation, including in California, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Each of them leads strong programs for encouraging student voice. As a result, Jim coined the phrase “Educational Leadership Efficacy” and identifies strong principals as those who trust students and empower them to work within the school and community with ideas they own and deliver.

In addition, Jim shares takeaways for leaders to keep in mind, including:

  1. Listening to students and staff by intentionally and actively creating advisory committees, and allowing other educators to have student advisories. 
  2. Allowing students to implement their ideas beyond the school into the community and world.
  3. Breaking down the barriers of power and control from a top-down approach to shared leadership, including with students.
  4. Expanding boundaries by including the National Honor Society, Student Council, as well as diverse communities for inclusion of all student voices.
  5. Partnering with outside organizations like the Quaglia Institute: Voice Aspiration, and Up For Learning.
  6. Harnessing local university support by bringing in leaders from higher education to foster student voices in the local school.

Will Parker also mentioned Ignite2Unite with Jason Jedamski.

Dr. Flynn refers to principals by the phrase he borrowed from another leader who calls himself “Listener-in-Chief.” 

He also recommends using the Raising Student Voice & Participation ( RSVP) founded by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

RSVP plans summits and professional learning with students; they provide action plans and help students make a stronger impact.

Some additional advice, Dr. Flynn gives is: “Keep in mind why you became an educator and work from that passion. We cannot work alone.”

You can connect with Dr. James Flynn via his LinkedIn page or reach him by email at:

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker