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7 Questions with Brent E Betit

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Brent E Betit

Name: Dr. Brent E Betit

Current title: Head of School

Current organisation: The Fletcher School

Brent is a magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College (NH) in English Language and Literature. He later received his doctorate in Education at Fielding Graduate University (CA). With a long career in education, Dr. Betit's experiences have been comprehensive and impressive. Although he spent nearly three decades at Landmark College, the world's first college for students with learning disabilities, his experience in education has been wide-ranging. While at Landmark, Brent held many senior management positions, but he has also taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. His diverse career has included serving as director of operations for a construction company, founding a technology company, and working as a journalist for a national magazine. Prior to joining Fletcher, Dr. Betit held the position of Deputy Executive Director for Educational Affairs of the King Salman Center for Disability Research in Saudi Arabia, overseeing the Academic Training Division. Dr. Betit, a seventh generation Vermonter, joined the Fletcher community in July 2016. He and his wife, Julie, are the proud parents of two adult sons.

7 Questions with Brent E Betit

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?

Education is one of the most complex processes on the planet -- involving the close intersection of students, faculty, and staff, interacting within a purpose-built pedagogical environment. Though this is the most meaningful work there is, creating a transformation learning environment is no easy objective, as it is almost completely human-centered and human-created work. Our objective is not to produce a product; rather, we aim to support students in becoming their best selves while attaining their innate potential. This is a challenging but ultimately enormously meaningful process.

2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

To be truthful, while I work to establish the framework for productive days, I am also subject to the challenges of each day, so my day is usually structured chaos. I use my early mornings to consume information of every kind -- what is happening or will happen in my school, but also what is going on in the larger environment that impacts my school. Mondays through Wednesdays are generally set aside for meetings with my direct reports, leadership team, and senior management team. I also try to work in my "satellite offices," which are simply tables and chairs set up in the different lobbies of my school. This provides for visibility and a chance to interact with students and the professional team in a different way. I am typically on campus by around 8:00 AM and on a dead run until 5:00 PM or later. I rarely eat lunch, and enjoy the dynamism of "juggling alligators." I frequently take work home in the evenings to ensure anything requiring reflection and focus can be accomplished efficiently.

3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Fearlessly break every rule that you must. “Managers do things right and leaders do the right thing.” (Warren Bennis)

4. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The Leadership Challenge *Kouzes & Posner). It details the essential aspects of leadership in an accessible way. I frequently reflect on how my leadership is aligned (or not) with their essential precepts. It is a kind of score card that I return to whenever I am assessing my impact and practices as a leader.

5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?

Surround yourself with top talent. Embrace intelligence, expertise, and ambition, and build the strongest team possible. Your primary job is to ensure your team can manage daily operations effectively without you, and to source and to build the next leaders from within the organization whenever possible.
Promote a learning environment. Always remember that leaders can learn - and must. Work hard to preserve your professional development budget in hard times. It represents your only real investment in the future.

6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?

Ensuring that our resources and curriculum are aligned and holistic, acknowledging and supporting a diverse, humanistic community that is respectful of difference.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?

Leading our team in becoming overnight experts in pandemic-impacted education, while establishing new practices and protocols that have enabled us to provide in-person education nearly 100% of the time.