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Thought Leadership

Visionary Voices: Community-based approaches to PreK-12 staffing gaps and policy

About The Visionary Voices Series

Following a disruptive time in the U.S. education system, our school staff and our students need more support than ever. Learning loss. Mental health challenges. Staff shortages. Join Presence, an innovator in special education-related and mental health service delivery, as we interview visionary leaders on how we must collectively address the challenges facing our schools.

This video series will convene veteran education leaders and experts to explore promising new instructional approaches and reimagine a future where every child can thrive. Listen to thought-provoking conversations and discover actionable insights that will empower us to build new, inclusive education systems that put the whole child at the forefront.

Perspectives on educational leadership

With a wealth of school-based leadership experience, including three district superintendencies, a role as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, and service as the Department of Education’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Dr. James Lane possesses an intimate understanding of the challenges facing educators. In this episode of Visionary Voices, follow along for expert takeaways on:

  • Collaborative leadership
  • Strategies to strengthen teacher pipeline
  • How administrators can inspire community engagement
  • Opportunities to innovate with technology

Driving collaborative success

Dr. Lane’s educational career kick-off as a band instructor laid a foundational belief in the importance of individual support strategies for whole-school success. Drawing on his rich musical background, he compares efficient school systems to orchestras, where individual components collaborate to achieve harmony. Learn more about Dr. Lane’s approach to maximizing the potential of school teams and initiatives to achieve a more effective unit.

Teacher shortages: How strategic support policies can help

“Ultimately, we've got to retain the great teachers we have if we want to solve this issue.”

Dr. James Lane
CEO of PDK International

When it comes to addressing teacher shortages at PreK-12 schools, Dr. Lane cites a few key support policies to help recruit educators. Listen in as he discusses the importance of building teacher pipelines and how key initiatives like Educators Rising and apprenticeship programs can help recruit future educators.

Sharing a vision for success

Education initiatives backed by community alignment typically last longer and provide more student opportunities. Explore Dr. Lane’s perspective on the importance of a mutual understanding of success, collaborative decision-making, and parent involvement.

Opportunities for innovation

While new challenges continue to emerge in the educational landscape, Dr. Lane cites key growth opportunities. He encourages administrators to explore IDEA full-funding and how edtech, such as teletherapy and AI automation, can help optimize student IEPs.

Dr. James Lane

Introducing Today's Voice

Dr. James Lane

CEO of PDK International

Dr. James Lane is a former Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education. He served as Virginia’s 25th Superintendent of Public Instruction and as a district superintendent in three school divisions, earning the Superintendent of the Year recognition in 2017. He is currently the CEO of PDK International, an education advocacy group.


  1. High schoolers who take music courses score significantly better on exams in certain other subjects, including math and science, than their nonmusical peers.
    Source: American Psychological Association. “Music Students Score Better in Math, Science, English Than Nonmusical Peers.” 24 June 2019.
  2. Districts must commit all their federal COVID-relief dollars to specific expenses by the Sept. 30 deadline. Source: Lieberman, Mark. EdWeek. “Spending ESSER Funds Will Come Down to the Wire for Some Districts. Here’s Why.” 05 August 2024.
  3. At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, there was a shortage of nearly 300,000 teachers and staff across the United States. Source: NPR. “The Teacher Shortage Is Testing America’s Schools.” 13 September 2022.
  4. Teachers in the U.S. earn about 76.5 cents on the dollar compared to similar professionals who have bachelor’s degrees. Source: Sullivan, Emily Tate. EdSurge. “Teacher Pay Penalty Reaches Record High. What’s at Stake?” 22 August 2022.
  5. During the 2022–2023 school year, teachers worked more hours per week, on average, than working adults — 53 hours compared with 46.  Source: RAND. “All Work and No Pay — Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Pay and Hours Worked: Findings from the 2023 State of the American Teacher Survey.”  12 September 2023.
  6. More than 60 percent of U.S. teachers work within 20 miles of where they went to high school. Source: Reininger, Michelle.”Hometown disadvantage? It depends on where you’re from.” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(2), 127. 2011.
  7. The federal government’s IDEA funding pledge has never been met. Source: Dancy, Kim. “Fully Funding IDEA: A Democratic Dream or Just an Empty Promise?“ New America. 23 March 2016.
  8. Family engagement with health care professionals improves care coordination and health outcomes at the individual, youth, and family level. Source: Cené CW, Johnson BH, Wells N, Baker B, Davis R, and Turchi R. “A Narrative Review of Patient and Family Engagement: The ‘Foundation’ of the Medical ‘Home’.” Med Care. 2016 Jul;54(7):697-705. 2016.
  9. There is a chronic shortage of qualified speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Source: ASHA, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “Recruiting and Retaining Qualified School-Based SLPs.”
  10. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 19% growth in demand for speech-language pathologists and 12% growth in demand for occupational therapists over the next decade. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook.” SLP: OT:
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