Thomas Van Van Soelen Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Thomas Van Van Soelen

Van Soelen & Associates

After a decade of central office leadership in Georgia, Thomas Van Soelen became the President of Van Soelen & Associates, a professional development and coaching firm. His consulting work, specializing in learning communities, leadership development, and teacher evaluation, brings him to multiple states and countries. Numerous print publications and a book about teacher evaluation, Crafting the Feedback Teachers Need and Deserve: A Guide for Leaders, offer a glimpse into his experiences.

Subjects: Education


Dr. Thomas Van Soelen enjoys creating and participating in collaborative experiences everywhere he goes. Currently, as the President of Van Soelen & Associates, a professional development and leadership coaching consulting firm based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Thomas influences schools and school districts that are ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse.  His client list includes organizations in Georgia (e.g., Gwinnett County Public Schools, Fulton County Schools, Georgia State Superintendent Association), Texas (e.g., Lewisville ISD, Garland ISD, Arlington ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Learning Forward Texas), and in Canada and Guyana.

His primary expertise areas include teacher evaluation, instructional coaching, leadership development, and learning communities. In particular, Thomas prepares district, school, and teacher leaders to organize effective and efficient collaborative sessions, focused on student learning using structured conversations, called protocols, promulgated through The School Reform Initiative.

Prior to this entrepreneurial venture, Thomas worked in multiple states and in public and private schools, teaching every grade level pre-Kindergarten through graduate school at some point in his career. His most recent school district leadership position was functioning as the Associate Superintendent in the City Schools of Decatur, Georgia, a post he held for eight years. During that time, he began a gathering of principals engaged in critical friendship through The School Reform Initiative. This voluntary group first met in 2010 and still regularly meets to learn with and from each other.

Thomas, his wife and two sons live near Atlanta, where Thomas now enters his third decade as a church musician, leading choirs and playing piano and organ.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    teacher evaluation
    learning communities
    instructional coaching and strategies
    SRI critical friendship



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Crafting the Feedback Teachers Need and Deserve - 1st Edition book cover


Journal of Staff Development

Navigation aids: 9 shifts in practice smooth the transition from school to centr

Published: Oct 01, 2015 by Journal of Staff Development

The shift to the central office from school level leadership can be tricky. Georgia-based leaders discovered success indicators for that transition and have developed a District Office Professional Development Program around those skills.

AASA Executive Briefing

Students learning from Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal

Published: Apr 02, 2015 by AASA Executive Briefing
Authors: Van Soelen, T.M.

A high school AP Statistics teacher created engaging learning experiences around the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

AASA Executive Briefing

Working effectively with parents: Sometimes silently.

Published: Jan 28, 2015 by AASA Executive Briefing
Authors: Van Soelen, T.M.

Parents are a critical stakeholder in schools, particularly when a leader or governance group needs to make an important decision. What leaders, often times those at the central office, lack are a set of strategies to use with parents other than "let's talk about that."

AASA Executive Briefing

Holidays vs. standards: Which curriculum rules your school?

Published: Oct 30, 2014 by AASA Executive Briefing
Authors: Van Soelen, T.M.

I remember that in elementary schools 30 years ago, the year was chronologically marked by holidays. We even had a display outside the classroom where we posted our stories, starting with a summer story, then a scarecrow or scary story, followed by a turkey story and ending the year with something about a snowman.

AASA Executive Briefing

We’re not full yet? Schools still eating their young.

Published: Sep 25, 2014 by AASA Executive Briefing
Authors: Van Soelen, T.M.

Meet Keaton. Fresh out of college, he just married a teacher and moved to a new state. The school hired him, too, perhaps in order to secure his wife's contract. But nonetheless, he's now in a classroom. Twenty years ago, I would have expected him to have an extremely rough schedule, several duties, extracurriculars and even a dreaded study hall to manage — an almost-hazing-like first year. But that was 20 years ago, right?

AASA Executive Briefing

Leveraging technology to determine school vision

Published: Aug 31, 2014 by AASA Executive Briefing

Jeff Homan, principal of The Main Street Academy, a start-up K-8 charter school in College Park, Georgia, leveraged technology as the school revisited its core documents in preparation for both an accreditation visit and a rechartering process with the local school district, both occurring every five years.

AASA Executive Briefing

Livening up the blasé work of mission and vision revision

Published: Jul 14, 2014 by AASA Executive Briefing

Suzanne Kennedy, the principal of College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, enacted efficient and effective processes resulting in a purpose statement and a set of belief statements in which every member of her staff had a significant role. She scored well on an evaluation rubric used by AdvancED (an accreditation umbrella consolidating the North Central Association, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Northwest Accreditation Commission) as part of an accreditation review.

AASA Executive Briefing

School improvement requires more than just a plan

Published: Jun 19, 2014 by AASA Executive Briefing

Chuck Bell (Twitter @Chuck_Bell_), a second-year superintendent in Elbert County, Georgia, created his system's first-ever improvement plan then ran his summer leadership retreat and was stumped with what to do next. He chose to model a process that school leaders could immediately lift and use in their schools.

School Administrator

Who gets to decide?

Published: Jun 01, 2014 by School Administrator

Most school officials find their hands are tied by state legislation when they try to change the way their students are educated. That was not the case when the School Leadership Team at Renfroe Middle School in Decatur, Ga., decided to tackle the hot-button issue of grading in 2010. This charter school system continually had to ask the question, "Who gets to decide?"

Job-embedded professional development: Support, collaboration, and learning in schools.

Examining assessments

Published: Jan 01, 2014 by Job-embedded professional development: Support, collaboration, and learning in schools.
Authors: Van Soelen, T.M.

This chapter in this important book about professional development offers insight into using a particular discussion protocol for schools.

Performance Improvement Journal

Building a sustainable culture of feedback

Published: Apr 01, 2013 by Performance Improvement Journal

Explicit and intentional collaboration have served as highly reliable and replicable processes in the development of a rigorous and unique teacher evaluation system. The leaders have deprivatized their practices, focusing on upgrading the performance improvement feedback they offered to classroom teachers. The story of this school district contains lessons for any organization willing to establish learning goals and remove hierarchies to build meaningful and multilayered sustainability.

The New Superintendent’s E-Journal

The Connection between early childhood and desegregation

Published: Sep 01, 2012 by The New Superintendent’s E-Journal

City Schools of Decatur (GA) used early learning as a way to combat desegregation.

The New Superintendent’s E- Journal

Cross-School Teacher Evaluation

Published: Sep 01, 2012 by The New Superintendent’s E- Journal

Building inter-observer agreement is powerful work for improving the quality of feedback given to teachers in teacher evaluation systems.