Encouraging Email from a Terrific Administrator

Recently The Science Goddess wrote about public education having the tools to create great schools and the confounding influences that keep good things from coming together.

Leader Talk’s Greg Farr also is concerned with that phenomenon and put up such an inspirational message about getting the job done that I thought our admin leaders and my fellow board members would get a charge out of it. I think we’re actually in the process of doing what Farr and the Goddess are talking about.

I emailed the URL to them all yesterday, and today got this response from our Assistant Superintendent in charge of the School Improvement Team, a management group that oversees the principals, and curriculum and instruction in our district. She’s a reader and a doer with high school principalship in her background as well as years of classroom experience. (We began this dialog in 2000 when I was still teaching, and the district organized and trained a professional development teacher cadre.)

Hi [Repairman],

Thank you for sharing the Leader Talk Blog. It was fascinating reading for me as all the names mentioned in the blog are individuals with whom our District is currently working. I think you will be encouraged to hear Brian McNulty is the consultant for the School Leader inservice at the Cultural Arts Center on August 15 and 16. We have been working with Brian since last October and are in the process of finalizing plans for the August inservice. The two days with school leaders will certainly be focused on the six points Brian so clearly articulates. The evening of August 15 will feature a community leadership forum on the importance of sharing leadership strategies, discussing as a community how we can improve the connections between school and community, and considering what next steps will enhance our partnerships. Much of this is funded through the Nike Leadership Grant. The Board will be invited to this forum. I am in the process of finalizing details this week and invitations will be going out soon.

Also, did you know Doug Reeves will be the keynote speaker at the All District Inservice in August 2008? Doug is booked out at least a couple years so we arranged for this about nine months ago and are so pleased he can be with us. And on another exciting note for us, recently twenty administrators attended a workshop in Eugene on June 26 and 27 featuring Bob Marzano. The context of this workshop was on minority student achievement and how effective teaching strategies, in particular building common vocabulary around power standards, levels the playing field for minority and at-risk kids who often do not benefit from a literature rich environment.

All our school improvement work is focused on three key initiatives: data-driven decision making and data teams; making standards work including identification of power standards in the four core areas and designing common formative assessments across the district based on the power standards; and using effective teaching strategies (Marzano’s Nine) in all classrooms. We use the Classroom Walkthrough model that all administrators and key teacher leaders were trained in during the 2006-2007 school year to monitor our efforts and provide the data we need to make decisions.

We have good systems in place, but have a long way to go before our efforts are operationalized in all classrooms. Our pledge to principals is we will not add new initiatives. One key distinction between our District and the districts that are referenced by the writer of the blog is our commitment to stay the course and to provide all the support necessary for principals and teachers to be successful. Educators have 35 years of research including the work of Fullan, Hargreaves, Marzano, Reeves, and McNulty. We know what we need to do. It is now a matter of courage and the will to do it.

Getting the big hoop rolling is a challenge. Keeping it going is a bigger challenge. Good leadership and strong will at every level seem to be the linchpins.

Even after many circuits on the educational merry-go-round, I’m optimistic and I believe we’re on track. Ya gotta be a believer.


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