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Thursday, June 2, 2011

District Leadership Team

Collaboration, integration, networking, relationships... These are all concepts that can contribute toward success in organizations. Schools are no exception to this prospect. It's no longer enough to work harder and longer in order to stimulate improvement. It's about working more effectively and efficiently, and that requires seeking opportunities to leverage success, finding a difference that makes a difference, examining the organization from a new perspective, and attempting alternative solutions. That's where collaboration, cooperation, and other efforts to initiate progress enter the improvement process.

Our school system's shared decision making council, the District Leadership Team, met today in a full day session. The members of this group are individuals elected by their colleagues from a specific committee. For example, the following groups regularly meet to review issues and report back to the DLT: Professional Development; Safe Schools; Instructional Design; Technology; Policy Committee. Each of these different committees selects a member to represent them on the district-wide governing body. The resulting mix is a good cross reference of the staff and allows multiple vantage points that assist us in addressing needs and issues within the district.

The agenda today was robust and significant. We discussed the proposal for a revised master schedule that would position us in better standing to nurture non-academic goals through a morning assembly program focusing on reinforcing a sense of community among elementary grade learners, and a formal recess each day that would acknowledge the need for elementary children to indulge in a much needed break and opportunities for recreation and socialization. The secondary level learners would benefit with a few more electives that would broaden the curriculum and afford some flexibility in scheduling.

We examined the many different factors that impact a master schedule. The process of creating a master schedule for a small secondary school is surprisingly more complex than performing the same function in a much larger high school because we have only one section of each class whereas multiple sections available in the larger school enable that school to place learners among several different sections in the event of a conflict among conflicting courses offered at the same time. Furthermore, because our special area teachers (physical education, music, art) are shared between the elementary school and secondary school - each with different class schedules and time frames - the arrangement of their classes is problematic since the secondary school operates around uniform blocks of for each and every subject, while the elementary school varies the length of classes among the different subject matters. It's like playing with a Rubik's cube. Each move impacts previous moves and may prove disruptive. You must juggle several options all at once.

We also involved ourselves in dialogue on attendance policies, behavior trends, classroom management issues, and instructional strategies. The common denominator among these different issues is ultimately instructional practice that is designed to engage learners in meaningful, relevant, and challenging growth opportunities. The lesson must appeal to the interest of the learners, create a need for investing in the work, and demonstrate a value they can derive from the experience.

Finally, we reviewed the survey results of staff members responding anonymously to questions eliciting feedback on components of the school. This process was conducted in the presence of a BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) liaison who has helped the team in school improvement activities, as well as the four new members of the Inquiry Team that BOCES is providing area school districts as they meet expectations of the recently approved Race To The Top guidelines. This cadre of staff development and resource specialists offered a fresh view of our collected data and asked clarifying questions as we compiled goals for the upcoming year.

There were other points of interest and discussion that contributed to a full and rewarding day. It's important that we work together like this to invent our collective future. It's one way we can remain a small school with BIG ideas - by maximizing our potential through the synergy of common meanings and shared interests.

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