“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Plato
While my official beginning as Jeffco’s Superintendent is still a few weeks away, I’d like to share my entry plan for the district. I put it here for those in Jeffco who might be interested, but also for other professionals experiencing similar beginnings. Feedback, comments, and critique are appreciated.
Pre-Entry – Connections & Logistics
Prior to my official start date with Jeffco, I will meet in person with the Interim Superintendent and Cabinet Leadership members for an extended session to understand current issues or concerns that will need to be monitored or addressed when I formally begin. This meeting will also include a briefing on key position openings in the district that are coming available and I will provide some suggestions on the timing of when those should be filled. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure a seamless entry in terms of making sure key issues and decisions about key personnel hires are appropriately handled in the transition.
I will meet weekly, either in person or on the phone, with the Interim Superintendent to stay up to speed on changing developments and issues that arise in the weeks leading up to my formal assumption of the role.
I will meet with district technology staff to discuss communications and productivity devices (such as phone, computer/laptop, tablet, work-station setup, email access) so that they are available and functioning on Day 1, if not sooner.
I plan on being present in Jeffco for a few key days, to get oriented to the district, have a limited number of face-to-face meetings, and to ensure that I will be able to hit the ground running on the official start date. I will secure a sharing agreement between Jeffco and Eagle County Schools, trading a few days of my time in June in Jeffco for a few days in Eagle County in July and August to facilitate the transitions for both organizations.
Finally, I will meet with and the Superintendent’s Executive Assistant and Administrative Assistant staff to discuss how we will work together on issues such as scheduling, calendar management, and responding in a timely manner to messages and requests.
Phase 1 – Relationship Building (Weeks 1-6)
The initial entry into the district presents an important opportunity to establish relationships throughout the community, create positive public relations events, and establish a tone of openness and availability.
My first day on the job, I will conduct a “whistle-stop” tour of the community, holding town-hall forums in every region within Jeffco. I will focus on listening and hearing what Jeffco should keep doing, stop doing, and start doing. I will also meet with recent graduates, and recent drop-outs, to hear their perspectives on the school system.
Also in this first phase, I will meet with current students, civic organizations, parent groups, community political leaders, major employers, small business owners, county and municipal governments, faith-based organization leaders, community philanthropists, supporting community non-profit organizations, and district employees and employee organizations to hear their perspectives on Jeffco and the future.
I will personally interview each member of the Board of Education and the district’s senior leadership team, to better understand their perspectives on Jeffco Schools.
During this time, I will also establish initial decision-making and communications protocols. While efforts will be taken to avoid making any major changes during this initial phase, there are always decisions for which it is only appropriate for the Superintendent to make. I will rely on the counsel and advice of existing staff and the Board to make sound initial decisions in the best interests of Jeffco students.
Phase 2 – Seeking to Understand (Weeks 7-12)
Phase 2 will be a deep dive into the current context, organizational structure, and culture of Jeffco Schools.
I will receive in depth briefings on all aspects of the organization, including academics, finance, human resources, special and gifted education, facilities, transportation, food services, professional-learning models, student extra-curricular options, and the district’s technology systems.
I will spend time analyzing district student performance data from a variety of perspectives including state required assessments, district formative measures, graduation and early college data, and available social/emotional measures. Particular attention will be paid to achievement gaps and current efforts underway to address them.
This will be coupled with a holistic analysis of the state of children in Jeffco. I will look at student poverty, health care and mental health systems, food security, and housing issues in the community.
I will also take stock on the current status of the district’s strategic plan, including the overall vision behind it as well specific actions being taken to move it forward, budget and staffing assignments, process-based performance metrics.
I will walk in the shoes of the employees, spending time doing various jobs throughout the district. I will work with the grounds crew mowing and landscaping, work in transportation department maintaining vehicles, work in the kitchens preparing and serving meals. I will answer phones and greet parents in a school office and I will teach classes to students.
Finally, this will also be a busy time with the start of the school year. I will deliver the welcome and charge to the staff to kick off the school year, focusing on the moral importance of our work and a deep reverence and appreciation for the efforts of staff in service to children and the community. I will also visit with several schools, welcoming back students and staff.
In both Phases 1 and 2, I will work closely with the district’s communications team, using traditional and social media to share my journey of engagement with the community. I will personally thank supporters, respectfully engage with and try to understand critics, modeling dignity and love.
Phase 3 – Setting the Course (Weeks 13-16)
Having developed relationships and deep, contextual understanding of Jeffco Schools and the community, I will embark on an effort to craft a compelling vision document designed to inspire students, staff and the community.
Building on the ideas in Jeffco 2020 and in collaboration with the Board, I will put forth a plan built on internationally benchmarked ‘best practices’ drawn from the world’s best performing education systems. The plan will also include ‘next practices’ which consider what our graduates will need to know and be able to do for 2020 and far beyond.
The plan will move past a list of programs, and get down to the micro level of student task and learning. It must clearly identify the actionable steps taken to genuinely change the learning experience and the relationship between the teacher and learner.
The plan will address how expectations will be anchored against high standards, and how those expectations will translate into curricular materials and experiences for students. It will also address how customized supports will be provided to students at where they are in the learning process.
Finally, it will address how the community will respond to poverty and inequity. Jeffco cannot be a genuinely great education system unless it delivers greatness for any child, from any background. We cannot have excellence without a concomitant focus on equity.
Phase 4 – Delivery (Week 17 and beyond)
This entry plan lays out an approach to how I will engage with the community, Board, and Jeffco Schools organization in my first 16 weeks. It culminates with a renewed vision for the district and the Superintendent having established a strong relationship base and deep understanding of the community.
This entry plan details a focused initial flurry of activity and effort. However, the work really starts following these beginning steps. The transformation of any aspiration into reality requires such elements as project planning, timing and sequencing, budgeting, execution, progress monitoring, and accountability.
Beyond these critical logistical steps and perhaps most importantly, any meaningful and genuine change requires the courage to commit, the toughness to stay the course, and the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions when the time is right.
I am tremendously excited about leading this effort with Jeffco Public Schools. Jeffco has a tradition of excellence and quality, on which I am honored to build. Together, we will deliver genuine greatness for Jeffco’s children.