The Jeffco Way?

I’ve recently finished up an online course I’m taking through Harvard, as part of their Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership series.

The course was called “Driving Change,” and it was lead by Dr. Andres Alonso, former CEO (Superintendent) for Baltimore City Schools, a district about the same size as Jeffco.

In the course, one quote from Dr. Alonso had a profound effect on me – making me think a lot about Jeffco and who we are as a community and organization.

I’ll post it below here. Please read and reflect for a moment.

Great organizations have clearly defined missions, collectively held beliefs, and a clear understanding of leadership actions and outcomes.  

Many great organizations are also characterized by stability of leadership and focus over time. They often refer to their practices as the _____ way.

Many organizations, on the other hand, lack clarity between their actions and their performance goal.

Andres Alonso

Now the question. How does Jeffco Public Schools stack up against Dr. Alonso’s description of a great organization? Where are our strengths, and where do we need to grow? What are our real organizational values, and are we translating those into the clear and shared understandings we need to be truly great?

3 thoughts on “The Jeffco Way?

  1. There was a time back in the 1970’s when Jeffco was great. I was not working for Jeffco but I have had educators who remember that time and have shared stories with me. Maybe we need to contact some of them and ask, what made Jeffco so great back then. That would be one start to this question of being truly great. Personally, to look at our strengths and where we need to grow, I will fall back upon my own experiences in Jeffco over the last 23 years.
    I entered Jeffco in 1994 from a brief encounter in Denver Public Schools and before that, an out of state district in Florida. I was overwhelmed by the idea of so many districts in one metro city area when I came from a state with school districts by counties. I had heard from many educators at that time, that Jeffco was the district to be in. It was, the largest district in the State of Colorado. I was impressed. Also, the pay was one of the top three highest paying districts in Colorado. That motivated me to inquire about Jeffco.
    After a short 18 months in Denver Public Schools, I was RIFFED. I found myself out of a position and out of a job. I decided that Jeffco was the district to pursue and make my name known in the district.
    I found Jeffco welcoming, open to a “baby teacher” from another state. I felt I was home when offered a job at Bell Middle School in August 1994.
    As I read over the statement, “Many great organizations are also characterized by stability of leadership and focus over time. They often refer to their practices as the _______________way. Many organizations, on the other hand, lack clarity between their actions and their performance goals.”
    The word that comes to mind for the blank line is: “value-added.”
    Here is an example: They often refer to their practices as the value-added way.
    Listed is a rationale for why:
    What is the value of something? How can we add more value to what we have? And even make it better? That is what it sounds like you are asking, Dr. Glass.
    Transfer that to “What is the value to the school, its teachers, and its students when we continue to build a capacity of people or community that is on the same page?” Are we on the same page? What is the BIG vision or picture of what we want or need for our students?
    The vision of Jeffco Public Schools 2020 is: In order for students to pursue their life goals, by 2020 all Jeffco graduates will be able to successfully apply the following competencies-content mastery, civic and global engagement, communication, critical thinking and creativity and self-direction and personal responsibility.
    Jeffco Public Schools has a long tradition of excellent education. The Jeffco 2020 Vision defines the characteristics of a successful graduate and its corresponding strategic plan sets priorities for the district to provide all students—from Pre-K to 12th grade—the educational experiences necessary to achieve the Jeffco 2020 Vision.Start with the competencies listed.
    These competencies appear to me to be the backbone of the Value-Added traits that we as Jeffco educational community members adhere to and honor as important. These competencies hold the lifeworld and the systemsworld future for the success for each and every student enrolled in Jeffco Public Schools.
    Value-added leadership is reflected in the lifeworld of schools. Value-added leadership amongst the stakeholders for achieving a purpose of what is good and upheld is reflected in the systemsworld of schools. Moral reasoning is concerned with identifying and using norms, virtues, codes, and rituals that bind people to a set of ideas in such a way that relationships change for the better. A community can become bonded, closer together and feel obligated to help each other as they embody similar ideas and values. They can become communities characterized by mutual ties or reciprocal obligations and responsibilities. Value-added leadership means the linking of management strategies to virtues, norms, codes and other values that bring people together for leadership and learning. What are Jeffco’s true norms, codes and values? The question to ask is, “What values define us, give us a sense of significance, and provide the norms that anchor our lives in a culture of meaning?” It is the lifeworld that drives the systemworld. It is the stuff of culture, the essence of values and beliefs, the expression of needs, purposes, and desires of people and the sources of deep satisfaction in the form of meaning and significance that are experienced by parents, teachers, and students that define the lifeworld of schools.
    The lifeworld of schools is the heartbeat. This heartbeat is weakened whenever the systemworld deters the lifeworld-whenever our means determine the ends rather than the other way around. In today’s schools, our purposes, the curriculum taught, how we spend our time and even how we teach are increasingly being determined by the standardized assessments that distant authorities require us to administer. Leadership and learning are ways to strengthen the heartbeat of the educational community so that schools can grow and be strong in their heartbeat in the community. The lifeworld is the essence of hope. The systemworld is the means to achieve hope. Both are necessary to flourish. Schools can be the front lines in the defense of hope by maintaining proper balance. Achieving this balance…..may be the most important purpose of leadership (Sergiovanni, 2000, p.xix). And achieving this balance reinforces the heartbeat, increases its resilience, and helps to bring leadership and learning together. If there is a formula for school or district success, it would be to balance the lifeworld and strengthen the heartbeat of a school as a way to bring together leadership and learning (Sergiovanni, 2005, xii, Strengthening the Heartbeat-Leading and Learning Together in Schools).
    Many organizations, on the other hand, lack clarity between their actions and their performance goals.
    How does Jeffco stack up to this statement?
    Personally, I feel as though, Jeffco IS NOT stacking up to this statement. As a teacher, I am not being valued for my experience and highly effective evaluations. I have worked very hard to meet performance goals and am being treated unprofessionally by the “displacement” process. Teachers that are on the higher end of the pay schedule, are not being respected with dignity. Instead, they are being forced out with no regard to seniority.
    We need to take our strengths such as:
    1-A large district with diversity
    2-A network of dedicated teachers who choose to be in Jeffco
    3-A community of professionals that believe in Jeffco and do not want to abandon the ship
    4-Test scores overall in majority of schools that ranks us still as one of the top districts
    And take these strengths to:
    1-Honor that diversity to help understand all learning with all types of populations.
    2-Give incentives to our teachers who have been in the district for over 15 years.
    3-Reaching out to the core of our stakeholders to find out why they believe in Jeffco and what we can do to keep Jeffco great!
    4-Keep the scores high and solid, by acknowledging the work of the students and the teachers for keeping the scores high.
    Therefore, to have great organizations with clearly defined missions, collectively held beliefs and a clear understanding of leadership actions and outcomes, we must understand the heartbeat of our district by ensuring that the lifeworld of each of our school is in line with the systemworld of our society. Since teachers are the backbone of the learning process, I would suggest keeping their
    heartbeat going effectively so that the life of the school is thriving which in turn develops students who
    will be successful and thrive in the systemworld surrounding them.
    POK 8/1/2017

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this detailed and thoughtful reply, Patricia. I deeply appreciate the energy you put into it!


  2. Wow! You ask tough questions…. But I also love the thinking challenges that you place in this blog.

    Is there a “Jeffco” way? I agree with Patricia in her statement that there was in the past. I’m not so sure there is anymore. Our district seems fragmented somehow. Maybe our 2020 plan is our mission, maybe it’s our collectively held belief. I’m just not sure that it filters down to a student experience in a classroom on a basic schoolday.

    For example, assuming that the 2020 plan is the mission, then do the essential learnings in the Bridge to Curriculum support that mission? If there are 15 “essential” learnings in the Bridge document for a year of Writing, then how does choosing 2 or 3 focused student learnings in a year-long PLC still support the Jeffco mission? If you filter the mission and the curriculum and the PLC work down to the student experience, how do we provide engaging, high-interest problem-based learning within adopted programs?

    There are so many layers to your question and to Dr. Alonso’s statement. I don’t think, as a district, we’re there yet. But the power is also in the word, yet…..

    Liked by 1 person

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