On May 24th, I published my Entry Plan for Jeffco on this blog and on July 3, I officially began as Superintendent.
I took advantage of the flexible time people had in the summer to have conversations all over Jeffco about our community’s strengths, aspirations, and points of pride. I also heard about our concerns, fears, and points of pain.
In looking back over my calendar, I easily had over 400 conversations in these past few weeks about Jeffco and our schools. Phase 1 of my entry plan was all about “building relationships,” and I can confidently say “mission accomplished” relating to that goal.
I also made a great deal of progress on Phase 2 of my entry plan, which was around “Seeking to Understand.” I had to get up to speed quickly on a number of key questions and issues we collectively face as we worked to successfully and smoothly get schools open. There are always some bumps to work through at the beginning of a school year, but I’m proud of how our schools welcomed back students and families, and started the year off on a positive note.
I would often describe these first few weeks as a “drinking from the fire hose” experience – but it was also an immersive approach and I learned a great deal in a short time about Jeffco – getting into nitty-gritty issues such as curricular systems, finance, human resources systems, operations, and community partnerships.
Jeffco is a big district, both in terms of population and square miles, so I won’t go as far as to say that my work around relationship building and understanding context is finished – but it is time for me to start working on our strategic direction and making some key decisions for the organization and our community.
Toward that end, I’m going to start working at a strategic level on where we need to go as an organization. The Jeffco community should not expect a jarring shift from the Jeffco 2020 Vision – the spirit of that effort is around changing the learning experience of our students to incorporate more opportunities to practice important skills such as collaboration, problem solving, and creativity. This is absolutely the right and most important work – and we need to start acting accordingly in terms of where we place our priorities.
Rather than a new list of initiatives or a dizzying shift in direction, Jeffco should also expect our schools to start tightening our focus on some foundational elements of great education systems. Building a professional model of teaching, high expectations for students (and intentional curricular systems aligned to them), approaches to customize and tailor the learning experience for students, and community-wide efforts to get kids to school ready to learn.
These components are elemental in nature when it comes to building genuine quality. They are basic and enduring – and they help us clarify the important stuff from the distractions.
We’ll move toward simplifying and tightening our focus on things that will really make a difference in profoundly changing the learning experience of our students.
That’s the right stuff – and where we are headed. I’m looking forward to the next 400 conversations – and then the next 4,000.