Friday, August 14, 2009

New Concept for Leadership Team

It's the Friday before the first day that teachers come back and I spent most of the day at school noodling around with our new concept for leadership. I was joined by 20 other teachers who took time from their last day off to come and meet!

Last year we continued a tradition at Chets Creek that has served us well with a Leadership Team that met once a week. The Team was led by the Principal and made up of the Standards Coach, Technologist, Media Specialist, Guidance Counselor and a handful of lead teachers. In previous years the Leadership Team had really been the engine that soared student achievement ahead. They were the brains - the guiding force - the group that dreamed the impossible dreams and then made them a reality. We debated issues and brainstormed possibilities. Nothing seemed impossible. While we continued that same workable formula last year, with many of the same dynamic people that had so inspired us in previous years, last year the formula just didn't work. Maybe we simply got stuck in a rut. People came to the table as usual, but without that sparkle that had been so characteristic in the past. Maybe we lost focus on our common mission or maybe the vision began to fog. I'm not really sure but the electricity in the room dwindled to a smooth, but lackluster current. We slowly evolved into a management team without the zest, depth and joy that had once characterized our meetings. The diversified leadership at Chets is not characterized by a single charismatic leader but about the synergy of the group and, in my opinion, the group simply lost its deep connection. Give us credit for realizing that we needed to make a change. Don't get me wrong. We had a great year. We are still an "A" school with our 4th graders leading the charge and making substantial gains on our state's test. We are only one of a small a handful of schools within our county that made AYP, but I think we realized that something just wasn't as good as it could be and we've never been satisfied with good when we know we can be great! We have always wanted more and expected more of ourselves than others may have believed was possible.

Jim Collins says that in order to go from good to great that you have to be brutally honest. It is only by admitting and realizing where you are, that you can really make changes. I think as a Leadership group we did that hard work and imagined something different for ourselves. So... this year we have added layers of professional learning/leadership groups that will inform and lead different parts of our work. We will divide and conquer. There is an Administrative Council that includes the Principal, Standards Coach, Technologist, Media Specialist, Literacy Coach, Behavior Specialist, and Guidance Counselor. This group will be our Management Team which will be assisted by our long standing Shared Decision Making Team made up of Team Leaders selected by each grade level but the real work of moving student achievement ahead will be done by three Curriculum Councils - Literacy, Math and Science. Each of the three groups will have a grade level representative. Each group will meet once a month and then the entire Council will meet on the fourth week. This is vertical articulation by subject that has been missing in the past. The hope is that we can use our time wisely in addressing the specific needs and dreams of each curriculum group.

Will this new alignment work? Will it help us reach that last 5% of kids so that we can truly reach 100%? I don't know. We organized at the end of last year and then met for the first time today. These groups include many people who have served on the Leadership Team for years but also many new people who will have to find their confidence and their voice to make a difference but it builds layers of leadership opportunities for many of the teachers who are ready for that responsibility at our very large school.

That's what I love about the beginning of school - new plans, new ideas, new alignments. 

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Like you, I am looking forward to forging ahead into a new school year full of exciting new opportunities. I think, in the earlier years at Chets, we had more release time coaches embedded in the work of each grade level. These coaches were teachers first and because they were embedded in the day to day classroom instruction, they could serve on the Leadership Team with insight and voice for each of the teachers they coached. The more coaching release time has dwindled, the more disconnect there has been between the Leadership Team members and the faculty as a whole. Each member of the LT realized this, therefore meetings couldn't continue when the real work of guiding instructional practices was not at the top of the agenda. Not that anyone didn't want that to be the case, it just simply wasn't. I applaud the team for knowing that changes needed to be made so instructional practices could once again be the main topic of conversation.

The birth of the Leadership Council happened out of necessity, because the teachers and adminstrators at Chets Creek are never satisfied with what is, but look forward to what could be. That is why I love working here.

I am most excited by the smaller content Coucils, because I think this is where the real work will occur. The work that will create vertical alignment amongst lead teachers and will allow lead teachers to take Teacher Meeting topics and work back to their teachers. In addition, I think the selected Council members will be a great voice to help guide Council members in making decisions that could impact the whole school.

I can't wait to see how this new concept works. I'll be interested in both the possibilities and obstacles, because through reflection and dialogue, I know we will change the lives of our students for the better.