Alumini Schools Leadership Team Forum
Our Head Learning Leader, Susan Phillips, participated in a Panel Discussion for Alumni Schools along with four other alumni principals. This session was meant to kick off a new era and “take the pulse” of active alumni schools and those who don’t currently have a relationship with America’s Choice.
The discussion was lead by Peter Heaney, America’s Choice resident superintendent, and the panel members included:
Michael Moore, Principal of Highlands, 7 years in the design
Faye Ogilvie, Principal of Honaunau in Hawaii, began the design in 1999
Susan Phillips, Principal Chets Creek Elementary, entered the design in 1999
Joe Miller, Principal from #77 in Queens, New York, began in 1999
Joe Lisa, Principal of #61 in Queens, New York, entered design in 2000
Bob Petit, National Model School Lead for America’s Choice
Peter asked the panel...
How have changes in your school district helped or hindered your work?
Panel members mentioned that funding is key to support literacy coaches, programs, and the purchase of new text. Some panel participants felt they had been supported financially even when there was a change of leadership at the district level. On the other hand, another panel member mentioned that there was a lack of district support and they had to manage a delicate balance to try to keep distractions at a minimum. In addition, in New York City, the district has empowered the principals to make their own school based decisions. A NY principal pointed out that the school leader needed to stay committed to the design and model to continue to show results.
How do you keep it fresh?
The panel reemphasized how important the Leadership Team is to keep the focus of the school on their vision, action plans, and professional development, and to avoid getting bogged down in managerial issues. A panel member mentioned that staff development needs to remain on-going for the leader, coaches, and teachers, and everyone should celebrate successes along the way. The consistent collaboration and monitoring must remain the central focus. Leaders of schools must spend time in classrooms looking at best practice. Principal Faye Ogilvie shared that they have refocused on visiting other schools so they can reflect on their own practice, borrow ideas from others, and know what her school can do better to move their work forward.
Fidelity to Program is critical. Schools must take ownership. What is the balance? The panel agreed that teachers must have input and there must be teacher buy-in. To keep fidelity, leaders must remain committed on the school’s vision, on staff development, and must offer financial support. Thinking about having different planning times to mix up content area plans.
Peter then turned over the discussion to table groups to discuss:
1) What are we currently doing that is most helpful to your school?
2) What areas/services need improvement?
3) Briefly describe the kind of support that you would like us to develop with you for your school. Structures? Workshops? Institutes? Professional Resources? Tech support? Data Analysis?
4) Please describe strategies that you have put in place that may not have been mentioned by our panelists today.
5) Would you be interested in working with ACI on the development of this support? Is so, please provide name, school, position, and email address.
The audience agreed that there has not been enough done to develop coaches and principals that are new to the design. They suggested a new principal boot camp with an experienced America’s Choice principal as a peer partner to assist them with the design.
Teacher capacity continues to be a problem with high turn over of teachers. Panelist, Susan Phillips, shared that at Chets Creek, they run a Boot Camp for teachers over the summer including three days of intensive training on the design. Joe Lisa also emphasized that common planning time is important for beginning teachers to have on-going support from their grade level teams.
Peter Heaney suggested that America’s Choice could think about:
Developing a way for colleagues to visit schools.
Content based coaching. Which teachers are movers and shakers? Work with them as change agents.
Help support presentations for national conferences—IRA, etc...
Provide more distance learning. How could we do a better job to share presentations?
Offer certification for in-service.
Additionally, the audience suggested the following ideas:
--Array of services to alumni schools—menu of services in a timely manner.
--On-line services for new principals and new teachers.
--Could we have a membership for those of us who don’t have access through extended contracts? Continue to have conversations.
--What is the cost of alumni services? ($10,000 minimum) What comes in the $10,000 package? (Answer: 2 on site focus walks with a follow-up day and creating an action plan. Leadership Training.) There should also be other ways to keep in touch with us. Are there district contracts at discounted rates?
--Cost effective ways to be connected on-line through webinars that have menus to select from.
--Cross district networks.
--Set a partner principal network where an experienced principal helps mentor a new principal.
Principal Academy or training session at regional levels with alumni schools that are at similar levels of implementation.
--What is AC’s plan for schools that have a long term relationship? Year 10, 11, 12?
--What does AC plan to do when they have so many intensive schools to take care of alumni schools?
--Consistency of staff from AC.
--When we ask people to come in and provide services, it is hard to get things scheduled.
The audience seemed sincerely interested in continuing this dialogue that has just begun. America’s Choice said their team would meet to discuss the conversation and create an action plan. If you have any further suggestions or questions, you can contact Peter Heaney at firstname.lastname@example.org.