By Karen K. Garza, PhD
How often do you hear yourself saying, “Sorry, we have too much going on!” to opportunities? Sometimes to potentially valuable opportunities? With all the demands placed on school leaders, you’re sure to often feel there’s no way to take on even one more thing.
One reason many school leaders feel this way is the lack of a unifying vision and purpose for the many changes being undertaken across the system. Without a shared vision that sets the direction and creates momentum, initiatives feel like a series of disconnected efforts layered on top of each other, and the real transformation that is necessary never occurs.
“The time crunch on superintendents is broad, but this is the important work. This is about reshaping classrooms for students, and that’s the key component of what we’re trying to do as school leaders,” said John Kellogg, superintendent, Westerville City Schools (OH). “Spending time on the most important issue is a good investment.”
School leaders across the country are realizing that by investing time with their greater community to create a Portrait of a Graduate, they achieve system transformation with fewer obstacles and less resistance.
When the broader community—students, teachers, families, local businesses, and community leaders—come together to answer, “What are the hopes, aspirations, and dreams that we have for our young people?”
the resulting Portrait of a Graduate is their collective vision and becomes the school system’s North Star!
These deep, provocative conversations with the entire community allow stakeholders to wrestle with how the world is changing and the implications those changes have for their school systems. How do we best equip all students for tomorrow’s workforce? How do we best prepare them to be lifelong learners and contributors in the 21st century?
This process has enabled superintendents to accelerate deep, transformative change throughout their school systems.
“The Portrait of a Graduate was such a wonderful opportunity to engage so many stakeholders, and we can now say that our graduates will leave here with these skills and dispositions,” explained Danielle Prohaska, superintendent, Mechanicsburg Exempted Schools (OH). “We’ve made tons of progress in the last 18 months to two years.”
But partnering with community members isn’t the only collaboration in which superintendents should invest time. Committing to a network in which superintendents learn alongside other school leaders dedicated to systems transformation is another great return on time invested.
“We’re ready to make changes to truly meet the 21st century needs of our students,” said Kimberly Pietsch Miller, superintendent, Bexley City Schools (OH). “We knew that being a part of a group of other learners and other districts who were also doing that type of work would be really beneficial to us, and it has been.”
So, next time you say to yourself, “My system can’t take on another thing!” consider how investing time to create a unifying Portrait of a Graduate—or engage in a network like EdLeader21—can lead to enduring change, resulting in the creation of new, deeper outcomes for your graduates!
By Karen K. Garza, PhD,
CEO and President,
Battelle for Kids
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