We say it every year: the summer flew by! That’s certainly how I feel about my summer at Bellwether Education Partners as a Strategic Advising fellow. As I get ready to go back to graduate school, I’m reflecting on my work with a group of school leaders taking on the critical task of school turnaround, who we supported with strategic planning.
This group was eager for guidance from the field, so we put together a panel of amazing leaders experienced in school turnaround: Rebecca Bloch at DSST Public Schools, Mike Kerr at Match Education, and our very own Tresha Ward. Across the three of them, they have more than 40 years of experience working in education.
Here are a few high-level lessons from the panelists for school turnaround leaders:
Build trust from the beginning and listen to the community
To build trust and learn from the community, go on a “listening tour.” This should be one of the first things you do when taking on a new school, with an emphasis on listening rather than asking a long list of questions. As you listen, a few big themes will likely emerge, which will help you develop your strategy and action items. A listening tour will also give you a sense for whether the school has a defined culture. If there’s no clear culture, you are closer to starting from a blank slate, which might be easier than working against the grain. And if there are community must-haves — like access to the school pool on the weekends — figure that out early on.
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