Tag Archives: Tresha Francis Ward

Facing a School Turnaround Or Restart? We Have Expert Advice For You.

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.

Figure out the community must-haves, whether that’s a community garden or pool, and maintain those. Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

Know your focus areas Continue reading

Kids Are Counting On Us: A Q&A With Bellwether’s New Academic Strategy Senior Advisers

Many organizations in the education sector seek our advice to deepen and broaden their impact in service of kids. Since our foundation, Bellwether has worked with CMOs and districts to set strategic priorities and build out detailed plans to accomplish these priorities from an operations, talent, and finance perspective.

headshots for Bill Durbin and Tresha Francis WardWe often get inquiries about whether we can help improve the academic performance of a subset of schools, or all schools in a network or district. We’re happy to announce that we’ve filled this missing piece: In 2017, we brought on Bill Durbin and Tresha Francis Ward as academic strategy senior advisers. In the Q&A below, we talk about their backgrounds and how they help schools drive the kinds of outcomes that all kids deserve.

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds. How will your work and life experiences translate to offering academic strategy advice?

Bill Durbin: Over the past 18 years, I have been a teacher, school founder, and school leader manager at both YES Prep Public Schools in Houston and DSST Public Schools in Denver. Through these experiences, I have developed a deep appreciation for the coordinated effort it takes across a school and network team to run highly effective schools. A school’s success relies on adults aligning around a common vision and executing strategies that are clear and which reinforce that vision for student success.

Whether the school is a public charter school or a traditional public school, teachers and leaders want to work in a place where they know what is expected of them to reach the desired outcomes for kids. I have supported various types of schools in aligning their outcomes, strategies, and practices, and I look forward to doing that even more as we continue to work with schools across the country.      

Tresha Francis Ward: I’m a first-generation college student, born and raised in the Bronx, NY. My own experiences with schools and in college are the primary reason I got into education. I have spent the last 13 years working in, around, and with schools as a teacher, school founder, director, and manager of schools, all serving historically underserved black and brown students. It’s my personal desire to ensure more kids that look like me have access to great schools and educators.

I started my career on the Southeast side of Houston at De Zavala Elementary School as a Teach For America corps member. The neighborhood was 99.9% Latino, so in addition to learning how to teach, I also had to overcome language barriers and find ways to build trust with my students and their families.

After four years of teaching, I was accepted to KIPP’s Fisher Fellowship, where educators found and lead new high-performing KIPP schools. In the fall of 2010, I opened KIPP Legacy Preparatory School on the Northeast side of Houston, serving a different population of students. Being a founding school leader was the most challenging and yet most rewarding thing I have ever done. It took time and a lot of iteration, but I’m proud of the culture we built. It’s a culture that still thrives, where our kids feel loved, cared for, and still held to high expectations in a respectful way.

After several years as a school leader, I joined the KIPP Foundation, where I was responsible for the professional learning of 200+ school leaders and for helping to implement academic initiatives across their campuses. After a few years at the Foundation, I missed being in schools, so I returned to my home city of New York to manage a K-8 turnaround campus in Brooklyn. That experience reiterated the importance of building relationships as a key part of a school’s success.

When I coach school leaders or work with them, I never forget how hard the job is — and I never forget how rewarding it is either.

Can you share a defining “a-ha” moment from your past academic leadership? How does that experience inform you today? Continue reading