Dr. Matthew X. Joseph – Follow on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools.”
-Jim Collins, Good to Great
As we enter the season of applying, interviewing, and moving into leadership roles (new or upward movement) it is critical to have a plan. Leadership is challenging for both beginning and experienced school administrators because schools have their own culture and identity that includes its history, traditions, norms, and values. To help make a smooth transition, it is very important to respect the existing school culture that has been established over time. New principals want to make the smoothest and best possible transition into a school community and not honoring the culture can put new leaders at risk. I believe the key to this transition is a well-developed Entry plan. I first created one in Natick and then created one while in Boston College for superintendents.
An Entry Plan forces you to develop your vision, values, goals and beliefs as a leader. It challenges you to research the prospective school/district and staff. The goal of the findings are to put you in the position of understanding the school, community, students, and yourself. If you are already in a leadership position, keep reading because a 100 day plan to kick off the year could establish your new vision and assess your progress.
I have found the process of developing my plan insightful, challenging and rewarding. The staff and student decisions (and research) involved in creating the plan were based on my core values and vision as a leader.
There are going to be many challenges in year one (and every year after) and having this dialog will help you focus on the “big” levers and the “nice to know” categories. Below are a few critical steps followed by my demo superintendent entry plan.
Tip: Have a cover page
In the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The purpose of this entry plan is to assist me in developing a comprehensive picture of Eagle School District. It is my hope that the entry plan will guide me in the process of understanding the Eagle School District and strategic planning for the success of its students. This Entry Plan outlines goals and activities to be accomplished during my first 100 days. It was designed based on Convey’s beliefs that the role of the superintendent is one of public service, and that the most powerful and sustainable educational systems are built from the ground up.
Covey also said, “The key to success is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Interviews with various individuals and groups, surveying current stakeholders, reviewing school/district plans and documents, in an effort to develop a sense of the school and provide a basis for future goals, objectives and activities are my top priorities in developing this plan and becoming part of the Eagle School District community.
At its core, this plan outlines the beginning efforts to ensure that teaching and learning is the district’s primary focus and occurs in every classroom, every day. I firmly believe all students have the ability to achieve at the highest levels if afforded the opportunity. A successful partnership for school governance requires shared commitments. Eagle County is an incredible place to live and the community deserves a world-class school system. This Entry Plan sets the foundation for making that desire a reality.
I will present a report of my findings to the Eagle School Board Superintendent, the school administrators, and the community in September and then detail my next steps after my 100 days have past.
Matthew X. Joseph Ed.D
Eagle School District
Tip: What follows should be your detailed plan
Matthew X. Joseph’s Core Values:
The Entry Plan outline has three phases:
Entry Plan Objectives:
Public Relations Objective
Strategic Planning Objective
Meetings and Interviews
I will conduct a series of meetings and key informational interviews to hear from critical members of the Eagle School District school community, policymakers and others. The primary goal of these meetings will be to actively listen and gather input from each stakeholder. My hope is that these interactions will be a foundation for authentic relationships and collaborations to benefit students. I need to hear firsthand from our stakeholders to understand the priorities and needs of our community and its schools. Before the close of each meeting, I also hope to have established some routine communication protocols with the different groups and individuals so that the conversation continues beyond our first discussion. The most important part of entry is engaging in purposeful efforts to listen, learn, and begin to develop plans in collaboration with the Board and the Eagle Public School community.
|Principals (1 High School, 1 Middle School, 2 Elementary)||July|
|Assistant Principals (3 High School, 2 Middle School)||July|
|Central Office Cabinet
|Central office assistants||Summer|
|School Committee Members||July|
|Union President and Vice President||July|
|Staff focus groups from each school||August through September|
|Related service focus groups from each school|
|Paraprofessional focus groups from each school||August through September|
|Family focus groups from each school led by PTO president||September – October|
|Student focus groups||September – October|
|School Committee||After individual meetings|
||August and September as available|
Interview and Focus Group Questions
School and Classroom Visits
Listening events, speaking engagements, and meetings in schools and communities:
In addition to the individual and focus group meetings outlined above, I will establish a series of listening events, where the public is invited to come and bring questions and concerns, or to simply introduce themselves. These meetings will be held at schools and out in the community to provide a convenient and comfortable environment for interested community members.
I will accept as many invitations as possible to speak at school and community gatherings. These might be church events, community workshops, Rotary luncheons or neighborhood association meetings.
At times, I will drop by meetings at schools, including faculty meetings, School-Based Decision Making council meetings, Parent-Teacher Association meetings, grade level meetings, professional development activities and teacher planning sessions. During these visits, I will just be there to observe and learn about issues, activities and efforts throughout the district. My intent will not be to evaluate or interject, but simply to listen.
Objective: The document review is aimed to identify the strengths and opportunities for improvement within the planning and management process as it aligns activities with the strategic reviewing. Analyzing data from the document review will be essential for Phase III, Next Steps.
The following documents will be part of the materials review:
District and School Leader Retreat
The school and district leadership team and superintendent must operate as a team focused on ensuring equity and excellence for all students of Eagle School District. The school and district leadership team and superintendent will meet to collaboratively build relationships, set priorities, engage in team building, establish meeting norms, review operating procedures, discuss governance, and examine communication protocol. It is anticipated that this meeting will occur early in my tenure and before the opening of schools. Holding a retreat is priority number one for a successful leadership entry. The details of the entry plan will be shared and detailed discussions will occur about other transition activities.
I believe a key part of the continuous improvement cycle is regular monitoring of results. To ensure transparency and accountability, district department leaders and school principals will provide quarterly reports and presentations to the central office leadership team. These quarterly meetings will focus on progress monitoring and will allow us to identify trends, challenges, and areas of refinement. By presenting information on a quarterly basis it will allow for interim corrections before results are final. The process will be formative in nature as the feedback will be used to make informed decisions and ensure that actions are aligned with the District Strategic Plan. The reports will occur in November, April, and August.
Closing the Communication Loop
Periodically throughout the entry phases the School Board will be provided with updates on the process and a summary of information being discovered. The community will also be provided with briefs concerning the entry plan and the learning that will be occurring. Because building shared awareness is critical to the school improvement process and transparency in decision-making is an important component of my leadership strategy, a community update will be provided after Phase II. Department presentations will be made available through the web for all stakeholders. Also, we will be investigating the creation of a weblog, podcast, and/or other mechanisms to disseminate information about the findings during entry and receive feedback concerning our improvement efforts.
Development of Next Steps: Phase III: February – May
This Entry Plan will afford me the opportunity to listen, observe and learn from a variety of community members while gaining an understanding of the local context of the city and the Eagle School System. Through this process, I will begin to formulate ideas and frame strategies to improve our school system so that we increase student achievement for all students while simultaneously closing the achievement gap and ensuring success for every child.
Through my interactions with so many stakeholders, I hope to educate our school district and community about the focus and direction of the Eagle Public Schools. I am energized to build upon existing excitement and momentum to identify and execute the priority activities for our school district.
The Eagle School committee can expect a presentation of finding from this entry plan and a framework to create a strategic plan to implement findings. The entry plan report findings will be shared with the Eagle School Committee. The strategic plan will guide initiatives, programs, activities, and benchmarks on moving forward over the next 18 months.
Strategy in Action: How School Systems Can Support Powerful Learning and Teaching, By Rachel E. Curtis and Elizabeth A. City
The Entry Plan Handbook, Leadership and Learning Inc.
Format inspired by the work of Superintendent Dr. Peter Sanchioni