The Five Priorities and What We Did to Address Them
Dr. Joseph’s entry plan specified five areas of focus for his first 100 days. The five priority areas were selected to help Dr. Joseph better understand the state of the district in an accelerated fashion and set the stage for needed improvements.
1. Governance: Board of Education and Leadership Team - Action
A firm belief of Dr. Joseph’s is that leadership must blaze the trail to any large-scale improvement if it is to be successful. In order to build unity of purpose and direction with the Board of Education, he brought in thought leaders on leadership, culture and governance from Gallup, the Arbinger Institute and the Panasonic Foundation.
Through intensive work with these groups, members of the Board are leading a broad culture change in the district with plans to expand this work to all employees in the coming months. The new district culture is based on relationships and meeting others’ needs through service to our families and fellow employees. All involved are committed to seeing this work through in order to build a system that is capable of transformation and rapid improvement.
Dr. Joseph and the Board were also able to accomplish the very practical matters related to how they will lead the district together:
- Establishing criteria for how the Director will be evaluated and how his strategic plan will be developed
- Agreeing on a draft shared mission, vision and core value statements
- Establishing key performance indicators and the means to easily report performance data
- Coordinating Board agendas and materials for all Board meetings
- Setting clear communications protocols between Board members and the Director and his employees
- Clarified the Board’s role as one of governance
2. Organizational Capacity and Alignment: District Executives and Senior Staff - Action
With that foundational work underway, Dr. Joseph began working with his leadership team to chart a course toward a central office that can support the work to come.
To help decide the way forward, Dr. Joseph enlisted his Transition Team to conduct intense, independent study in four key areas. Now that the Team’s analysis is complete, team members are expected to submit a formal set of recommendations in January 2017 that will guide the decisions made in the strategic planning process.
For the leadership team, this means continuing the organizational culture work begun by the Board and developing leadership structures and pipelines to support schools and programs. Four chiefs – chief of schools, chief academic officer, chief of operations and chief of staff – were assembled to lead distinct divisions of work in the district. A strong corps of executive lead principals and executive officers were charged with offering greater direct support to school leaders, and working collaboratively, all district leaders were expected to contribute to ongoing leadership development, instructional coaching and monitoring that will help improve student achievement this school year.
3. Student Achievement – Action and Analysis
Before forging a path forward, Dr. Joseph undertook a deep analysis of student achievement and instructional practices by reviewing district data, conducting 74 school visits to see teaching and learning first hand, and holding lengthy discussions with leadership about curriculum, instructional rigor, professional development and assessments.
Equity is one of Dr. Joseph’s top concerns in education, and the need for all of us to address inequities has been apparent from the district’s achievement gaps, startling literacy scores and low college-readiness numbers that it is one of Nashville’s biggest challenges. Based on the data analysis, Dr. Joseph and his team took action to improve and streamline assessments, introduce new and effective practices into schools, begin work on widespread improvement of professional development and identify programs that are not delivering results.
To address the schools in most urgent need of improvement, the state-identified priority schools, leadership launched a new support framework designed to support schools’ plans to improve.
4. Communications and Public Relations – Action and Analysis
Dr. Joseph immediately set a clear expectation for community engagement and robust communication. On his first full day on the job, he began a herculean engagement effort designed to learn as much from district stakeholders as possible. He held 12 Listen & Learn sessions, giving families and staff in all areas of the district the opportunity to share their hopes and dreams for Metro Schools through written feedback as well as an open mic discussion. Those Listen & Learn sessions, which segued into 30 Parent & Employee Voice sessions later in the fall, were a key part of his research and analysis during the first 100 days.
Dr. Joseph spent many of his days visiting schools and meeting teachers, principals and students. He also attended dozens of meetings with community organizations, business and nonprofit partners and individual meetings with civic leaders. His listening tour helped him better understand the culture, history and expectations in and around Metro Schools.
At the same time, the Communications Department continued its improvement work, developing a new brand and logo for the district, a more helpful and modern website, more meaningful internal communications channels and a renewed focus on customer service.
5. Operations and Finance – Action and Analysis
Lastly, Dr. Joseph sought to ensure the organization’s structures and processes – of critical importance to executing the new strategic plan – would be built as solid and capable of supporting the work. He dove into the budget and operational practices so that he could both plan ahead and find immediate opportunities for improvement. Some of that resulted in realigning resources to better support literacy, leadership, organizational culture, communications and governance. He also began looking at metrics that are used to measure success for the organization and individual programs.
Dr. Joseph and his team also began a long-term process of reassessing the district’s buildings, including capacity, programming and how school choice affects student distribution, with a goal of launching a new 10-year capital planning process.