Coffeyville USD 445, a partner with the Kansas Leadership Center in the Leadership Transformation Grant program, was one of the original seven school districts selected to serve as demonstration sites for others in Kansas to study, learn and visit about the Kansans Can School Redesign Project.
Craig Correll, the district’s superintendent, says that leadership training pairs well with the process because the redesign is about leading, especially teacher leadership. Despite time constraints, the district is in the process of sending all of its building redesign team members through KLC training.
“Teachers have great ideas and are very passionate, what they haven’t had through their undergraduate degree is specific training in leadership,” Correll says.
With another 21 districts in the process of launching their redesign efforts, and another 38 in the pipeline, Correll says his biggest piece of advice for schools embarking on the project is to be sure to open lines of communication.
“You can never communicate too much or to too many people,” Correll says.
Jill Lachenmayr, assistant superintendent for academic affairs in Andover USD 358, also stresses the importance of communication, especially explaining the “why” of redesign. Three elementary schools and one middle school joined the third round of redesign districts, Gemini II. Those schools have launched their redesigns and will be refining their approaches throughout the 2019-20 school year. Another elementary school and Andover eCademy begin the process this year.
The remaining schools in the district will start the redesign process by the 2021-22 school years, according to district spokesman Terry Rombeck.
Being able to share the story of how the school redesign is unfolding is important, Lachenmayr says, and the district has been able to effectively use social media and testimonial videos to help communicate the excitement and passion people in the district have about the program.
“It’s important to share the story from multiple perspectives,” Lachenmayr says. “We have featured videos showing students, parents and educators. All of those stories are so important to tell and they weave together into this beautiful tapestry of school redesign.”
Lachenmayr, who attended KLC’s Lead for Change program in 2017, sees KLC leadership training as being a natural fit with the redesign process. However, she notes that because Andover was a Leadership Transformation Grant partner in 2017, a year before Andover even began the redesign process, the two efforts weren’t as connected as they could have been. State education officials have recognized the importance of leadership training enough that they are partnering with the Kansas Association of School Boards to embed leadership training into the process for new schools undertaking the redesign.
Lachenmayr says that leadership training and facilitation skills are particularly useful for teachers, who must be skilled at being able to engage in productive discussions with other teachers, not just great at teaching students, for the redesign to proceed smoothly.
“Teacher leadership is a really big need right now in our state and probably across the nation,” Lachenmayr says. “How do we give them those skills, capabilities and qualities to be effective leaders for adult learning?”
Her guidance for those districts that are just beginning the redesign process or will enter it in the years to come?
“My advice would be give the gift of the time to the schools and teacher leadership teams going through the process,” she says. “Enjoy the journey, knowing that it’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s also hard work but I think having fun along the way is really important.”
Here are several other pieces of advice building principals in the Coffeyville district shared about making the redesign unfold smoothly and effectively.