Saturday, September 13, 2014

Distributed Leadership Team

We had our first Math Council meeting of the 2014-2015 school year on Wednesday and as I began to pen a post about our time together, I realized that what first needed to be understood was the structure of our distributed leadership in our learning community and the fundamental reason that this team had assembled.

Over a decade ago when we embraced the America's Choice comprehensive school design, they met with our founding principal and asked her to put together a Leadership Team. The make up of the team was to include the school's leaders that would guide the school's vision instructionally and culturally,and make day to day decisions, together as a team, that would steer us in achieving our vision and mission. Members included the principal, vice principal, instructional coaches, guidance counselor, and our community outreach coordinators. Over the years, the make up of this team was fluid but the goal never changed, to distribute leadership throughout the school to ensure the school's goals were achieved.

In those early days, we were blessed with reading and math coaches who planned for and implemented the school's professional development and also did daily in class coaching. This meant that we were having quality discussion at our Leadership Team table about the instructional goals and plans of the school. In time, however, as our school's funding increasingly tightened, vice principal positions vanished, and multiple content coaches became non-existent, we had arrived at a different destination.

We were at a point where there was funding for the principal position and one instructional coach only. Our team had lost critical members and the focus on instruction had began to shift. We knew we needed to redefine our Leadership Team and more heavily embrace teacher leadership. We needed and wanted more of our leadership conversation to be focused on vertical articulation in each content area but we had to do it without funding to add more people.

The birth of the Curriculum Leadership Council emerged. The CLC would be comprised of an English Language Arts Council, Math Council, and Science Council. Each council would be made up of a lead teacher from each grade level in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade responsible for taking the content our council meetings and distributing the message and professional learning to each of the grade level teams during their weekly Teacher Meetings.

The principal would meet with the whole CLC Leadership Team the first Wednesday of the month, and then I would run ELA Council the second Wednesday, Math Council the third Wednesday, and Science Council the fourth Wednesday of the month. The teams would meet from 8:30-10:00 am. The principal had strategically set up the resource schedule on Wednesdays to give extra resource to the classes where teachers were involved in Council Meetings and/or have a co-teacher cover. 

In the couple of years that I planned for and ran each Council group, I was stretched incredibly thin. I did the best I could to stay one step ahead, and although the Council groups were better than what we had, they were not as good as what we needed.

We were thrilled when a Reading Coach position was added and Melanie embraced the role.  She then became the chair of the ELA Council. This allowed her to plan for and implement ELA Council, attend some of the Teacher Meetings, provide book study, and do in class coaching. The momentum had changed and the depth of the ELA work of the school had a significant, marked difference. Melanie embraced her own learning, attended national training, began implementing new ideas and curriculum tools. Our ELA instruction began showing positive signs of growth.

On the math side, although we don't have the funds to hire a math coach, the district did add an Assistant Principal position.  I assumed that AP position and continued to lead the Math Council. Although, I don't have as much time as a dedicated coach, I do my best to fulfill both roles. I study the new standards, content limits, and item specifications, explore the online resources,  read the math books in each grade level and subject area to understand the curriculum tools, manage the online math resources available to students, and do my best to provide in class coaching. I assist the math leads with training as needed.

Our fifth grade math lead, Carolyn, was charged with running our Science Council. Although she has full time teaching responsibilities, she embraced the role to lead the team. This year, she and our reading coach, have joined forces and will integrate more informational teaching strategies into the Science Council meetings. We know that it's not ideal, but without a dedicated Science Coach, it's our best solution. We are incredibly grateful that Carolyn has embraced the role and serves to support the other grade level leads as they maintain the momentum of science instruction in our building.

In a turn of events this year, we discovered that it was necessary to create a new council group- Response to Intervention Council.  So, the above diagram will now be altered to include this new council group and the CLC meeting will be replaced with the RtI C meeting.  It's another perfect example of how we don't let obstacles stand in our way, rather we figure out solutions for barriers. We are hopeful that this new RtI Council will lead their grade level teams to ensure that all students are assessed and receiving the appropriate Tier II and Tier III interventions. Our Dean of Students and  Guidance Counselor are co-chairing this council team.  
This is a glimpse at our Distributed Leadership Team flow chart.
 To keep up on our progress this year, stay tuned...

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