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Nov 12

Chris Smeaton

Alignment counts!

This week our senior administration completed our school continuous improvement plan reviews with all of our school leaders. The process is fairly simple in that each school administration team comes into the board office and shares their plan with our senior education leaders. While I understand that it can a little intimidating for our newer leaders, it is meant to be an opportunity to share the great work occurring in each school, ask some questions and engage in conversations around continuous improvement. While it may cause some reflection from our school leaders (I tend to nudge & challenge a bit), it is important to all of our senior education leaders to come away with a greater understanding of individual schools.

In reviewing our meetings, it was the consensus of our senior leaders that this round of continuous improvement plan reviews was our best. The alignment around our board strategic priorities was tight. Part of the reason for such tight alignment is that our priorities have grown out of the work that we’ve been doing as a school division for the last number of years. While they are board priorities, they were not established from a purely top down model. Our foray into being data informed and far more reflective on professional practice has led us to this place. Being reflective in our practice and being guided by data are where significant improvement breeds.

There’s something else about our priorities that makes alignment easier to attain…they’re written in plain English, not educational babble and they can be formed into SMART goals so improvement can be measured. It sounds simple but if there is not common understanding with staff, how are we going to engage parents in helping to achieve our priorities if they don’t understand the meaning. My graduate level students from Gonzaga University hear me say often to utilize the KIS Principle, “Keep It Simple.”

But our success is not only around our alignment in priorities. We have created an alignment in our language of questioning. It is not only accepted that we use the question, “How do you know?” it is expected; Senior administration to school administration and visa versa, school administration to teachers and it is surfacing in our classrooms too from teacher to student. We’ve created alignment around instructional practice and ensured that our professional learning is supportive.

I’d be naïve if I didn’t believe there are some outliers in our division. Not everybody believes in our priorities or our methods or even our PD, but the tipping point has long since passed and those who choose not to keep up unfortunately fall farther and farther behind. Continuous improvement is difficult in education period but when your ideals and practices, your actions and understanding and your support and desires are aligned, it occurs! Holy Spirit is a school division not a division of schools because alignment counts!

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