KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A school district's Board of Education has to handle many aspects of public education from finance and operations to performance and outcomes. Hear from candidates for the Raytown school board.
Why are you running for the Board of Education? If elected, what will be your priorities?
Shaun Bryant - The community must trust the Board. There’s a possibility that, after this election, only one board member will have served before 2019. With so many new members, generating community trust in the Board will be crucial and very important. This means that we have to be visible. One of my campaign promises is to spend time each week in Raytown C-2 schools while they’re in session. I want to see how behavior interventions are implemented. I was to see how teachers are using the curriculum. I want to talk to individuals. Of course, I can’t make decisions with a board meeting and quorum, but I can and certainly will collect observations. My principal and superintendent are on board with this endeavor because they know the more they let me fulfill my passion, the more I’ll give to them. I will contribute at all board meetings during the board member report. I will be at every board meeting, attending virtually if necessary. The only exception to this campaign promise is if “Survivor” finally allows me to be a castaway.
Further, we can generate community trust in the board if we intentionally seek out individuals to speak at the public forum comment period embedded into the structure of every board meeting. Just like teachers stand in the doorway to greet students, I will be in the doorway of the board meeting room to greet guests each month. We’ll likely have to administer a survey to the community comparing periodic data relevant to trust in the board.
Next, we need to empower students to be leaders. Since my dissertation’s sample comes from student leaders, I’ve conducted hundreds of hours of research related to student leadership. It turns out that students shouldn’t have to prove that they deserve a leadership role before it is given to them. Rather, students learn leadership skills in that leadership role. Therefore, we must provide them with leadership roles and then allow them to learn leadership skills while performing those roles. Eventually, students will begin applying those leadership roles to other areas of their lives. And that’s when we know a student owns their school. After that, they attend more and they achieve more. The important thing, though, is that if a student is absent, no one does that leadership role that day. For instance, if a fourth-grade student’s leadership role is to sharpen pencils at the end of the day, then everyone will have to use dull pencils the next day. This makes students feel like a valued, crucial part of the school. I conducted a study in my middle school the year before the pandemic. Among students who participated in the “trifecta”—a club, a sport, and an internship—87% of quarterly grades were A’s.
Despite these endeavors, some students will still have poor attendance. Attendance is the key to improving funding. While many candidates say that one of their focus areas is improving attendance, few have actual ideas to make this happen. However, I have multiple. Some students hate riding the bus because of the culture. I was called “petite” on the school bus by my bully in middle school because our French teacher told us it meant small and feminine. If I had a choice, I might not have gone to school because of that experience. We need to empower high school students to serve as bus aides. They can build culture, hold students accountable, and assist the bus driver. Students in high school classes currently offer babysitting for certain hours of the day, so surely allowing kids to supervise the buses is possible. This could attract bus drivers to our district from elsewhere.
I have another idea to improve attendance, and it’s very innovative. However, the entities associated with this idea prefer I not mention them because they don’t want to appear to endorse a candidate. Just know that I have an ace up my sleeve. I’ll reveal what it is on social media the day after election day (if voted in).
Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board of education?
Shaun Bryant - My initial inspiration for running for the school board relates to our discipline system. I spoke at a board meeting, in fact, about the state of our discipline system. Unfortunately, the district releases PDFs (not Excel files) of various discipline reports. I have to convert those to Excel documents to crunch the numbers. I mentioned to the Board that 46% of all suspensions resulted from subjective discipline referrals such as disrespect or disruptiveness. I stated that “Trauma Smart” is a good step, but more needs to be done to reduce the number of discipline referrals and suspensions.
According to the documents released at the March board meeting, students in this district have been suspended 4,640 times through Feb. 28 this year. In-school suspension (ISS) does not hurt attendance, but it most certainly hurts academics because students aren’t in their classrooms. Out-of-school suspension (OSS) does hurt attendance. Unfortunately, students tend to receive more days of OSS than they do of ISS. While total ISS occurrences represent 72% of all suspensions, they only account for 50% of the total days of suspensions. Indeed, our district has assigned our students 1,298 days—not hours, days—of OSS so far this year. Assuming a student’s school year has 170 days, that’s the equivalent of more than 22 years of schooling. That’s longer than incumbent Rick Moore has been on the Board. I’m completely on board with imposing a term limit if enough individuals file for candidacy to fill the Board. One of my campaign promises is not to serve more than nine years on the Board. If I can accomplish (with my fellow Board members) what I think I can, then I only need nine years. And if I can’t, then I need to step down.
I wonder how these suspensions have affected our attendance and enrollment. If certain students experience numerous days of OSS, families might want to take them out of the district. If they live within the Kansas City area of the district, then they can go to basically any charter school, which harms our enrollment numbers. According to the Transient Student report released this month, our year-to-date enrollment is currently 8,486. However, 928 students have withdrawn from our district since the beginning of the year. I wonder if suspended students are more likely to leave the district.
I also wonder (and assume, actually) that suspensions have been detrimental to our goal of 90% of students attending at least 90% of the time. If reduced attendance due to OSS drops a student below 90% attendance, then we’re choosing to sacrifice those funding dollars. We must dignify our discipline system, empower students to lead and take ownership of their schools, and then watch the magic happen.
What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member?
Shaun Bryant - I’m a Level III certified “Leader in Me” coach and trainer of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In fact, just 10 months after my initial certification, I helped make my school the first “Leader in Me” school (there are over 6,000 globally) to receive the Franklin Covey Lighthouse Leadership certification virtually. This role allows me to maximize student leadership, culture, and academics. The other half of this role includes certification to coach individuals and groups of students and teams of adults. I’ve trained countless people in the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I would love for the board members to experience this training, and I am happy not only to conduct the training but to pay the fees. As a board, we will have to maximize our individual and collaborative effectiveness if we are going to make positive changes in the district.
I’m less than a year from obtaining my Doctor of Education in organizational leadership and development. I’ve already finished my coursework and earned at least 95% of all points in every class for a cumulative GPA of 3.9. These courses have prepared me specifically to serve on a school board. Examples of classes are Systems Thinking, Ethical Dilemmas, Stakeholders: Roles in Organizations, Organizational Theory, Approaches to Research Design and Data Analysis, Strategic Planning and Change, Leading Across Cultures, and more. One of my campaign promises is that I will resign from the Board on December 31, 2024, if I have not completed my doctorate by then. One other candidate does have a doctorate, but she focused on Christian education and her experience has been primarily with college students.
I have a math brain. There’s really no other way to describe it. I have been a math instructional coach, a math teacher, a math team sponsor, and a math interventionist. After earning my Master of Education in curriculum & instruction, I wrote an entire middle school math curriculum with aligned assessments and vocabulary. I was placed in gifted classes at the age of eight, and Duke University wanted me for a month when I was in middle school. I’m a member of the College National Honor Society. I can data from multiple sources and synthesize a collective, bigger picture of what’s happening.
I can lead a team. As co-chair of AIDS Walk KC from 2016-2018, my teams and I raised approximately $100,000 for people in the community. In my first year as a “Leader in Me” coach, my fellow coaches and I helped our school become the first virtually-certified Franklin Covey Lighthouse School. As 14-year captain of Kansas City’s longest-running and most-popular kickball team, we won more national tournament games than any team in KC history. As an integral member of “La Voz de los Osos,” a Hispanic student affinity group, I helped to establish culturally relevant events even during the pandemic. I was the assistant director of events for the 2019 NAGAAA softball world series, which had an estimated economic impact of approximately $3 million.
What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members?
Shaun Bryant - My paradigm about many things is different than others. Many people think that issues have two sides and that they must support one side and reject the other. But that’s a sucker’s bet because there are always alternative options in which everyone gets their wins. To me, perspectives are not left or right like a number line; they can go up, down, or sideways like a target with a bullseye. People often call my disposition and paradigms a “breath of fresh air.”
I’m the only candidate endorsed by MoEEP: Missouri Equity Educational Partnership. I’m fully certified in the “Trauma Smart” program that Raytown teachers began learning this year. I’ve already implemented the NWEA assessment that Raytown teachers are beginning to administer this year. I’ve used Tyler SISK12, the district's student information/data program. I currently serve on an academic excellence board committee in the district where I currently work.
Clarity of Purpose
What are the factors on which you will base your decisions as a school board member?
Shaun Bryant - What’s good for the kids the most? That’s usually my North Star when it comes to decision-making. Then the question becomes how to determine what’s best for kids. My goal is to consult with any stakeholder willing to share their perspectives about a topic of concern. This will give me a clearer picture of all perspectives, which can help to form my decisions.
Ensuring that I consult with all stakeholders will help me make wise decisions financially because our community cares deeply about fiscal responsibility. Of course, the individuals who benefit from a particular idea are likely to support it regardless of the cost. That’s why consulting with opponents and proponents of any issue is crucial.
Proactive decision-making is almost always more cost- and time-effective than reactive policies. Therefore, my decisions will be based on what’s most important to the district rather than the most urgent. Sometimes we mistake the loudest, most pressing issues for the most important causes. Often, the most important things do not demand our attention, so we address what’s the most urgent. For example, we punish students truant from school with out-of-school suspension. Dealing with truancy is urgent, so it grabs our attention and time. But isn’t it important to develop leaders so students can own their school and want to attend? It sure is, but developing leaders doesn’t appear urgent, so it’s often forgotten. We need to spend our time and make decisions on important issues before they become urgent.
I’ll also base my decisions on what’s right according to my moral compass, which is very strong. It takes a very steadfast individual to fight for what’s moral and just, even if it goes against what some people consider ethical.
What specific steps would you take as a school board member to improve transparency and make school district information more widely available?
Shaun Bryant - Transparency and vulnerability are vital for organizations wishing to sustain. Of course, it allows stakeholders to be well-informed, but it also builds the community's trust in the board members.
New information about the district is available every month at least four days before each board meeting. These agendas, available free online, include updated documents related to attendance, discipline, budgets, and other important data. Of course, simply sharing data doesn’t represent transparent behaviors unless the data makes sense to the average person. From my experience interacting with stakeholders on social media, for instance, I’ve realized that several stakeholders don’t understand the difference between average attendance and the 90/90 threshold. This is an important distinction because our district receives maximum funding when students attend 90% of the time. Therefore, my role will be to present data in a clear, concise format that is easy for any stakeholder to understand.
When proposing a new idea, presenters must be transparent about the benefits and drawbacks of the proposition. Multiple district meetings have aimed at promoting the current Our Children Our Investment 2023 Bond. No one has mentioned the possible benefits of voting against it. Nor has anyone discussed the drawbacks of passing the bond openly. I like to ask a very powerful question: “Consider all the opposing points of view you’ve heard about this idea. In your opinion, what has been the most valid concern?” This forces people to be transparent.
Currently, most board members do not speak during the board member report section of each board meeting that is built into the structure of the agenda. However, these reports represent a pivotal opportunity for board members to discuss their experiences in the district since the last board meeting. When board members do not speak, does that mean they’ve had zero activity in the district in the past month?
Two of my campaign promises are related to this topic of transparency. First, I promise to always contribute during the board member report period. This will be possible because of my other promise that I will be in Raytown C-2 schools every week while they are in session. Given that I am an educator at a school, how is this possible? Easy. My principal and superintendent know that I have a deep conviction that this role on the Board is what I’m meant to do. They are supportive because they know that allowing stakeholders to achieve their personal dreams will motivate them to do even more to achieve their professional dreams.
As a school board member, from whom will you seek advice or input in weighing key decisions?
Shaun Bryant - I will solicit advice and input from anyone who will provide it. I am a master at creating Google Forms and then crunching the numbers to make sense of the data. After all, my dissertation is a quantitative methodology that examines the comparative relationship between the actual leadership behaviors of student leaders and their racial groups. In some cases, I have researched and experienced best practices, so my need to consult might be targeted to a few individuals. But for issues I don’t already consider myself an expert, I’ll likely use my social media page to enlist help from the district. If I tag Raytown C-2 School District when I post a survey, anyone following that page can complete the survey. This is another reason why we must expect families and stakeholders in our district to follow the district’s social media page as well as the pages of any schools their children might attend.
There’s a chance that, after this election, only one board member will have been on the Board prior to 2019. That board member is Mrs. Bobbie Saulsberry. Her expertise will be crucial. Current board member Natalie Johnson-Berry and Board President Alonzo Burton will also have vital insights. I will also conduct my own research using scholarly sources of literature. Empirical studies are excellent sources of unbiased, scientifically valid information.
My parents and other family members, former district students, will be an important source of advice and insight because they always provide unique and neutral perspectives of any situation that help me to make decisions that benefit the collective.
Finance and Operations
What are your thoughts on the current and the proposed budget for your school district? How would you determine your budget priorities?
Shaun Bryant - It’s important to mention that the district won the Meritorious Budget Award for fiscal responsibility on the 2021-2022 budget. There’s no reason the district can earn this award regularly.
The district spends about 70% of its operational budget on salaries and benefits. This is similar to other districts. Obviously, increasing that percentage would mean reducing the amount of money the district can spend on materials, curriculum, supplies, and even utilities. So in order to pay teachers competitively and still have enough room to cover all other needs, the best option is to increase the budget. But how?
First, we can improve attendance. More than half of our budget comes from local sources. Over a third of the budget comes from the state. We can increase funding from the state if we increase our attendance. A school receives full funding if/when at least 90% of its students attend school 90% of the time. This seems very feasible; after all, 90% attendance allows a student to miss one day out of every two five-day weeks. However, according to the district’s March Attendance Report, less than one-third of our students have attended school at least 90% of the time this year. This number is lower for every district school except Westridge Elementary and Herndon Career Center. Overall, over 2,300 students in the district could cause additional funding for the district if they attended more frequently.
Next, we can improve enrollment. School boards base their budgets on projected enrollment numbers. Since 1987, the district’s enrollment has increased more frequently than it has decreased. This should relieve some concerns that our district is losing students. That said, the district’s enrollment has, indeed, dropped several years in a row. If we can get our enrollment numbers back up to 9,476 like it was during the 2015-2016 school year, our budget will be bigger.
We can also reduce expenses in many ways. I’m on a committee to reduce the budget by $1 million in the district where I currently work. It will be a tough job, but we can do it. One way we can do this is to minimize the number of programs we use. It’s alarming how many companies emerged during the pandemic that claims to provide no-preparation, differentiated instruction that is research-based and effective. However, their studies often compare the effect of their program’s interventions to a complete lack of intervention. Yes, most programs out there will be more effective than nothing. We need to know which programs have legitimate, research-based data that applies to our region and student body. The district’s decision to switch its summer school curriculum from Catapult Learning to Savvas is the perfect example of using services that give us the most bang for our buck.
What are the district’s greatest capital needs right now? How do you think those needs should be addressed?
Shaun Bryant - The 2019 bond continues to address district needs. For instance, during the February board meeting, the board approved a nearly $3 million project to upgrade various elementary schools. When board president Alonzo Burton asked the facilities director what the source of funding was, he mentioned that it was part of the 2019 bond. As a result, it’s hard to say which capital needs are the greatest. I first need to know what remaining projects the 2019 bond will fund.
I also need to know what might be on bonds after this upcoming 2023 bond. The facilities director mentioned that there’s a bond agent that works backward. In other words, we should know what might be on the 2028 and 2032 bonds. This will inform what capital projects need to occur in the short and long term.
Ultimately, one of my biggest priorities is to help establish an early education system that all but guarantees that every student in the district is on grade level by the third grade. The Obama Institute released very convincing data that suggests students who are behind grade level in the third grade will have difficulty staying on pace with their peers throughout their educational careers and beyond. And if students are struggling to master regular classroom instruction, they’re very unlikely to go above and beyond to be active in their school community. Unfortunately, many districts prioritize third grade and up because that’s when they start taking the annual MAP test. To me, this is reactive. My vision for the Raytown C-2 School District is that we have a pre-kindergarten center for every four-year-old in the district, regardless of their family’s ability to transport them. Currently, we are on a waitlist for our preschool, transportation is not provided, and it puts out-of-district families below current families. How are we going to attract young families wanting to find a district for their children’s education if we are limiting their ability to start with us in pre-kindergarten? The brain-based support for pre-kindergarten is convincing. The brain has 200 billion neurons at birth. When we learn, the brain makes neural connections that make it easier to learn down the road. It’s important we expose kids to experiences like music, singing, cooking, art, building, playing instruments, and learning new languages when the brain’s window of opportunity to learn such skills is open. And that’s at the age of four. Exposing kids to these experiences in a pre-kindergarten center will enable the brain to learn other subjects like math and reading much more easily in the future.
How will you enlist support for bond issues or public school spending from voters or taxpayers with no children in the public schools? How can the school board prove itself accountable to those citizens?
Shaun Bryant - I spoke at the board meeting in February during the public comment period. I noticed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the 2019 bond-funded gym upgrades. My question to the Board was whether or not they knew if any of the money from those upgrades would become obsolete when or if the 2023 bond goes through. Ultimately, it’s about transparency and honesty. The district has hosted multiple public meetings to discuss and answer questions about the 2023 bond. These presentations only mention the benefits of the passage, not the drawbacks, and vice versa, for the benefits of not passing the bond.
When it comes to community members without children in the district, it’s important that we know what their wins are. For example, many Raytown residents with whom I’ve interacted on social media are concerned that a school bond interferes with city bonds. One concern is that the school bond will interfere with the city’s need to address the sewers. We need to avoid the sucker’s bets that make it seem like it’s either/or. Community buy-in will be higher if we can give everyone their wins. Lencioni (2002) asserts that collecting the community’s insights will generate greater collective buy-in, even if such ideas are not used.
The school board can be accountable through transparency and soliciting insight/input. What, specifically, will the $35 million bond fund? I attend most school board meetings, and it seems like there’s always some 2019 bond-related project to approve. And yes, the small print in the wording of the 2023 bond indicates a timeline of when which projects will be completed, but I don’t think it’s detailed enough.
By the way, Board President Alonzo Burton asked a series of questions to the facilities director after my speech during the February board meeting, which illuminated the fact that we do have a bond agent that might already know what will be on future bonds. If elected to the Board, one of my first questions will be, “What’s on future bonds?”
Teacher starting salaries continue to be an ongoing discussion here in Missouri. How will you be able to keep and attract staff despite having some of the lowest salaries in the nation?
Shaun Bryant - First, teachers need growth opportunities. We can’t assume teachers will be happy staying put when they do well. How much are we paying the “Trauma Smart” people to do their training? We should send our own out for certification. I worked at a “Leader in Me” school that sent me to be certified as one of three “Leader in Me” coaches. It was easier to schedule professional development (PD), it saved the school money in the long run, and we became the world's first virtually-certified Lighthouse Leadership school. Just like teachers need to empower students to lead the classroom more, the board and administrators should empower educators to lead the district more. Buy-in of district initiatives would increase as well. At the very least, the PD we give teachers should help them be not just better educators but better people.
Second, we need to dignify teachers with our Paid Time Off (PTO) policies. We need to limit blackout dates. It seems the personal time off is limited to four days per calendar, only two of which can be consecutive. People should be able to take their PTO when needed, especially if it’s requested in advance and doesn’t result in a sub shortage. We should have an unused PTO payout option when teachers decide to leave. Maybe a 100% payout isn’t possible, but something is feasible. Teachers would be less likely to use PTO throughout the years. No matter how outstanding the substitute, there’s no substitute for the regular teacher who knows exactly where each student is. Paid maternity and paternity leave is crucial for parent and baby bonding.
Third, we need to incentivize teachers of state-tested subjects. Educators who teach subjects tested annually by the state are under enormous pressure. There should be incentives for teachers whose students generate academic state test data that reach school goals. Additional funding opportunities available to higher-performing schools can pay for these incentives.
Fourth, we need to provide educators access to district services. Anything from preschool to Wellness Center access should be available for educators in our district. I know we offer some services, but offering significantly more benefits will cost much less than the value it provides our employees.
Performance and Outcomes
How will you engage the community to improve public schools in the district?
Shaun Bryant - When students are involved in their school, they take ownership and do what they can to help it succeed. Families are similar. If they are involved in our district, they’ll take ownership of the schools. And family engagement can certainly improve schools.
How many families do we have in the district? That should be the number of families who follow the Raytown C-2 School District on social media. Our schools’ social media pages frequently share important announcements and information about upcoming events.
Currently, principals submit a blurb about what’s going on in their respective buildings each month for the board meeting. However, an individual must read through all of them separately to identify events of interest. Further, some of the events are discussed in the past tense. We need to know in advance what awesome activities are taking place in the district. I judged the debate tournament at Raytown Central Middle School a couple of weeks ago, and I learned about the opportunity through a social media post by the school.
We can do fun things as a community! Yes, there’s track. But track is competitive and only available for students. There should be a running group in the community. We could meet at a different location in Raytown each week, learn about the area's history, and then run together. Running improves health, the group gains a method of social interaction, and overall school commitment improves. What about a kickball league? These can consist of students, educators, and any other community member in the district.
We, as board members, need to maximize the opportunities embedded in the monthly meetings. We can do this by emphasizing the public comment period of each meeting. I’ve spoken twice during that time, but I’ve never seen anyone else speak. We need to have someone who intentionally seeks people to present during those periods.
In your view, what has the district done well over the past year? In what areas could the district improve?
Shaun Bryant - The district won the Meritorious Budget Award for the 2021-2022 school year. While generating more money is always the goal, it’s nice to know that we are fiscally responsible with the funds that we do have.
We hired a new superintendent. While I don’t know her personally yet, I’ve observed a few impressive traits. First, Dr. Martin-Knox is very involved. I’ve seen her in many social media posts from schools throughout the district. Second, she is poised and professional. Third, the “Office of Superintendent Services” portion of the budget is approximately 70% of what it was just two years ago. I believe this speaks to her as a fiscally responsible superintendent.
For many, summer school is an afterthought. But actually, it costs quite a bit to implement! The board recently approved a plan to switch the summer school curriculum to one that costs about one-tenth of the previous program. It’s these little cuts that, when summed together, can really save the district a lot of money.
This year, the district began training its educators in the “Trauma Smart” program. “Trauma Smart” uses the “brain as a car” metaphor. Adults need to be able to tell if a student is in the front seat, back seat, or trunk. A very emotional student is in the trunk and cannot move forward. “Trauma Smart” de-escalates students. I happen to be fully certified already in this extensive training program. I would like to pair this program with a leadership development program so that students can get themselves out of their respective trunks without teacher intervention.
The district’s PD schedule is aggressive and constant, which is a terrific way to help teachers grow not only professionally but also personally. New teachers get to work with a mentor regularly when students are not in the building, which will positively impact teacher retention.
How should the district address underperforming schools?
Shaun Bryant - Districts should address underperforming schools just like teachers address underperforming students in their classes: Differentiation! We need to know exactly where they’re underperforming. Did we perform poorly in math but not in English Language Arts (ELA)? Then we need to look at our math curriculum and math teachers. Did a certain grade-level student perform poorly? This could be a result of the missed year from COVID-19. Is it an attendance issue like at Raytown High School? According to the March Attendance Report, only three out of every five students have been at school 90% of the time. Are the teachers quitting at alarming rates? This could be an issue with the administration. Are enrollment numbers dropping among district students who live in Kansas City? Maybe the charter schools are doing a better job than we are of recruiting.
End-of-year state MAP test (and similar test) data is just one data affected by many components. The data is the dependent variable, reflecting several important teaching components. We need to know exactly why we’re labeling a school as “underperforming” and then address that part. As a middle school math teacher, I will be ineffective if I simply consider whether a student’s final answer is correct. On the contrary, I need to find out exactly which skill necessary to master the standard is missing. This kind of diagnosis allows us to target what’s most important more effectively.
How should school board members evaluate school and student performance in your district?
Shaun Bryant - This is where the four disciplines of execution are so important. Yes, we can use traditional data (MAP test, graduation rates, etc.) to determine if schools and their students are performing adequately. However, by the time we have that data, we can do nothing about it. Therefore, we call these important goals “lag measures” because they come after we should have already done the things we need to do to achieve that goal.
Did you know that, on average, people need to attempt the same New Year’s resolution four to five consecutive years before it’ll actually stick? That’s because people focus on the lag measures rather than the lead measures. This is inappropriate because we can’t control the lag measures. If my goal, for instance, is to lose 20 pounds, I can’t simply remove 20 pounds from my body.
Instead, we need to focus on lead measures. Unlike lag measures, lead measures are strategies within our circle of control that, if we were gamblers, we would bet would positively impact the goal. So to lose 20 pounds, my lead measures might be to run 10 miles per week and stop eating so much cereal right before bed!
So let’s put this all together. 1. We need to look at all district goals. 2. We need to see exactly where schools and students fall in relation to those goals. 3. We need to identify specific lead measures for each situation. 4. We need to TRACK how frequently we complete the lead m measures with fidelity. 5. Then, we need an accountability group to keep us on track.
Once these proactive strategies are in place, we know how to evaluate school and student performance. Schools and students completing those lead measures with fidelity will most likely achieve their goals. We don’t have to wait for lag measures to be released.
What metrics will you use to assess district leadership’s attainment of key goals? How will you know when a program or decision has been successful?
Shaun Bryant - These metrics should align with the board's goals. The goals of the Board as currently written are:
1. Continuous growth toward mastery and improvement for every student through relevant and rigorous curriculum and instruction.
Fortunately, I earned a 4.0 GPA, obtaining my Master of Education in curriculum & instruction. Also, it’s important to note the terms mastery as well as improvement. To me, improvement is more important than mastery because the term mastery changes over time. If the standards change, then what constitutes the term mastery might change. What will not change, however, is the fact that a student ages as time passes. As a result, we should focus on how much a student or school improves in a year rather than how close to proficiency they get.
2. Attract, recruit, and retain high-quality staff.
This is hard when teachers leave the education field like never before. I’m happy to report that retention is my strong suit. After my time as a seventh-grade math teacher, I transitioned into an instructional coach role. In the four years since, 0% of my teachers and educational assistants have left. My retention rate is 100%. Retention is more important than recruiting because if you have 100% retention, then you have no recruitment to do (unless the district is just growing too much). Obviously, the teacher retention rate is the metric for this. Job satisfaction results from, among other things, limited PTO blackout dates, continuous professional development that aligns with personal goals, and building a strong community.
3. Parent/community engagement by encouraging the involvement of every parent in our community.
I don’t like the word “encouraging” here. It sounds like the goal is simply to encourage families to be involved. First, we need to know what involvement entails. Does this mean parents listen to their kids do homework and read out loud every night at home? Does this mean parents who drive their kids to school emphasize timeliness and attendance? Does this mean parents attend parent-teacher association meetings or other school events? We need to decide what engagement actually entails and then measure actual engagement, not simply the district’s encouragement to engage. Once we determine that, we need to establish the number of engagements families are expected to have per year and then track that.
4. Financial responsibility.
This is difficult because so many things go into the budget. Fortunately, just last year, the district won the Meritorious Budget Award, a great financial responsibility metric. Comparisons of actual money spent versus budgeted money spent can also be a great indicator of financial responsibility and could inform future budgets. According to the 2023 Expenditure by Function budget, for example, “Administrative Technology Services” used $2.5 million in 2020-2021 but included over $5 million in the budget for the current year. This is something I’d dig into more deeply. Unfortunately, determining financial responsibility cannot be as simple as looking at aggregate data; we must examine the details.