Getting a school district to move from feelings to action

They need to know how this is going to support their goals. Gen Ed is always going to come first, it has to. But pre-school is a big piece of that - If leadership wants their test scores down the road, they’ll get it and get on it.

This is part 7 of my interview with Marilee Cosgrove of the Fullerton School District.   Our focus was on “Lessons Learned” – in this section she talks about getting district leadership united and moving behind a pre-school improvement plan.

Q: So it sounds like you’ve offered up some “a-ha” moments that have created some champions?

A: You could say that. People get it.

Q: But it takes more than that – what happens when district leadership says “Oh, Yeah … this is really important, but we can’t fund pre-school students at a fair fraction of the bigger kids, because first we need to put back anything that we removed at any point in the past twenty years” … how do you get meaningful action?

A:   You have to be able to say “This is what we want to do, this is why we want to do it, and this is how it is going to support K.”   They need to know how this is going to support their goals.   Gen Ed is always going to come first, it has to.   But pre-school is a big piece of that – especially for the children that may not have the right sort of experiences at home or in their community. If leadership wants their test scores down the road, they’ll get it and get on it.

Building together is a lifelong lesson
Building together is a lifelong lesson

Q: What if they’re … distracted?   How do you get them to act in the interest of their stated long-term goals?

A: You’ve got to get them excited! You have to get the teachers, everyone, excited. You’ve got to get them excited about the possibilities.   You can’t go in there heavy-handed and say “this is what we’re going to do, and this is why, blah blah blah.”     You work together, you make a plan, the passion and excitement will come out.   You need someone who can tell the story, and put individual actions into the context of what’s needed.   If the story is right, everyone can tell it.   But someone has to get out front and say “We need $X in year one, and here’s why, and here’s what we’re going to do.”   Doing it right makes people feel good.

Q: How did you develop the support you mentioned, from your administrators and your school board?

A: It’s the first foundational layer of their entire program, and we remind them of that constantly.  We invite them to everything.   We keep them visiting our classrooms. We had a conference called “Sense of Wonder” to help people get it.   They are supportive…

Q: There is a lot of love

A:   Yes – for everyone.   Our superintendent wants us to be the #1 district in the nation, and that starts with pre-school, and inquiry-based learning … to get kids excited, so everyone is excited.

Q: That’s great. I’m excited.

A: I’m really excited.

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