Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Meeting with the Commissioner of Education

Today I am honored to have the opportunity to join other members of the State's Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) in a meeting with the Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey C. Riley. We will discuss teacher diversity, social/emotional learning, teacher leadership, and potentially other areas of teaching and learning. As with all TAC meetings, the agenda is well formulated and led by Matt Holloway and other DESE staff members. I have been very impressed by this committee over my two-year commitment. Today is my last meeting.

Ideas I am curious about when we meet with the commissioner are the following:

Potential Teacher Exchange Programs Within Massachusetts and Amongst Other States
I wonder if one way that we could spread ideas and gain greater diversity within Massachusetts is to start teacher-exchange programs where teachers from one district exchange with teachers from another district. In this plan, teachers would continue to be paid by their home district, but teach elsewhere. One year exchanges might create an opportunity to build capacity and diversity throughout the state.

Using Health Plans to Fund In-School Health Care and Counseling
Many of our at-risk students have trouble accessing adequate health care and counseling. Similarly short-staffed guidance departments have trouble serving all the children that need that support. I wonder if it would be a win-win if school systems and health plans joined forces to provide health care and counseling as part of the school program. This kind of synthesis has the potential to save dollars, elevate prevention, teach health and education more, and serve students better.

Distributive Leadership
Many articles I've read in the past few years have focused on distributive leadership. These articles have demonstrated the power of autonomy, mastery, and purpose related to employee success and the bringing forth the "collective genius" of organizations. I have also read a lot about the role in teacher leadership in these more modern, flattened organizations versus the old-time hierarchical structures. Modern structures also seem to lend more power to people from multiple cultures, backgrounds, geographical locations, and for women as well as men since these modern organizations put old time traditions aside and build from the ground up taking a good look at their employees strengths and needs. In a sense these organizations recognize that happy, fulfilled employees are better employees, and it's not always the hours on the clock that matter, but instead the way the time invested is used to uplift an organization. I want to know what DESE is doing in this regard and if they see potential in supporting more modern structures in schools around the state.

Overall I've been very happy with DESE and the work done there to uplift schools in Massachusetts. Similarly I've been happy with our state's Massachusetts Teachers Association. Both groups have been forward-thinking, active, willing to debate, and looking at the research about what makes good schools for all stake holders. And as a result, Massachusetts schools are doing very well.

There's still work to do, and I'll be interested in listening to the Commissioner's vision and plans today as well as the questions and ideas of the talented and committed educators from throughout the state that serve on the committee. If you are interested in becoming a TAC or PAC (Principals Advisory Council) member, I suggest you apply. It is a great experience that gives you a front row seat with regard to what's going on at the state level of education.