Leading a school well is no easy task. Supporting staff sufficiently and prioritizing student progress above the tyranny of the urgent requires laser focus and relentless determination.
TCSA is committed to helping school leaders, their teams, and their boards keep their eyes on what matters most, as they serve some of the underserved students and families across the state.
Member schools have a suite of tools and resources online, at their fingertips, in the Quality Portal. The Quality Portal is accessed via TCSA’s homepage at www.txcharterschools.org.
The Portal houses tools to support many types of users in their various roles. If you are part of the leadership, administrative, or development teams of a school or a part of the governing body, know that there are resources at your fingertips.
Join me on Wednesday, October 4th at 12 noon for a walk through the Quality Portal. We’ll discuss how to best leverage the tools to support the daily work of serving students to the fullest and the common uses for various user types.
If you are unable to join us, I am happy to calendar a time to work with you and or your team directly. For more information or to register for the webinar, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Speakers and session content are now available for the 2017 TCSA Charter Schools Conference in the TCSA Conference App. The conference will convene national and state charter school innovators, reformers, and leaders at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine on October 11-13, 2017. Two new strands have been added to the conference this year, Strategic Planning and Focus on Growth, as many of our state leaders have been tasked with expanding their charter system to new areas.
Here are a couple of presentations that we are excited to see at the conference this year:
Creating High Performing High-Poverty Schools presented by Ericka Johnson from Responsive Education Solutions. In this session, Johnson will model how to transform a high-poverty campus that is low-performing into a high-performing campus in one year. Participants will leave inspired to transform campuses using best practices and shared leadership, parent and community engagement, and data driven decision making.
Delightful Customer Service presented by Dr. Becky Good from Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy. Come learn how Legacy Prep Charter rolled out the need to bring delightful customer service to internal customers (staff) and then external customers (students, parents, and other stakeholders).
Efficiency, Accountability and Transparency in Procurement presented by Mehmet Bayar from Harmony Public Schools. In this session, Bayar shares how to ensure efficiency, accountability and transparency in public procurement and why it is critical to stretch school dollars to best serve charter students. Bayar discusses how Harmony’s purchasing department ensured that purchasing and contracting activities are legal, accountable, auditable, ethically responsible, and economically effective.
Outside the Box: The first dual credit senior high campus in Texas presented by Dr. Joann Simmons from the University of Texas at Tyler. Join this session to learn how the campus uses a flipped model of instruction to teach students rigorous STEM content using project-based learning (PBL) strategies. Learn how accelerated content and high expectations changed student outcomes on this charter’s three campuses.
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell presented by Ana Medoza from Vanguard Academy. During this session, presenters will share a model used to implement leadership training with all central office and campus administrators.
Please review all of the sessions that will be presented at this year’s conference in the TCSA Conference App. We encourage you to register today. We hope to see you at the beautiful Gaylord Texan in October!
Immigration and Your Charter School: Protecting Rights of Schools and Students in an Age of Immigration Enforcement
This webinar will highlight best practices on matters pertaining to federal and state law enforcement agencies in light of new and anticipated rulings and interpretations of immigration enforcement practices.
Presented by Joseph Hoffer from Shulman, Lopez, Hoffer and Adelstein LLP
Wednesday, September 20th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Are you in? Online Tools to Engage Advocates
Public Charter Schools in Texas had a great victory in the 2017 Special Legislative Session. We attribute this victory to the thousands of advocates who spoke up and contacted their lawmakers this year, and in prior years. TCSA has been able to make significant gains for students as a result of these grassroots advocacy campaigns. Our fight is not over and we need you to join our efforts! Join us on this webinar to learn about the digital tools that TCSA has created to make sure all of our advocates are part of our advocacy efforts. Are you in? Text “countmein” to 52886* to get a sneak peek of our new tools and learn how you can make a difference!
Presented by Martha Fernandez from the Texas Charter Schools Association
Wednesday, October 18th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Fostering Success for Students in Foster Care
All of your students are special, but particularly those who are in the temporary or permanent custody of the State of Texas. Spend an hour learning Texas law and best practices for fostering the success of students in foster care. Charter school attorney and former TCSA General Counsel Denise Pierce will lead a rich discussion on issues pertaining to the admission, enrollment, and services for foster care students. Pierce will also touch on the thorny issues of confidentiality, special education, discipline, and on-campus access to these students by third parties such CPS case workers and police officers. Board members, central office administrators, special program directors, and campus administrators who attend this webinar will leave with information, insights and resources to make them better equipped for fostering success for students in foster care.
Presented by Denise Nance Pierce from The Law Office of Denise Pierce, P.C.
Wednesday, October 25th from noon to 1 p.m.
Update Your Personnel Handbook: Changes are needed due to new legislation
When was the last time you updated your Personnel Handbook? Chances are it has been too long! This webinar will help charter leaders understand the policy changes required as a result of Senate Bill 7, regarding electronic communication policies and impacts on TRS annuities. The webinar will address common charter school human resources questions, such as state leave days, and exempt and nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to name a few.
Presented by Lindsey Gordon from the Texas Charter Schools Association
Wednesday, November 8th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
HB 22: Preparing for Changes in 2018 Accountability System
Are you aware of all of the accountability changes that are coming in August of 2018? Join Dr. Paula Moeller as she discusses what will be measured within each of the three domains and how the Texas Education Agency will roll out the new accountability system with charter districts and campuses.
Presented by Paula Moeller from the Texas Charter Schools Association
Wednesday, November 29th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Student Code of Conduct, 3rd Edition
The Student Code of Conduct, 3rd Edition is now available for purchase in the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) Quality Portal. The 3rd Edition incorporates changes from the 85th Legislative Session, including David’s Law (SB 179, the anti-bullying bill). Schools interested in the Student Code of Conduct can order it in the Quality Portal, under the Products and Services tab. Previous purchasers will receive a discount on the 3rd Edition.
Personnel Handbook, 2nd Edition
TCSA also updated the Personnel Handbook, which is now available for purchase in the TCSA Quality Portal. The 2nd Edition includes required policies from SB 7, regarding electronic communication policies and impacts on annuities with the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). We also updated the Personnel Handbook to address common charter school human resources questions, such as state leave days, and exempt and nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to name a few. The Personnel Handbook is available to all current Model Policy Subscribers at no additional cost. Non-Model Policy Subscribers can purchase the Personnel Handbook separately in the Quality Portal. Similar to the Student Code of Conduct, previous purchasers of the Personnel Handbook will receive a discount on the 2nd Edition.
Updated Model Policies
TCSA Legal is working quickly to update the TCSA Model Policies as a result of the changes in law made by the Regular and Special Sessions of the 85th Texas Legislature. The first round of updates will be available in the Quality Portal on Tuesday, September 5th. These updates will include all required policies related to SB 7 (inappropriate relationships); SB 179 (David’s Law;) SB 1398 (special education video and audio surveillance cameras); and SB 1153 (required multi-tiered intervention notices and PEIMS reporting).
As always, do not hesitate to contact Christine Nishimura with questions or for more information regarding the TCSA Model Policy Series.
Last week, the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) held its quarterly Member Council Meeting (MCM) with about 40 participants representing member charter schools from across the Lone Star State.
TCSA’s Executive Director David Dunn opened the meeting with brief remarks and was followed by MCM Chair, Kathleen Zimmermann, who welcomed members to Austin. Dunn shared some great news for the charter section with the release of the newest CREDO study, Charter School Performance in Texas, which found that student at charters are outperforming their peers at school districts. Most notably, students are gaining an additional 17 days of learning in reading and have closed the gap in math. Additionally, Hispanic student in poverty at charters are also faring better in both reading and math as compared to their school district counterparts. TCSA issued a press release featuring these findings, which has resulted in news stories by the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, El Paso Inc., and ED Week.
Following Dunn’s welcome remarks, TCSA Board Member Lori Fey addressed members and provided an update on the Executive Director Search. Fey is the Chair of the Search Committee and is working with Bellwether Education Partners to identify TCSA’s next leader. Fey is committed to a transparent process and has been meeting with various stakeholders within the charter school sector and education community gathering information. She welcomes input on this search and looks forward to finding the right person to represent students from all public charter schools across the state!
TCSA’s Veronica Garcia, Martha Fernandez, and Christine Nishimura gave an overview to members on the 85th Legislative Session and a federal update. This presentation featured TCSA’s grassroots efforts, legislative wins, and the bills impacting charter schools.
Next on the meeting agenda was Jo Ann Simmons of UT Tyler Innovation Academy who gave a presentation focused on academic rigor. Simmons candidly revealed her experience on what works to improve student outcomes and led a meaningful discussion among members about best practices. We hope this conversation continues, allowing for charter leaders to share information to strengthen student achievement at every campus!
Last, but not least was Michele Stahl of the Texas Education Agency. Stahl provided information on the new A-F Accountability standards. We appreciate Stahl and others at TEA for continuously working with public charter schools, ensuring that these campuses have information to effectively meet state requirements.
TCSA thanks all the member schools who attended both in-person and online and we look forward to our next meeting at the Texas Charter Schools Conference in Grapevine.
Coming soon to a region near you: the 2017-18 version of Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) Executive Leader Meetings.
These regional meetings provide a place for charter leaders to come together to learn from legal experts and share best practices among each other on charter-specific topics. TCSA plans to offer leaders in each region two meeting opportunities, one during the fall semester and another in the spring semester. Charter leaders in each region are invited to attend this free event, even if your charter system is not a current member of TCSA. You MUST register in order to attend these meetings!
Topics for the September meeting:
Presenters for this meeting:
Regional Meeting Dates:
Have you considered how instructional coaching might impact student achievement and ultimately scores within your charter system? Teacher coaching has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional professional development normally offered by charter schools. Informal, classroom-based instructional coaching has proven effective in solidifying teacher content knowledge and pedagogy and aided in teacher retention.
Coaching can be challenging without support for the coach. A clear understanding of the roles of the coach and how he/she will communicate with campus administrators must be established prior to implementation. Teachers must be informed of the objectives of coaching and have a clear understanding the instructional coach does not serve as an evaluator.
To support charter schools implementing this model for professional development, TCSA has created a new, multi-day training titled Instructional Coach Development. This four-day training will help new or returning instructional coaches understand their role in working with teachers and administrators to make a positive change at the campus level. The training will help instructional coaches learn how to develop behaviors and strategies focused on school improvement that can be used to change student performance outcomes.
Training Topics Include:
The dates for this training are August 1-2, October 6 and December 1, 2017. The cost for training is $500 per attendee. If you are interested in sending a coach to this training, please register prior to July 15. The presenter for this training is Paula Moeller. She led statewide instructional coaching on behalf of the Texas Education Agency while working at the University of Texas at Austin.
Register Online by clicking here:
Starting with the End in Mind
Hopefully school leaders are bought-in to the idea of hiring a Director of School Operations and have a strategy for identifying their needle in a haystack. In this final blog, I will discuss the goal setting process, the teams that Directors of School Operations manage, and how these interlocking parts contribute to a more operationally effective and efficient campus while maximizing student achievement.
While campuses vary in instructional focus, the underlying aspects of effective campus operations are relatively similar: the front desk must provide customer service; facilities must be clean and safe; and attendance taken each day, etc. High performing organizations, schools and others alike, have defined goals by which to measure success. Before determining outputs, a vision for success, an ideal state, must be defined. Specific and measurable outcomes that drive towards the ideal state are established for both academics and operations. Highest priority items are assigned to and owned by multiple people who collectively work together.
For example, many charter management organizations (CMOs) believe that Average Daily Attendance (ADA) is a critical operational lever; simply put, when students are not present, they are not learning. Therefore, this goal is not only the responsibility of the Director of School Operations, but also of the principal. The entire operations team is focused to ensure 97.5 percent ADA, relentlessly pursuing this goal by establishing tracking systems, conducting daily calls and home visits, and action planning. Directors of School Operations collaborate with principals to build buy-in for campus-wide attendance initiatives, conduct professional development with teachers to emphasize their role in strong ADA, and to problem solve around most frequently absent students.
For single site schools, the envisioning and goal setting activity can reflect the collaborative process between the principal and Director of School Operations. This allows both leaders to consensus build around goals while also negotiating items of particular contention. Jointly developed goals also allow leaders to better how academics and operations mesh together. For larger CMOs, this visioning process and goal setting is defined by district-level leaders to ensure consistency among individuals who occupy the same role throughout the network. A hybrid model allows smaller networks to develop up to four centrally driven goals complimented by two or three locally developed campus goal. In any situation, however, Directors of School Operations’ goals must be highest leverage, limited to five, and cut across responsibilities of various team members.
Goals for Directors of School Operations could include topics such as student recruitment/enrollment, average daily attendance, student re-enrollment, cost-savings, parent satisfaction, community engagement, and employee satisfaction. Although these goals are considered “operational,” grounding these goals to academic performance is essential. By driving cost efficiencies in campus facilities and cafeteria operations, for example, funds can be reinvested into new technology, advanced academic materials, additional professional development, etc., all of which contribute to student success.
Directors of School Operations should use the same framework of visioning, goal-setting, and grounding goals in academic outcomes with their direct reports to establish functional area goals. Goals owned by the Director of School Operations are further broken down to more specific goals for each of the individuals that they manage and oversee. Like their manager, direct reports should have specific and measureable goals, be able to clearly articulate those goals, and report out on progress during normally scheduled check-ins with the Director of School Operations. Whereas goal setting for the Director of School Operations may be more collaborative, goals for functional direct reports tend to be more directive. That being said, functional direct reports should be engaged to determine what specific actions should be undertaken to achieve the goal. In order to attain 97.5 percent attendance, for example, the PEIMS clerk might develop a plan to engage the most frequently absent students, present the plan to their manager for approval, and then be responsible for executing it.
In a typical school, the Director of School Operations will oversee and manage the front desk, PEIMS clerks, business office, IT support, facilities, cafeteria, and transportation (if applicable). Work related to community engagement, family support, public relations, and event planning typically also falls on the Director of School Operations to be executed the operations team. They may also partner with a counselor or parent/family support specialist to help close non-academic, social-emotional and family support gaps.
As a final component of professionalizing operations work, frequent, structured check-ins with a clear agenda and action-steps are highly recommended. Directors of School Operations and their direct reports should have standardized check-in templates used when meeting with their managers. While the content of check-ins are dynamic, progress towards goals should be reported on a consistent basis, as well as upcoming projects, and actions taken since the previous week to further efforts. Managers should spend the time reviewing and probing data points provided, helping team members to engage in structured problem solving, and providing feedback, coaching, and praise to the employee. Both the Director of School Operations and their team member should leave a meeting with clear next-steps, deadlines, and an understanding of future objectives.
By making the strategic decision to hire a Director of School Operations, schools separate out key functions into more organized and discernable streams of work with clear ownership and responsibilities. This not only makes the work more manageable, but also communicates a level of clarity and organization to all school constituents. It professionalizes and elevates the function of operations within a school setting with an understanding that operations serves to meet the needs of the academic program. Most importantly of all, however, is that this new role ultimately serve to free up essential time and resources for school leaders to focus on the core business of schools, educating children. When a principal is focused on instructional best practices and coaching rather than student dismissal and properly painted facilities, schools are better setup for both operational and educational successes.
Prior to coming to TCSA, I served as an Assistant Principal of Operations at a K-10 campus with IDEA Public Schools. I am more than happy to share more of my personal experience and discuss how Directors of School Operations are a critical asset to your school’s success. Feel free to contact me.
A Needle In a Haystack?
Hiring people to work at charter schools can be challenging. Our teams work longer hours, go above and beyond the job description, and are frequently paid less than their traditional school counterparts. Directors of School Operations often face intense durations of stress, are required to manage multiple streams of work, and perform at very high levels. As such, the process of hiring, training, and retaining these individuals can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
The skill set required for a Director of School Operations, particularly at large campuses with many competing priorities, may be available with an internal candidate. More likely, however, organizational leaders will be required to look beyond their four walls and outside the norms of their typical talent pool. This translates to reallocating precious resources to hire a high-capacity individual. Candidates may be sourced from the private sector, local government, veterans of military or civil service, or small business owners. Applicants with backgrounds in education, business, finance, supply chain management, and management will bring value to the school. More important than skill sets, however, is the will set: the drive to action, to get in and get dirty, focus on constant improvement, a temporary acceptance of the good while seeking the excellent, an ability to adapt and overcome, and a mindset of solutions, rather than simply problems.
As schools consider the position, equally important is the internal capacity to train and support. Does the central office have a structure that reflects the divide between academics and operations? Does the Chief Operating Officer have the skills and capacity to train and coach the Director of School Operations? Are central office employees primarily from an education background or from other sectors? How can the governing board’s skills and networks be leveraged to support in this new role? These questions are important because while Directors of School Operations will ultimately report to principals, principals will not have the skills or time to provide hands-on training.
While some charter management organizations (CMOs) implemented the Director of School Operations early on, this role is relatively nascent. While educational service centers provide some general training, the sector lacks a one stop shop for the specific competencies required for this position. Educational consultants and other associations tend to focus on specific areas such as special education or business operations. Current best practices have materialized through extensive trial and error and constant process improvement. In some areas, the Charter School Growth Fund has convened top organizations to document and develop sharable materials. These materials are becoming more been widely available, but only scratch the surface.
Perhaps the hardest part is retaining these high-performing individuals. When a school leader transitions out, things are rarely seamless and the impact is felt schoolwide. The same is true for the Director of School Operations. Given that the role oversees many disparate functions, it is challenging to hire a new candidate with the skills and abilities as the outgoing one. Therefore, retaining these individuals is critical to the school’s overall success. Aside from a competitive salary, several key factors impact retention:
1. Empowerment – Provide Directors of School Operations significant decision-making authority and communicate that authority to teachers, parents, and community members. Principals should only involve themselves when absolutely necessary.
2. Clarity – Clear roles, goals, and expectations are essential given the tensions that may arise from all different aspects of school. From the top to the bottom, everyone should know who owns which outcomes.
3. Support and Coaching – Provide consistent feedback both on-the-spot and during check-ins. Outward support of the Director of School Operation in the moment will demonstrate confidence, even if that decision is not the “right” one. Manage repercussions together, while coaching privately on the back end, will exemplify the team approach to school leadership.
4. Praise – Principals earn praise when the school performs well. However, recognize the effort that the Director of School Operations AND his/her team undertake to help drive outcomes. Public applause encourages teachers to recognize the work and highlights everyone’s contribution.
You may be thinking to yourself “Is this really that hard to hire/retain a Director of School Operations, and if so, is it really worth it?"
Yes. It is pretty challenging to hire and retain Directors of School Operations. And yes, it is a worthwhile investment in time and resources. Hiring and retaining a Director of School Operations yields dividends; the school gains an additional administrator; principals are freed-up from non-essential functions; organizations build leadership capacity; and teachers who wish to step out of the classroom have an additional career pathway. Having found the needle, schools must do everything in their power to hang onto them.
Hopefully you are convinced that these Directors of School Operations are a) essential to campuses, AND b) that while difficult, these candidates can be identified, hired, trained, and retained. Next week, I will delve into some of the goals, metrics, tactics, and practices to ensure a high-performing Director of School Operations and campus operations team.
Just as there is no silver bullet in education, hiring a Director of School Operations will not solve all of your challenges. What hiring a Director of School Operations will do is to clarify roles and responsibilities for students, staff, and parents; increase opportunities for direct coaching and management to support staff; allow Principals and Assistant Principals to focus on teaching and learning, all of which create a healthy school culture, and ultimately drive student achievement.
If you are interested in learning more about the Director of School Operations role, tune in to this podcast, recently published by the Charter School Growth Fund. Similarly, D.C. Public Schools was recently featured on NPR regarding their pilot program to implement Directors of School Operations through DCPS.
Finally, at a recent conference held in the Rio Grande Valley, panelists from four different KIPP regions participated in discussion focusing on KIPP’s journey to implement, hire, and train Directors of Campus Operations. I strongly encourage you to check out those resources, reach out to schools already doing this work, and of course, contact TCSA.
Prior to coming to TCSA, I served as an Assistant Principal of Operations at a K-10 campus with IDEA Public Schools. I am more than happy to share more of my personal experience and discuss how Directors of School Operations are a critical asset to your school’s success. I can be reached at ENguyen@txcharterschools.org.
A number of TCSA staff members had the opportunity to attend the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference, NCSC17, earlier this week in Washington D.C. There were approximately 4,000 attendees representing all aspects of the charter spectrum including charter CEOs, teachers and staff, governance boards, state charter support organizations (CSO) like TCSA, foundations and charter grant funders, charter management organizations, legislators, higher education institutions, charter authorizers, state education agencies, state and national policy organizations, and vendors representing every aspect of the charter sector including curriculum materials, human capital management, and charter facility construction and financing. More than 200 breakout sessions were loosely grouped into five major strands targeted towards charter school operations, leadership, instruction, policy, and governance, while state charter support organizations were able to participate in sessions that were “off the grid” and specifically focused on improving the performance of CSOs in their support of member schools through the sharing of best practices in areas of legislative advocacy, leadership practices, special education support, and school performance.
Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, shared some recent public charter school accomplishments including that six out of the top 10 high schools in the U.S. are charter schools (US News and World Report); Colorado recently passed a law equalizing funding for charters and traditional public schools; the new administration has proposed an increase in spending for charter schools by 50 percent; and the creation of a unified traditional public school-charter board in Los Angeles. She also noted some setbacks to the charter movement, including the defeat of a Massachusetts amendment to lift the cap on public charter schools and the increase in litigation across the country that challenges the existence of public charters.
Two notable speakers highlighted the general session agendas. Dr. Steve Perry, CEO of Connecticut-based Capital Preparatory Schools, addressed attendees on Monday. You may recall that Dr. Perry served as one of the keynote speakers at our TCSA conference last October. Steve continued his “disruption of the establishment” theme, proclaiming that the most controversial thing we can do as educators is to give access to education to disenfranchised children. He declared that it should be offensive to us as educators that we must fight for something (school choice) that should have been given to us at birth. Perry’s message also outlined a call to action for charter leaders, including the admonition that our legislators should be notified every time a student enrolls in one of our schools or is put on a waiting list. He highlighted the need for more African American and Latino educators to take leadership roles in the charter movement, and he challenged educators to understand the necessity to support current political efforts to promote school choice, even if you may disagree with other elements of the current administration platform. At the conclusion of Dr. Perry’s remarks, IDEA CEO Tom Torkelson introduced the finalists for the $250,000 Broad Prize for the top public charter school, including the Denver School of Science, Texas’ own Harmony Public Schools and the Broad prize winner, Success Academy of New York.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos addressed a standing-room only crowd on Tuesday, expressing her support of the charter movement as well as other forms of school choice including traditional public education, private schools, and vouchers. She stated that “a system that denies parents the freedom to choose the education that best suits their children’s individual and unique needs denies them a basic human right - it is un-American, and it is fundamentally unjust.” She detailed her history of partnership with the school choice movement, including her contributions in crafting Michigan’s charter law in the 1990’s and her involvement in the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a public charter school founded by her husband. While reminding the audience that public charter schools prove that “quality and choice can coexist,” she added that they “are not the one cure-all to the ills that beset education” and provided an example of three successful Miami-area schools she recently visited – a public charter, a private school, and a traditional public school, noting that the common factor with all three schools was the satisfaction of the parents that their chosen school was providing their child a quality education.
As an association, TCSA staff members are working diligently to provide you leadership and value in the areas of charter school advocacy and quality member services for our great charter schools across the state of Texas. Conferences like NCSC 2017 help your organization to reinforce its commitment to the mission that we share with all of our member schools – to improve student achievement in Texas by advocating for and strengthening Texas’s diverse set of high quality charter schools.