Everyone loves the Administrator Panel Discussions at the Learning Counsel’s Regional Digital Transition Events. Perhaps it is because we feature some of America’s brightest education minds in each discussion. Or perhaps it is because of the no-holds-barred attitude from the panelists, always eager to share the truth and to get to the solution of every challenge.
In this discussion, we feature Dr. Shannon LeFargue, Chief Academic Officer from Calcasieu Parish School Board, Beth Fraser, Principal, Lake Charles – Boston Academy of Learning at the Calcasieu Parish School Board, Marlana Collins, M.Ed, Principal, from J.J. Johnson II Elementary at Calcasieu Parish School Board, and Hollis Milton, Superintendent from West Feliciana Schools. As per usual, panel discussions are moderated by LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher at the Learning Counsel.
According to Principal Beth Fraser, “We've always provided for our students and every year, we're adding one more thing that we're doing for kids. But I don't know that everybody in the community was aware of all that until the pandemic hit. And then it was like, ‘Well, they did that at school. Now who's going to do it? How are they going to do it for us?’ I think there was a lot more communication between parents who were in the panic mode. And so, all of a sudden, they became very aware of how much we could do, and now it's not that we're doing for just a few. Everybody wants everything on a platter, and they want the platter service to get bigger and bigger. And I think that's where we all struggle. And I think that's where teachers, especially, just feel like they're pulled and stretched until they're just about to pop.”
Superintendent Hollis Milton added, “I think the whole framework of your community is dependent upon you -- your parents and your families are dependent upon you to not only educate their kids, but to serve meals, to provide social-emotional learning and healthcare needs. We had many of these roles before the pandemic and since the pandemic, the expectations of what we do and the new things that are expected of us have increased exponentially. I think everybody's trying to adapt to that and best serve that. And then the question becomes, ‘Okay, then how do we continue or maintain?’ And are there other places to which we should pivot, because we're still primarily a learning institution, right? We need to figure out what that really means. And reexamine our role to make sure that we're doing what we need to do and also bridge the gap by finding new partnerships, because we can't do all of this work and sustain it. We need to find others who will play their part in serving our community as well.”
Moderator LeiLani Cauthen shifted the topic to the changing structure of education, “You're losing students, you're losing teachers for various reasons, retirement and overwhelm. Right? And it's a structural moment for you that may be calling for a shift in what you are.”
Superintendent Milton replied, “In the marketplace you must find your niche. And that's exactly what we have to do. Particularly for my district, what are we good at? What are we excited about? What are the needs that we serve? And if we stay true to those, will our customers stay loyal to us? And that doesn't mean that we can serve every customer, nor should we. I never believed that we should serve every kid who lives in our community, because every person has a different need. But the ones that do choose us, we need to provide the best quality education that we possibly can. And that's what we're going to stay committed to. So, I think in all this shift, I don't see the student enrollment (for me in particular) as the threat. We're still growing. We still see that we fit a certain niche and people are attracted to that. And so, we can attract new students. I do feel the stressor of another greater struggle is from the teacher side of it, because of teacher burnout and the numbers, the sheer numbers that are not coming into education right now is a dramatic struggle. It's a struggle for every district in the nation. And, and I'm beginning to feel that struggle in West Louisiana.”
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Shannon LeFargue built on what Milton was saying, adding “In one of our table talks, we were discussing the shift and the issues and problems that we have with hard to staff schools, hard to staff content areas and hard to staff communities. There are less and less of those traditional educators coming out of the university level, the teacher education programs. Then when you do get a teacher that we can send to I teach or one of the privatized educational training platforms, there is still a lag between them getting the education and actually being highly effective in the classroom. And then parents want face to face, right?
“If we can at least provide the presentation that we had before, where you're leveraging technology, you're leveraging the staff and you're leveraging the facility. But then we added another component to that. And that was leveraging the certification. So, looking at our certifications for our current staff to then see if they are willing to deliver highly effective instruction in their content area that they're most passionate about. So, if we had a continuum of mindset and structures, I think that's what you're looking at. You need to have the mindset and the structures are being built at the appropriate mindset. And if the mindset hasn't shifted yet, well, maybe it will. Once we build the structures, I think that the continuum is going to be critical for a large organization or a small organization to make the appropriate shift.
“And really the shift we're talking about is nothing less than a paradigm shift. Yes, this isn't just a shift. We're talking about a complete paradigm shift, how we deliver education in 21st century? So, what we're going to do is leverage those four components and, we've taken our 11 high schools and we established one common bell schedule first period through eighth period. And at all those sites, there will be a virtual learning classroom with a virtual facilitator. Now this facilitator doesn't have to have any type of certification, we're going to hire them and train them with technology and troubleshooting, skill sets, taking attendance, being that liaison between the teacher, who's going to deliver the virtual instruction synchronously at one common site to all 11 classrooms at the same time and give every kid in our school the opportunity to take courses they never thought they would've been able to take,” said LeFargue.
In this Administrator Panel Discussion, they discuss big ideas. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Like LeFargue’s vision of amazing classes taught district-wide, and taught just in time by remarkable experts. Place will no longer be a relevancy, as instruction is delivered as needed, when needed. As Dr. LeFargue said, we’re not talking about a simple shift, but a paradigm shift in the way we perceive school as an institution.
You’ll want to continue the fun by watching this thought-provoking, fast-moving discussion. It’s one for the ages – and in this case, for an evolving age of education. As many experts have alluded, the pandemic opened a door to a more modern, more personal and more substantive educational experience for our learners. All yours for the clicking.