The Learning Leadership Symposiums, brought to you by the Learning Counsel, are regional professional learning events designed to promote innovation in the field of education. By combining timely research and knowledge of trends and market changes on the horizon, the Learning Counsel facilitates a high-level experience in a single-day workshop format.
Kicking off the regional event in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Michael Robert, Superintendent at Osborne School District 8, explores district leadership priorities post-pandemic. According to Robert, “When I think about leadership priorities, it is from a values perspective. There are so many things going on in our state and in our country within the topic of education. We have the teacher crisis, we have aspects of privatization of the public school system that are being attempted quite successfully here and in other states around the country, issues about the digital divide, pending fiscal cliffs, the reading wars and everything with the science of reading. School discipline, keeping school safe. There's so much to steal your attention as a leader in education; there's so much to have to think about and it can be overwhelming. So, you have to be grounded - grounded in how you're approaching your work within education.”
Here within Osborne,” said Robert, “we try to keep ourselves grounded through our core values, so I want to walk through those core values and then as we’re talking about what priorities there are in education for us, we're going to do it through a lens of ‘what our values are’ and ‘what that brings us to think about here in Osborne.’”
At this point in the presentation, Robert figuratively rolled up his sleeves and got very real. “I don't want to make light of a global pandemic, but if there's any one thing that the pandemic did for us, it told us to stop making excuses for what we can't do,” he said. Robert talked about the distribution of technology, and how getting things done was a matter of will, not of money. “Our director of Information Technology Jamal Dana had pushed in our last Bond Initiative for laptops to go one-to-one. That's not cutting edge. We were one-to-one pre-pandemic and he was saying we need to get these in students hands, they need to be able to take this technology home. We didn't do it. We were so afraid of what's going to happen to it? Will they break it? Will they this? will they that? We had so many excuses why we couldn't do things. And then, we made a decision, and they were deployed within four days.”
One of the Osborne School District’s core values is joy, and Robert and his staff place a great deal of intentionality towards that value. Included in the video is an exercise designed to identify the joyful moments in education and make those moments a focus full time. “When you look at your teachers now is that what you see (Joy), is that what you feel?” asked Robert. “I do see that from some, I most definitely do and you know why I see it in those folks? Because they are being creative. They are getting out their Joy; it's not that education brings them joy, they bring joy to education. When we talk about making this value a priority, we can't be passive with joy, we have to bring the joy into education.
“At the end of the day, we're going to have a lot of hard decisions to make,” said Robert, “but kids have to be the first priority. We're really important too as adults but we have to eat second and let the kids eat first. We need to take care of them. So when I think about priorities now, I invite you to take the journey that Osborne's taken and identify what your core values are and let that drive where your attention goes and not get distracted, so thank you for being here and welcome to Osborne.”
This is an inspirational video. It is instructional and most importantly, it views like a how-to guide for improving your district’s leadership skills. Robert pulls no punches, and bravely exposes his personal growth in a very transparent way, all for the benefit of districts like ours who are also in the process of growing.