Our guest educator speaker, Dr. Paul O'Malley, Superintendent at Butler School District 53 in Illinois, has a lot to say about leadership in this pandemic era. Like many superintendents, Dr. O’Malley used the pressures of the pandemic to innovate, but with a particular eye towards the needs of his teachers and staff.

According to O’Malley, “I think we're in the mutation phase. And so, we are now looking at how do we digitize, right? How do we move away from the paper and pencil, but how do we digitize? And then get students acclimated to the digitization, which, which is another feat in and of itself, because you have people that have been teaching, in some instances, for 35 years, and that's all they know. And then you have others, that are straight out of college that don’t have a certain set of skills. That's why we have such a huge number of coaches, because those coaches, whether it's something that is a skill that, that has worked for many, many years or a skill that is at its infancy. We're able to basically find the fulcrum and the balance beam, so that we can make things work in the context of where we're at, where we were, and where we're going to go. And then, where are some optionalities that we can harness so that our teachers can be more and more advanced.

“We are looking at a program that can personalize the learning, and we've realized that the LMS, for lack of a better term or phrase, our LMS system is really many systems that are just compartmentalized, right? And so, we need to really focus in on what I refer to as a strategic abandonment. There's a lot of things that we did that we need to abandon that we continue to do, or that we want to do, because that's what we did. We probably have hundreds of apps, hundreds of programs that we're using and what we're doing right now with our coaches is we're going through each of those. And we're determining, number one who is using those apps. And number two, if it doesn't meet a certain threshold of needs within the building, then we are not going to support a technologically because we need to get focused on what are the best pathways. And then, let's become very, very good at those pathways. But at the same time, you let's build a learning management system, a personalized learning experience that not only has all the data, but more importantly, is able to be used as an opportunity where we can say, ‘Hey, look, here are the three, four or five skills that this particular student is going to need.’ And here are the three or four or five skills that the teachers are going to need professionally.”

It takes a certain kind of wisdom to make the hard choices, to keep the wheat and remove the chaff in an organization as complicated as a school district. Dr. O’Malley is making the choices and leading through support and service. There’s a lot to learn, and this superintendent eagerly shares what he has learned in this very special guest educator session.


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