“What’s important to understand is that even these thoughts started just by simply walking around and developing relationships with people—teachers, administrators, principals and staff,” said Sanfrancesco. “Just strike up a conversation when possible and ask ‘What are the issues you’re having?’ What are your needs?’”
He continued: “When you have a comfort level with teachers it becomes less of a suspicious ‘Who is that administrator and why is he here?’ Teachers want to tell you what’s going on and what they need, but you have to have that relationship first.”
Sanfrancesco also noted that it’s important to have a similar relationship with central administration and the school board, because without buy-in and trust, ideas like the Technology Academy might never have existed.
Another large aspect of inspiration for the district was through their participation in Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up survey, which polls district staff, administration, community, students and parents on current issues in education.
After reading the results of the survey, Garnet Valley received startling data: The largest issue the district faced was in Professional Development; specifically, training teachers on technology:
“That was a large wake-up call for us,” exclaimed Sanfrancesco.
Turning data into action
Armed with three important tools to present to the school board—understandable data, building needs, and a realistic technology plan—Sanfrancesco received buy-in during a planned retreat from administration and the school board on a vision that become known as the Technology Academy.
The Academy is one week during the summer to train teachers on technology using other teachers as coaches. Sanfrancesco chooses the teacher coaches through recommendations made by school principals. Each school has a teacher coach in the Academy.
The teacher coaches, explained Sanfrancesco, are classroom teachers who volunteer to coach without any additional pay—a decision supported by the teacher’s union. To make up for lack of additional pay, teachers are granted whatever technology they wanted for the classroom.
Teacher coaches are also given the freedom to design the Academy’s structure. Teachers selected to be coaches met with Sanfrancesco from January to June in 2007 to go over planning the first Academy, as well as any additional instruction needed to become a coach.
(Next page: Funding and course design)