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District chief: Why school success stops and ends with teachers

School district CEO learns that investing in the future for education starts by investing in its people-specifically, teachers.

I believe the hardest day of any job is the very first day. On that first day, the basic, most elementary parts of the workplace are foreign. Where do I park? Where is the coffee? How do I log in to my new computer? The list of things to learn goes on and on.

However, a new job also brings tremendous opportunity. The day I walked into my new role as CEO of Ohio’s Youngstown City School District (YSCD’s), I sensed the tremendous passion and promise of the district’s approximately 5,300 students and 500 teachers. While 99 percent of YSCD’s students are economically disadvantaged, I could feel the power and energy within the school system.

The question was, “How do we unlock our school district’s potential?”

My immediate objective was meeting with my senior leadership team to brainstorm ways to elicit the substantive change we knew would greatly impact the learning of Youngstown’s students.

Everything Hinges on Teachers

After much discussion, deliberation, and thoughtful review of reams of data, the team agreed that investing in the growth of YSCD’s teachers had to be the central pillar of our strategy. However, supporting every teacher within a single district is no small feat. We knew we needed an instructional focus and a strategy for building capacity.

Our focus was simple—How should the district’s senior leaders empower YSCD’s educators to create dynamic learning environments that placed students at the center of learning? In order to begin the transformational process of creating these types of learning environments, we reached out to our teachers for insight and clarity.

(Next page: How YSCD focused on teachers to elicit true school district transformation)

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