3. Digital Presence
You can tell a lot about a district’s future-ready culture by how it presents itself on the Internet. The public website, social channels, parent portals, and media coverage all speak to priorities, and a quick search will reveal a district brand that’s either readily apparent or disturbingly invisible. In my experience, a strong digital presence almost always reflects alignment with a culture of internal communication and proactive engagement.
The skeptic might say “Our class sizes are larger than ever before and we’re cutting programs every year. We can’t afford a new website, let alone a communications professional. Social media doesn’t improve student achievement.” It’s an understandable concern, but it’s one that fails to encapsulate the proven-many-times-over value of parent involvement, high-performing teachers, and brand advocacy. Inevitably, when everyone is aware of and committed to the same vision, you will become what your community and the outside world think you are.
Tech-friendly districts understand that digital communication tools are the best way to reach their many audiences where they live. In the words of Atticus Wisener, principal at Garland High School in Texas, “I think it’s very important to be consistent and model what you want in communication with parents. It stems from a core philosophy that you serve these children and families.”
4. Administrative Workflows
Timesheets, expense reimbursements, supply orders… These are all the little things you don’t see until you join a district and start making your way through the first few months of employment. It’s been so refreshing to see the slow decline of the “that’s how we’ve always done it” business model in school offices, but it takes time to get there.
Nothing is more frustrating to an employee than finding hurdles, bureaucracy, and red tape around every corner. When even the simplest requests are handled in a manner akin to Cold War-era diplomatic negotiations, people start to wonder how committed their organization is to the experience of those who work for them.
Tech-friendly districts understand the importance of modeling the innovative environment they expect to provide for their students. Internal processes and procedures can set the tone for future readiness throughout the district.
5. Teacher Professional Development
Perhaps the most accurate measure of an organization’s commitment to its people is the time and resources it dedicates to growth and development. I would encourage any aspiring teacher to ask questions about a school’s professional development culture before and during the interview process.
Conferences and coursework form the traditional backbone of most P.D. programs, but there’s a new wave of options sweeping through the teaching landscape. Self-paced, online training tools are making concept mastery and technical know-how more accessible than ever. Micro-credentialing – more commonly known as digital badging–is at the heart of the most engaging, successful programs. Now, teachers can not only take control of their own professional growth, they can also build a living portfolio that will travel with them throughout their careers.
Tech-friendly districts are embracing a move away from the lecture-style conferences and development days in favor of modern learning models more aligned with the instruction teachers are being asked to deliver to their students.
The tech-friendly district is almost always the more attractive option for prospective students, families, and employees alike – not because technology should be a top priority, but because modern processes and branding are often indicative of foundational values like transparency, excellence, and accountability.
School culture is no longer an incidental result of the way you do things; it’s the driving force behind student achievement and employee performance. How advanced is yours?