Independent schools often state that they have a public purpose and try to share resources with their local public schools and districts. I want to give a special shout-out to one school that really lived that part of their mission yesterday.
Yesterday I organized a Skype communication between David Monaco and some of his leadership team at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas, and Sonya Wrisley and the founding leadership team of Design 39 Campus, the new K-8 in the public Poway Unified School District in California that will open in 2014. The Parish team has developed, and continues to refine, a comprehensive and forward-leaning faculty professional growth and assessment plan. The plan supports the hiring and retention of faculty who buy into the Parish mission; amplifies the strength of their school culture; breaks silos of department and division; promotes an incredible swath of teacher-owned and customized professional growth; and articulates a clear rubric for how faculty will be assessed on their performance. David has said (and I have stolen this from him) that he wants to get his faculty “up into the Jetstream of education innovation”. This process ensures that will take place, systematically and sustainably, at their school.
The Design 39 Campus team faces a unique challenge: to replicate this kind of hiring, development, retention, and culture in a large public school with a strong teacher’s union. Fortunately, Poway USD has a history of district-union partnership that will allow D39C to create those critical buy-in conditions for their teachers. By creating a transparent path of expectations and assessments, they will find the right matches of teachers who will thrive in a highly innovative learning environment. By sharing their work, Parish saves Poway a lot of time and money in developing a tool from scratch. In return, Poway will be able to help Parish understand how the tracking and assessment protocols can be aligned with grade level content standards like those in the new Common Core.
Bravo to both these teams. The Parish brain trust took a chunk of time to do this on nothing more than my request, and openly shared their valuable proprietary work product. Down the road I see a strong partnership in the best “lab school” tradition between an independent school that is pushing ahead on important innovations to transform learning, and a large public district willing to bring those ideas to scale. All parties have enhanced their interscholastic PLN’s and now have stronger networks to move forward on areas of mutual interest and innovation. This is how it works!