Looking back, what is the most-significant accomplishment in your first year?

I really think, and it’s certainly not just a single accomplishment of me, but I really think the board
actually redoing their whole ends statement in the second half of the year was phenomenal. And I
would have to say, it wasn’t something that I would have told you in September that was on my list,
‘We’ll, we have to re-work the whole vision of the district in one year. I wouldn’t have expected that.
But as the year progressed, the board got more and more interested in updating it. And tweaking it in
some cases. It wasn’t a complete overhaul. Perhaps partly because they had so many new board
members accumulate over the year, 3, and a real sense after the election that this is our new board for
the next year and a half, at least until the next election. So let’s get down to business. You know, I was
excited about the prospect. … I think the process (of development) went well. And community input was
interesting. And I think the board’s really happy with the document, the way it turned out. And they’re
curious about what staff will do with it next, because we have a lot of work to do this year. And I think
that’s really going to frame our work this year, as we work with administrators, teachers and figure out
‘What does this look like?’
Now that you have the vision, how do you make it reality?
Well, I will say that you will hear about it a lot during the year … So, uh, we plan to update the board
multiple times throughout the year, because the board’s work is kind of stopped at this point, waiting
for us. They hand it off to us and we start doing staff work on that. And that, what we envision is getting
groups of people together to work on each of the four areas and that we’re bringing back pretty much
frequent updates to the board: who’s working on what, when we get something together that’s enough
to report on, we’ll give them an update; and so you’ll see it coming on the agenda many times during
the school year. Our goal would be that by the end of this school year, that we would have, um, a new
set of targets. So we will have developed the framework of all of the things we are going to monitor.
And then out of that monitoring, we’ll choose a few targets. Because out of this will come several goals;
there’s a lot in here. And so we’re not going to try to make every single one of them a target for
improvement, but we’re going to try to measure first and then see. And just beginning conversations
have been interesting because people have, people are very curious about how are we going to go
about measuring these things and, um, staff has been curious and thoughtful – you can see people
thinking, ‘huh, how about. We could use.’ So there’s a lot of people just thinking about what kind of data
do we already have that we could use. I do think that, um, you know our intention is not to create all
kinds of tests. We have plenty of tests. We have plenty of tests coming on. So our intention is certainly
not ‘how do we test for this.’
It’s to look, for the word I’ve been using, indicators. So for example, connections. How well are kids
connected to the school and to people around them? … The obvious best way is to get their opinion, to
ask them. So there may be a student survey, perhaps, of high schoolers in the works. We haven’t started
any of this yet, obviously, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a survey came out where we find certain things
where we just don’t have anything other than just asking students what they think. … In my back-to-
school letter, particularly, I’m asking teachers to stay tuned because we’re going to be asking for their
input along the way, but also as we develop things. We want to run it by teachers and parents and ask
what does this look like. So that will be interesting. Overall, my impression is that pretty much every
group that we talked to liked them. And then immediately said ‘how are you going to measure this
stuff?’ Every single group was really curious about that, and we um, we’ll see right? We’ll see what we
come up with.

When you look at the ends: more a reflection of where the district is or is it more the future-looking,
this is where we aspire to be?
Maybe it’s both? I think you actually captured it, because it’s designed to be the ideal vision of what we
hope for our students, when they leave us, when they graduate. At the same time, I think what we will
find, as soon as we start to monitor it is that we have, um, areas that we are strong in and other areas
that we have holes, ‘Hm, we’re not really doing that,’ and in some ways we picked up on the prior ends
statement and where things had not quite been figured out yet from that and carried them forward, as
well. A lot of the 21
st
Century skills, personal responsibility, global awareness, work ethic, all those types
of things, um, had already, had always been there. As a district we hadn’t done much with that; we
hadn’t figured it out yet. Which isn’t to say we don’t teach any of those things, but in terms of being able
to measure and monitor how well we, getting those skills developed in our students, we weren’t there
yet. So that’s what we’re trying to do now. I also like some of the major additions that we added,
because we added career and technical; and we also added, we listed all of the areas where we have
standards, including dance and the arts, rather than just reading, writing and math. Um, and then on the
21
st
Century skills, I think you heard the discussion about adding social and emotional skills, as well, and
there’s more and more indication that that’s every bit as important as problem-solving or civic
responsibility for future success.
On the, um, I think as you look back – actually your questions for this interview caused us to look back,
to do a cross-walk, which, Danielle did, and she went through and she looked at my first impressions
that I had presented to the board, as well as talking along the way. And I think it’s all of those things, fit
within this framework. There are some that are, perhaps, less evident, um, one was teacher leadership,
and I talked about that, um, on and off throughout the year. And that doesn’t show itself here, because
this (the district ends) is about what students will do. But um the teacher leadership piece and the
development of principals, um, comes as part of our continuing focus on the 5D+ … so we’re not veering
off of that. We’ll just continue to layer on step and the next step as we become more expert in using a
learning framework like that. So we’re not veering off that, but we’re moving forward.

What does that stability mean for PSD moving forward?
I think superintendents being stable is really helpful. Um, because leadership actually does matter, and
um, the relationship between the superintendent and the board is important. And so the more, what
I’m trying to do is, is be the leverage point, perhaps, between the board and the district so that we’re all
on one team. So the board is working closely with me and with the cabinet and that we’re all headed in
the same direction together. And I think the ends statement and 5D+ is evidence of that, that we’re
staying the course with the things that are valuable, that we don’t want to discard from prior leadership,
and then we’re looking to the future and saying, ‘OK, where do we go next? Where’s the next logical
step in the next direction?’ … All of these things take time. It’s really unrealistic to say that you can just
come in and completely change a district in one year – if you would want to in one year, as a
superintendent. Because anything we do takes an enormous amount of time, to have thousands of
employees shift how they work, or shift their priorities at all is a very slow process – if it’s going to be
meaningful. You know, if it’s important than it’s going to involve training people to do something
differently or to improve or whatever it might be. And that takes an enormous amount of time. So
stability really lends to that work. And I think people – at least I’ve had a lot of people tell me – that my
commitment to stay the course with 5D+ was a huge relief. Because I think there had been a few years
of prep and really only one year of implementation (Nancy’s year), so half the schools had gotten
trained. … With something as comprehensive as, um, a teaching and learning framework, it’s going to
take years for everyone to really learn it and to reflect on their own practice, and how is my instructional
practice reflected in this way of teaching. Because that’s what the framework is, really this way of
describing teaching. And um, we’ve done massive training again this summer – this year was, the
beginning of the school year we’re focusing on another big heavy dose of training for our administrators.
But then training for three days is one thing, using it all year and beginning to, reflecting with each
other, our principal training this year is going to be based around cohorts of administrators who learn
together … so there’s a lot of work to be done with that. And it’s my hope that as we all become more
skilled in seeing good instruction, instructing well and seeing everyone seeing their own patters of
strengths and weaknesses, that teacher leadership will emerge, because we’ll be able to see the
patterns of strengths that our teaching force has and begin to capitalize on that.
Those who are willing and interested will be able to have people come and watch and observe. If your
strength is my weakness and I can come watch you in a very low-stress environment, you know, so
things like that. Some of our schools do already, and I think things that will naturally emerge from the
teaching and learning framework as we go forward.

You weren’t coming in to rebuild (she says “it’s not a broken place”); foundation came in with? How
do you take it to that next level?
I think that’s one of the things our community really wants is to be a great school district. You know,
they feel like we are a very good school district, and they want us to push it to the next level.
You saw that that came up in the ends, as well, where we had above and beyond as one of the main
ideas. That our community thinks foundations for success, and everybody being at grade level, is super
important but not enough. We don’t want to stop there. And so, um, that was one of the focus areas
that came out; we want to push our students to have opportunities in their areas of strength and grow.
And I think that’s where leadership matters, that’s where you can see, um, whether those seeds are
being watered or not. Because a lot of what I do is try to find the strengths that are out there (16:59)
and support them. I really believe that’s part of the function, a good function of a central office is to say
‘who’s trying to do these things and how can we help?’ um, because I do think there’s some of all of this
happening in our schools, but with a central office support and push, I’m hopeful we can multiply their
effect.

Aspects of this going on at every building. Who’s doing it really well, where you say that’s a high-
functioning building/replicate?
So the first is, what does high-functioning mean. Because if all we’re measuring is test scores, then you
just look at where the test scores are highest, and we can do that in about two minutes, right?
Depending on what test scores you want to look at. But if you want to look at the whole product of all of
these skills (ends) and figure out who is doing pieces and parts of it better, not just test scores, that’s
going to be an interesting exercise, and that’s what I hope will pop as we begin to try to find indicators
of these other outcomes for kids. That we’re going to see strengths in our buildings in a different pattern
than just what you see in these test scores. (19:00)
(ME) So is it about redefining the conversation? Community often focused on good scores as indicator
of whether school is good. Is it about reshaping that conversation of what it means to produce high-
functioning kids?
(HER) So I think that’s interesting. (Thoughts on replication): I think that replication is an interesting
question because most people recognize that we’re a school system, and so they say ‘Whatever is
working, um, we should do it in all the schools.’ And that’s a corporate point of view where scale it up,
anything that’s really working, let’s bring it up to scale. And there are some things that might work that
way, but I would suggest that a school is not a corporation. It’s a community. And what works in one
building might not work in another one because the kids might be different, or the staff might be
different or the community’s different. Um, and so you see all different kids of schools and all different
kinds of personalities of schools, even if they don’t have different program, particularly, they have
different personalities, (20:25) and um, so replicating something that worked in one place, it might not
work as well in the other.
It’s frustrating, I think, sometimes, for community members when they see something that is absolutely
amazing, that a teacher took his or her passion and created some unique way of reaching the kids in that
classroom, and then say, oh everybody should do this. And it very rarely translates well somewhere else,
because it was part of that person’s skill sets, and their passions and their ability to use that to reach
children when another teacher might just not work very well. Um, so but then there are instructional
practices that every teacher should have in their tool belt; those then teachers use as they need them,
just like you would use the tool, according to the task.
(ME) like the 5Ds? Yes
(HER) where that’s helpful in instruction … So we can all work together and talk about the work
together, but that doesn’t mean that when you walk into a classroom, they’re going to be doing it
exactly the same. Sometimes across the country you’ll see examples where a district is actually
implementing a lock-step-type of instruction. In my experience, it’s been situations where, not always, in
many cases, where the staff is not very highly trained, where there’s a lot of unlicensed teachers,
desperate difficult situations where the teaching staff is coming in with energy but not with a lot of
training. And that’s certainly not the case here; we get a couple hundred applicants for every teaching
job, so we don’t have a problem with the quality of our teachers when they walk in the door.

What is an example of lock-step district?
Been a while since she’s been around those; generally high-poverty, urban areas where, and the most
common was elementary reading, where reading book with script in it and every teacher was expected
to actually read the script every day. And there are still books out there where you can buy the book and
it’s got the script in it, and we certainly don’t expect teachers to use that … and I think that was actually
one of the misunderstandings about the new standards was the worry … and I think you heard parents
generally worried about going to a system like that. And uh that’s certainly not what we’re doing.
(23:59)

Biz and economic development leaders say this is the place to live, education is a part of that, so how
do you build the system that Fort Collins demands and deserves? What’s next?
I think that, um, on the part of parents moving here and businesses being able to recruit, I have talked
with many of our business leaders who have said that they don’t have a problem. That’s the first thing
their employees want to know, if they have children, is they ask what the school system is like. And the
employer says ‘They’re fantastic. Check them out or check them out on the website.’ Typically what
parents do is they look at our test scores, um, but as they’re thinking about moving and them come and
they visit -- we have people visit our schools all the time – they love them. (24:57) So I don’t think, in
terms of having people want to live here, um, it’s pretty evident, just talk to a realtor, they know where
the boundaries are.
So um but I will say that on the other end, on our graduates, um, the whole business community – both
here locally, as well as everywhere else – is saying, how do school systems prepare graduates that are
really ready to step into the workforce, either after college or before. Um, and that’s again, part of this
whole post-secondary readiness in the changing world: How do we create graduates who are ready to
take on jobs that haven’t been invented yet, or who are ready to have a career that includes retooling,
and reeducating themselves constantly throughout their career. Um, in many cases a collaborative
environment where people are expected to be working as part of teams and how much of our
experience in high school is building that ability to work in teams, um, so a lot of the things you’ll see in
our outcomes statement is about those characteristics so that we can start talking about them more and
focusing on them and figuring out how to do that. (26:25)
We also will be doing some work over the next few years in working with our high schools and looking at
our programs about how do we give kids experiences as they go through high school to better help
them figure out what they’re good at, what they like – those things often go together (laughs) – and
what they’re passionate about and have a better sense as to when they graduate what a path might be
that would be fulfilling for them. And I do think we have some work to do in that area (27:04) but we
have amazing examples where we have been very successful and others where we haven’t (she’s talking
about kids) so, um, I know that’s one of the things that we’re going to be looking at and as we go –
maybe in the next couple of months, Ginger follow that work. She’s going to look at the array of
experiences that we give to students, to what degree are these experiences, um, predictable, or is it all
up to the kid – whether they sign up for something or they don’t – how much force are we using with
the system to make sure that our graduates have some idea, both what they want to do and where their
skill sets lie. (28:10) And I will tell you that, um, there’s some amazing things happening in our high
schools, but it, honestly, it takes people to work with people. We can’t expect our high school
counselors to just be doing everything on their own on top of everything else they have to do. So I do
think that as we look at beefing up that system, um, I don’t what it will look like – it hasn’t been created
yet.
We will be looking around the country, though, at places that are known for having it developed beyond
what we have. And we’re excited about going to look at some other places … to see what we learn and
what we wanna take from what we’ve seen.
(ME) difficult to define what readiness means for kids, for each child
(HER) “and given the fact that they’re only 18!” … So how do we at least narrow the scope of the world
so they at least have some idea of what they want to do when they graduate.
Some of the partners obvious (CSU, FRCC) … who are the stakeholders you have to engage? What is
their role?
(Reporter’s note) Added some staff to spokeswoman Danielle (Clark’s) staff to facilitate the process
Danielle: reconfigured the partnership center (budget) to have a partnership and foundation
coordinator and then a community engagement coordinator, collaboratively; had both positions before
in different iterations, changed scope of duties; the partnership coordinator in charge of making those
partnerships with the businesses and seeing kind of what it is that their needs are, what their wants are,
in terms of what can they offer, what kinds of experiences do they have and do they want to engage at
that level
And working with schools on flip side – after Ginger gets the program – what is it that we want to do
from the school side, in terms of what do we need from those partnerships to flush out that idea of the
relevant experience of the opportunities for kids; once program gets further along, will start identifying
based upon career cluster or however the program comes out; and then Beth ______ will be in charge
of making those connections (31:13)
Sandra: So I think that, the members of the chamber that I’ve talked to have been very interested in this
topic, so I know the chamber will want to be involved, and then all of our really basically, all of our big
businesses (CSU, HP, OtterBox, PVH) that they have a pipeline for the jobs that they have locally, and on
the technical side, we’re hearing the same thing, um, that our pipeline isn’t, perhaps, aligned with the
work that’s actually here, so that’s another piece of the puzzle. (31:52) is to try to line up better (wolf
robotics, LSI, Woodward, construction, oil and gas, agriculture) We do have schools that are building out
these partnerships right now. So um I think we’ll have in a short period of time a better sense of what
everybody is doing collectively, so if I’m a parent, because once again, I don’t think it’s realistic to ask
one high school to do it all, um, and they’re not trying to, there are specialty programs in different
schools. As a community, we should offer a really good recipe, I mean ingredients, for so that if your
student is particularly interested in one thing or another, you should have one way to figure out which
high school you think is stronger in that particular area. We want a broad-based program that exposes
kids to all kinds of things at every school, but then if you’re going to have a specialty academy or even
just a series of course work, we need to be more accessible to parents so they understand what those
best choices might be. (33:28)
And in terms of business choices, what I’m hearing might be is a teacher or a school or a program,
they’re creating something creative and they need a partner, so they end up reaching out to whomever
they know and trying to find those partnerships on their own. The central office should be helping;
that’s one of the functions we can really help with. And that’s where we’re going to try to build out our
ability to connect with the business community better so that, if I’m a teacher and I’ve got this amazing
thing going on and I just need to know where my kids could go visit a, b, or c, we should just be able to
know that. Um, and now, on the flip, we have teachers trying to do it on their own – and some very
successfully – and then we have businesses doing the same thing, saying ‘I want kids to come, I want
kids to come visit my business, or I’m willing to take interns, or I’m willing to come lecture in a science
class, or whatever it might be, individual business people trying to do the same thing, again, without
anyone centrally whose job is to connect us and to facilitate that process. (34:43) So I’m excited that we
have a new person who obviously all of this won’t fall on their shoulders but that through Ginger’s office
we’ll build kind of what the network looks like and can access it from inside or outside. I’m hopeful that
in just a few short years we should be able to have it more understandable and see where our areas are
that we’ll need to build some strength. What I’m most excited about pursuing these areas of interest
and community values is we’ll see what our areas of strengths and weaknesses are so that we can target
where we need to improve our programs while at the same time fanning the flames of the people who
are already doing it – because it’s a big district, so we have a lot of strength and … so I think we should
be able to build a quality of it all at the same time.
I particularly don’t want people to worry about the fact that we’re going to standardize everything or
make every school the same. That is so not the culture here, and we have no intention of doing that.
This is more about facilitating what people are trying to do and to help them move along faster and give
them more resources to do what they’re trying to do.

What do you see as the biggest challenges you’re up against this year? Parent involvement? Statewide
issue? Negative factor/budget?
I think finance continues to be a problem; although, we did see some movement from the legislature
last year. … So I um money doesn’t solve every problem, but when you’re trying to build anything, you
need the resources to do it. And so, with this guiding document, and smart staff people who are figuring
out what the high-leverage changes should be, then we can resource that. I think, to some degree,
people are still smarting from the cuts that were made during the recession so there are still some key
places that we just need to rebuild, um, because those were essential functions that now aren’t getting
done. So there’s still some of that, that’s about rebuilding, not building. (IT, support staff, facilities)
(keep cuts away from the classroom) … Money is clearly an issue. (38:38)
I’ve had a lot of people tell me ‘wow, we’re interested in watching what you do with this (indicates to
ends) they also believe it’s a good step, but they’re not trying to do it because … so I think a lot of people
will be watching what we do. It’ll be a big challenge, but I also think it’ll be a fun challenge. A lot of
people are very interested in it. (39:30)
I think on the part of teachers, um, there is a continuing nagging worry about SB 191. As it goes into
effect, and so the timeline’s kind of been moving for several years now, and it’s going to start counting
toward whether or not you can lost your non-probationary status, and I’m very confident that our
system that we’re building to do that is the best of the best. I don’t think we’re going to accidentally
harm someone’s career. I think a lot of really talented people are putting it together who are very
careful but everyone’s nervous because it’s never been this impactful before in a teacher’s career. So we
do have a lot of nervousness. I kind of think you just have to do it the first time and 95% of the people
aren’t going to be nervous any more. So I think there’s that. I do think that it can be really good work,
and we’re really trying to make it be positive. It’s about helping people grow in their profession every
year, it’s about talking to other teachers and talk about their work in a constructive way. So I’m hopeful
that that’s how it will feel a couple years from now. I feel like now we’re in the tunnel and we haven’t
come out the other side yet, so it’s just a very nerve-wracking time now for teachers. And I don’t have
any way to make them feel better, other than to assure them how careful we’re being and, I think, in
time people will recognize that (deep breath) it all turned out OK. (41:50) And then I think, too, that
there are, whenever you go into something that’s not been done before you have that worst-case
scenario in your head. And I think that’s where a lot of people are living right now, ‘what if that worst-
case scenario happens to me.’ And so that’s a real worry that people are experiencing and I hope that
they’re seeing that we’re watching for those, that we’re capturing those when they happen, and we
really have a lot of smart people watching so we don’t end up accidentally harming someone or their
career in some way

Closing the achievement gap. Where at?
We actually are really pleased to have Jinger come in and take position because has expertise. Will
oversee professional development for the staffs, really working with them. I think the hardest thing
when you are a professional and teaching staff in a building where you have a lot of children in poverty
is what’s the most important thing to do now, because there’s so many needs. And Jinger (Haberer),
assistant superintendent of student achievement, will work closely with those principals to help them
figure out well how, if I can only work on two things this year, what should those two things be? What
should my priorities be in terms of focus? It’s so easy to focus on the 45 different things the kids need …
and one of the things that’s been so great is partnerships with the community. We have so many groups
that are interested in helping children and families that are living in poverty right now; there’s huge
school-supply drives going on, and that’s really great, because we don’t have teachers trying to spend
their time figuring out how to get kids to the dentist. We have a whole group of community members
who have taken that on. … and that really shows the community wrapping their arms around these
families and these kids, particularly … so that our teachers can focus on the academic part. (45:06)

What is one lesson you learned in Eagle County that you could apply here?
I think the most important thing I learned is that it’s very complicated, and every school is different,
every culture in the building, every group of kids is different. Some schools may need one thing and
another school need another thing. So I think you have to have really high expectations and you have to
have a really great culture in the building before you can even start the process. So those are the two
things I look at first. Those two things alone are complicated. How you actually hold high standards – it’s
easy to say you have high standards, it’s much harder to actually hold kids accountable for grade-level
standards and how you enable them to reach those standards when they have so many things working
against them. Just saying, ‘oh, we expect you to do it is not enough.’
(ME) how do you hold them accountable?
(HER) everybody in this system has to watch student achievement very closely along the way, every day
of the school year. And I know that we are concerned as a community and a culture about how much
testing we do of children, but very brief quizzes and daily questions and things that teachers do that
hold kids accountable to a high standard on a weekly basis are extremely helpful. They’re particularly
helpful for the teacher because you can’t lose sight of how far behind the kids are, which is a very
natural phenomena, but then it’s critical that the kids themselves understand here’s my work, here’s
what it’s supposed to look like and exactly how do I get from here to here. The kids have to own it. And
so the teachers have to have systems so the kids can own – not just where they are and where they
need to be – but the process, like, OK, I’m going to go do this again and this time, I’m going to do this.
(48:17) And when you see the gaps close, there’s some type of a system or process that regularly forces
the teachers and the kids to interact. And I think a lot of schools have those processes – they look a little
differently in every building – but I know that’s one of the things that Jinger wants to strengthen.
(Reporter’s Note: 5D+ part of that, affirms)

Personalized education?
Treat every child as an individual; how can you focus on so many children. Actually recognize the
individuality of all children, because that’s what our families expect. Um, and, um, anything that we can
do to help a teacher manage the process of educating so many kids and be able to get their student data
and their information in the most easy way possible, we are rolling out teacher laptops this year – that’s
part of an effort to just make the paperwork of keeping track of kids easier. We’re also working this year
on a data warehouse where kids’ data is fed to the teachers easier for teachers to access, so they don’t
have to log into four or five or six different programs to find out where kids are in different things. So
eventually, my hope is that we have a system that can actually look for certain indicators and shoot it to
the teacher so that they don’t have to be always searching data but that the data is coming to them and
saying, ‘oh here, you should look at this, because more than half your class didn’t get that standard’
without them having to figure that out for themselves. So we’re working on the ground-level system
that will do that for teachers

TOP ITEMS MOVING FORWARD

Do work around the new ends
Continue to learn, implement the 5D+
Continue to be careful about SB191


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