The Change Agent

Dr. Dennis Carpenter
President/CEO of Aspirational Insights Consulting

The Objective

To examine the events of 2020, including school closures and the social justice movement, and approach these challenges with the goal of equity and achievement for all.

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Show Notes

With all the recent events, what considerations must schools take into account when it’s time to reopen? Guest Dr. Dennis Carpenter discusses challenges and the changing landscape of education from both a safety and social justice standpoint.

Host Bio: Dr. Chris Balow is the Chief Academic Officer at SchoolMint. Dr. Balow has a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and served for 33 years as an educator in various roles with focuses on literacy, mental health, and the behavioral and emotional growth of students. He has worked the last 6 years in the educational technology field to promote student success on a larger scale.

Episode 7
Title: Moving Forward Together
Subtitle: The pursuit of a superior system

Voice Over (00:02):

ChangeAgents in K-12 is presented by SchoolMint and features top educators, practitioners, and leaders sharing research and experiences as well as stories of hope, opportunity, and student success.

Dr. Chris Balow (00:16):

Welcome to the podcast today, everyone. It is my pleasure to welcome Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter to the podcast. Dr. Carpenter has worked in the education field for more than two decades. And for the past 14 years, he served in senior level administrative roles. Dr. Carpenter has served as superintendent of schools in urban and suburban districts. In addition to the superintendency, Dr. Carpenter has served as deputy superintendent for operations, associate superintendent for human resources and assistant superintendent for support services in rural, suburban and urban settings. Dr. Carpenter has also worked as an elementary principal, a middle school assistant principal and an elementary classroom teacher. Additionally, Dr. Carpenter is founder of aspirational insights and educational consulting group. We'll have him talk about that. He's also the senior vice president for equity and strategic business initiatives for Swye 360, and we'll have him describe that. And he also works with Swift education out of Kansas university as a trainer and consultant, and works with school district leaders across the country. Dr. Carpenter is the youngest of six siblings and was the first among them to earn a four year degree from Georgia Southern. You went on to earn a master's in educational leadership from Augusta state, an educational specialist degree, and a doctorate degree in ed leadership and administration from Georgia Southern. He has won numerous national awards and recognitions. And frankly, I could talk about those for many minutes, but let's welcome Dr. Dennis Carpenter.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (02:01):

Thank you. Thank you, Chris. I'm excited to be here. Let's have a great show.

Dr. Chris Balow (02:05):

Okay. Thank you very much. Well, I kind of read your bio, but tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (02:11):

Absolutely. Well, the man, first of all, um, I'm a husband to an awesome, awesome wife who was also an educator. And I tell people all the time, she's an administrator as well. And one thing I decided early on was to never interview for a position that she wanted, because that would probably hurt my self esteem. Literally the best of this pair of two beautiful children Landon and Layla. They make me better ages seven and eight and Landon has a birthday about a week out, man, he'll be nine. I'm a son. I'm a sibling. I consider myself a good friend and all of those things matter. And just below them, I'm an educator. I tell people all the time, it's important to get those things in order, because once you understand the order, then you know how to manage that time. You know how to manage those spaces that you're expected to command at all times. So that's a little bit about me in a nutshell, I grew up in the South, down in Georgia, spent the majority of my life there until I moved up to Missouri to assume the superintendency and excited right now because my family is already there and I'm making my way back to Georgia. So we're super, super excited about that.

Dr. Chris Balow (03:25):

Awesome. So you're um, so most of your superintendent work was, was in Missouri, but now you're heading back home and that's always a good feeling I've experienced that myself. Absolutely awesome. Well, let's jump into some meat and potatoes here, um, between COVID-19 and, and some of the very recent heightened conversations around social justice. That seems we're at a really pivotal point right now. What are some of your thoughts about this movement and how does it impact school district communities, educational leaders and educators in general?

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (04:01):

Yes, I think we're in the midst, Chris of definitely the most profound movements and public health issues of my time. And I would think the only thing that we're rival it in Martin times from the social justice standpoint would be the civil rights movement and, and everything that ensued, you know, from that point most recently. So when I think about the time we're in now, and as we reflect on COVID and everybody wanting to get back to what life was pre COVID, I'm going to suggest that there is no going back. I'm going to suggest that we will not go back and light up the most recent social unrest. We will never be who we were as a country pre COVID. So now the leadership imperative or the leadership challenge is how do we move forward in unison as a country, as a world to embrace all of this change, really, really come out better on the other side, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come. And that's extremely important. And I know it's on the hearts and minds of educators as they think about the whole notion of reopening and where we are around schools.

Dr. Chris Balow (05:19):

Yeah, absolutely. So around reopening, you know, many districts are preparing to restart and kids have been away for a long time. What are your thoughts about how districts should approach this instructionally and, and also, um, w we'll dig in a little bit to the social, emotional and mental health, um, needs of students.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (05:41):

There's so much, man. So you have the educational piece, you have the social emotional piece, you have the foundational, you know, when you think about that hierarchy of needs, you thinking about that whole safety piece and the like, and that's not just for our young people, but for our educators and for family members who young people leave behind at home. So if I had to think about that, I would refer it back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And I would suggest that those basic needs need to be at the center first, because until we get those things right there, we're not going to be able to move into the educational space. And some of those other spaces that schools are synonymous with. So when I think about just the growing number of cases around the country, especially when I think about our larger metropolitan areas, and maybe there are some more remote areas that are more ready to, to open, but man, you see some careful decisions being made around backing things up. There were some schools that were slated to start the 1st of August, and now they've pushed back to mid September and there's this option of virtual versus blended. And then there are these young people that are coming back regardless of the model or the mode of learning that have had one heck of an experience that they probably do not know how to grapple with and accept and understand, not unlike many of us as adults. So it's a challenge you're so removed from the superintendency. And I talked to several of my colleagues a lot. And one thing I say to him, Chris, is I don't envy your position right now.

Dr. Chris Balow (07:20):

Right. What, um, so imagine yourself, you're back in the superintendency. How would you go about making this decision? Because there are a lot of States that are saying you need to be open, but it's up to you to figure out in what manner shape or form.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (07:36):

Yeah. Um, that's a, that's a great question. In times of crises, it always begins and ends with the top. So whether it's the top of your organization as a superintendent, whether you look at States and what you're hearing from governors, um, and whatever guidance we're getting from the federal government, as it relates to, to the white house, I'll answer your question, Chris. But here's where I want to start. I had a student one day come into my office and they said, dr. Carpenter, they were high school student on the journalism team. They said, what's the, is the superintendency, the hardest job in the school district. And I gave that some thought. And I said to the young person, I think on a day to day basis, given the amount of decisions and what has to happen. I think the high school principalship is probably the hardest job in a district on a day to day basis. I said, but when the issues get tough and the going gets tough, or there's a crises, are there something that we haven't grappled with before the superintendency is clearly the toughest job. And that's where we are right now with Colvin we're in that space where leaders have to emerge and they have to show up. And if I were in that space of having to show up right now for my community, for my students and for my families and my teachers I'd begin with safety, I just begin at this point of safety. And if I could not guarantee safety in one model, option a I'm moving to option B. If I can't guarantee some level of safety that I can sleep with at night and option B, I'm going to move over to option C and so forth and so on. So I think right now that's our ultimate responsibility and that's what our parents and trust us with every single day. And I think that's where we began. So you start thinking about things like distancing and wearing masks and virtual or blended option. And all of those things have to come into play so that we can assure the safety, not only of our children, but families who entrust us with their teachers, with their family members, who, who come in to teach and administer our programs in the light. So that's where I would start Chris.

Dr. Chris Balow (09:55):

Okay. And for me, based on everything I've heard and read someone in that decision making position, there's so much conflicting information out there on which to make that kind of decision. So as you said, I don't know if there could be a tougher decision facing our superintendents these days.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (10:16):

Absolutely not. They are definitely in my thoughts.

Dr. Chris Balow (10:19):

The other factor I hear a lot about too is funding. For example, I talked to a superintendent recently from Michigan and they have to plan on 20% across the board funding cuts. And, um, I, I hear about increased costs involved in some of these different models to ensure safety. How do you approach that as a superintendent?

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (10:43):

It's one of the most difficult things that you do as a, as a superintendent is when you're in this space of funding cuts. When you thinking about a school district, and you think about how that budget is allocated in most school districts, 85%, somewhere North of 85% of funding is tied to humans and human capital. So when you consider that Chris, there, it's hard to assume a 20% cut across the board and not impact staffing and numbers. So that's what we're getting ready to see as I think back to 2008 and 2009. And during that timeframe, when I was serving as deputy superintendent, and we were assuming those types of cuts, and there's nothing more difficult than looking in the face of, in the eyes of humans, your fellow human beings, who have families to take care of who have responsibilities in the light to tell them that you can no longer support them in their job role due to no fault of their own.

Dr. Chris Balow (11:50):


Dr. Dennis Carpenter (11:51):

That's the most difficult thing that I've one of the most difficult things I've had to do over the course of my career. And I see that coming down the pipeline for lots of people. So you do that with a degree, number one of integrity, and you have to do that with the degree of empathy. And ultimately you just have to work your way through it, but it's unfortunate unless something changes. My crystal ball tells me a lot of that is on the way, and there's no way to address it without addressing human capital. And it's gotta be tough, especially in this climate of declining budget. Chris, you're also getting budget ads that are going to be mandatory around things like personal protective equipment, right around things like further sanitizing and cleaning and the like, and man, it's gotta be tough.

Dr. Chris Balow (12:39):

Wow. And clearly if they're cuts of personnel, students are going to be the ones directly impacted. And, you know, we hear about the tremendous learning losses and degradation of achievement for kids based on, you know, missing all of this instruction. You know, talk about that. And we also worry about kids that are coming from environments that don't have a lot of support around them and they're facing extra headwinds.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (13:10):

Yes. So when I think about our young people, if a school district is choosing to go back to school, like many are the second or third week in September, that's about six months away that a young person would have, would have had away from school. And it would be foolhardy to believe that that will only impact our learners who struggle. That's going to have an impact on all of our learners, because when I think about March through may, and I think about myself having two young people, and it's not even up for debate, Chris, I have the smartest children in the world, so we're not even going to debate that.

Dr. Chris Balow (13:55):

Good. I agree.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (13:56):

So with that being said, me trying to do the work that's necessary for me to provide for our family and my wife doing the same. It was hard for us to keep up and keep our kids engaged to the degree that school would have.

Dr. Chris Balow (14:13):

And you two are professional educators.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (14:16):

Yes. And we're professional educators. That's going to be the piece that I was going to elevate. Absolutely. Yeah. But even we couldn't do it the way that it has to be done connected to a place called school. So that will have an impact going forward into the new year. So when you think about our most vulnerable learners and what that impact looks like, because we're not even talking about a wheel gap or a skill gap, we're talking about many of our most vulnerable learners, see society has a way of compounding inequities onto people and families. And when we think about our most learners during this time that they were away from school or they've been away from school, many of their parents were considered essential in frontline workers. So we're not even talking about whether they have the wheel or the skill. They literally, if they were going to pay their bills could not be there. And when I think about my community, I E the black community as an African American, one of the bedrocks of our community, for many reasons, we don't have time on this podcast to delve deep enough into it. But for many reasons, one of the hallmarks of our community is grandparents, primarily grandmothers. But in this age of COVID, we were taught rightfully so that our kids didn't need to be near grandparents because they could be carriers and asymptomatic and the disease could have, or the virus I'm sorry, could have devastating impacts on the elderly 60 and above. So we took away a key cog in the family wheel for many of our young people, combining that with mom and dad, who for many reasons are deemed essential in frontline workers. That's a challenge. So I've talked to some of my colleagues in urban settings who stated that they lost kids somewhere to the tune of 40 to 50% when they tried to engage with them virtually, they just flat out, lost them, lost track of them. So, man, what are the applications for that? As it relates to achievement gaps and opportunity gaps. Now we're dealing with not just summer slide, Chris, but we're dealing with spring, summer, and some of fall slides.

Dr. Chris Balow (16:28):

Right? Yeah. The slide could potentially continue. Um, you know, for many, many, many months, depending on the course of, of the pandemic and on top of that, and we talked about this a little bit, you know, I'm a licensed psychologist and, you know, work with kids, mental health for, for years that, you know, there's a certain percentage of kids that live in, in, in very chaotic environments. Not only, you know, they're not getting the instruction, but there, there may be, um, abuse, neglect, food insecurity, shelter insecurity. And so these, so many kids are going to be struggling emotionally.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (17:07):

Yeah. So when we think about, um, profiling is what I like to call it, because generally when you talk about food and securities and you're talking about dysfunction, because of our subconscious bias, we see an image of who that child might be. We think about our classroom settings and who some of those children might be, but that face during an economic crises, like the one that appears to be on the horizon, we're going to have to be broader with our definition of who that face might be. Um, so when you think about food and, and the like, and you think about some of the unemployment numbers and the like, and some of the layoffs and the like we're going to have, have a broader definition of who that encompasses and that employs all of us to find a on-ramp for greater equity, greater access and greater opportunity for the young people in our organizations that we serve.

Dr. Chris Balow (18:01):

Yeah. Well said, and you know, we talk, we, we mentioned about the, the decrease in funding and the impacts. I feel like with the kids coming back and their mental health needs, that we need to actually increase support services in those areas. And how can we possibly do that? It's unbelievable.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (18:21):

Chris, I'll say one thing there and this'll... Yeah. Everything is so connected, right? Yes. Well, we think about this time that we are talking about and where we started with this moment, and you think about the social justice piece, and you think about education. Now, we got 20% cuts that are being announced in some States across the board, in the, like what we're not doing well enough as a country is we're not embracing the interconnectedness of all of our institutions. So what do I mean when I say that it shouldn't just be that because we've done budget this way, all the time. Now in the midst of this pandemic, we have to cut education 15, 20%. But how is education connected to other institutions in the life? I was reading here in my state, Missouri 300 layoffs and 200 were family children's services, division caseworkers. And I'm sitting here like, man, come on, Missouri as a state, is that what we start with our most vulnerable populations and students who need it the most and families who need it the most. So then you think about the social justice piece and what we've heard through the protest and Ahmad Aubrey area and John George Floyd, and the like is you hear this notion of defund the police. And then everybody says, Oh, what's that all about? Well, at some point I said, I need to dig deeper so I can understand that. And basically what it sounds more like to me is a reallocation, a reallocation. So if we were open to that and realized that inner connectedness, could there be some reallocation that could go on so that we can ensure longterm opportunity for our young people, instead of saying, here's education sits over here, law enforcement sits over here, social work sits over here. No, we all better together. And we all connected. Yeah. So, so true. And you know, the studies have proven that, you know, a dollar spent on a young person to provide them with the, the, those foundational skills and supports, saves a great deal of money. Longterm. Absolutely. Last piece I read was if you invest in quality early childhood education and provide that foundation, every dollar expended and it returns a community seven to eight dollars.

Dr. Chris Balow (20:45):

Wow. Yeah.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (20:45):

So when we think about that. That should employ all of us to come together.

Dr. Chris Balow (20:51):

Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, you referenced black lives matters protests, um, sparked by primarily the death of George Floyd, but others, as you mentioned, and, you know, young people, um, maybe not so much kindergartners, but young, young people really probably want to talk about this and in, in a meaningful way. And how, how do you see that happening in schools and how can schools support that?

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (21:18):

That's a great question. You know, when we think about the most recent protests, I said to a colleague of mine that through this process, young people have found their voice and maybe some who had not found it before. I think they went into it with some fear and some trepidation as it relates to protest and in the light, how do I know? Because I actually spent two days out at the Kansas city protests and I saw some of my former students. And as I stood there, you could just see, they were kind of trying to figure it out, but they were glad to see this old superintendent guy, at least he's there. And that kind of gave them some reassurance to go about what they were doing. But what we found Chris is that this has led to some systemic change, the likes of which our current systems have not been able to get the wheels moving on. And so I think our young people recognize that I was looking at a document the other day and it said, whoever said, protests don't work. And then they talked about all of these systemic policy changes that had occurred since the protest began. And these are things that if you would have shown most people that had a light, they like mankind. They would've looked at that and said, these are things that are important prior to the protest. But evidently our current system was not leading to the type of change to make those changes happen. So now that our young people have seen this you're right, I think that's something that schools will have to contend with going forward. How do we create safe spaces for these conversations? How do we ensure that we are able to hear student voice and use that voice in our decision making protocols as a school district, I've been loosely putting together some research piece here and I made this all up. So it makes sense to me. And I'm trying to tie some research to it. But I think that as a country, we are moving to the third phase of three phases as it relates to my lifetime when I was growing up as a child. And I saw things, I didn't have the term, Chris social injustice, I didn't have the term social justice, but when I saw things that were not right, are I heard adults in my life talk about things that were not right. When I heard them talk about them. It came from a place of accepting. This is the way it is. You just have to work harder, but that's the way it is. And you know that you're going to have these stumbling blocks. You have to do what you need to do to not get caught up in them. That was my teaching as a child. So I called that accepting and that care, I carried that with me even through the early parts of my career. And there was some time I'm in the middle of my career, Chris, I started moving to another phase that I'm calling asking. And during that phase, I just started to pose questions. Why is this this way? Does it have to be this way? What's stopping us from changing, changing this? What are the implications if we change it that asking, but I can tell you what I noticed in that asking even till most recently in my last superintendency, that asking, creating discomfort for those that were in the majority, for those who benefit from the system, the way it currently looks, they didn't like that asking phase. But now our young adults that are young people have moved to what I'm calling a third phase and that's demanding. So we've gone from accepting in my mind to asking and now we're in this space of demanding. And I think there's no return from demanding seeing what can happen when you stand firm on your policy demands. And I think that's what we are now. And once again, how do we make our world the best it can be moving forward because there's no going back on multiple fronts.

Dr. Chris Balow (25:16):

Yeah. And I think, you know, teachers in the classroom, they're, they're going to have to spend time on this and maybe weave in social justice, uh, racial inequalities, um, discipline, disproportional, proportionality, weave that into their lessons and, and reflect, uh, historically too on what has happened and make it part of the instruction. I, I hear about in, in certain places where, Hey, we've got to just focus on reading and writing and arithmetic. And I think the job of a teacher is going to be much more difficult because you've got mental health. You've got these social, uh, issues, all of that, as you were saying, um, is I'm learning from you, it's all interconnected.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (26:01):

Yes, it is working all of these pieces are so interconnected and the organizations and the communities that are going to win the day in my humble opinion are going to be those that recognize the interconnectedness. I think those are going to be the communities that will flourish into the future. And those that attempt to stick to the status quo, they're going to become aging communities put another way. Young people are not going to accept things that even my generation accepted moving forward. So if a community is okay with that, then that works. If they want to continue to flourish and move into the future, then I'm thinking that interconnectedness has to be recognized. All voices have to be valued and appreciate it. And there has to be a clear, clear commitment to equitable practices. And just to be quite clear and blunt anti-racist policies and positions.

Dr. Chris Balow (27:01):

Yeah, absolutely. A lot of my work has been around school climate research and implementing equitable behavioral practices in schools. And, and, and I think that's, for me, one place schools can, can focus is having equitable discipline and not excluding students of color to the extent they have been historically and, and really work on relationship to that.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (27:26):

Yes. Yes. I think you're spot on Chris. Um, I delve deeply deeply into that conversation in a few school districts. And what I learned when we talk about disciplinary disproportionality is interesting. When you take a deeper dive, I've done this now. And I did this in two school systems where we say, okay, we have a gap. We have disproportionality in our discipline. Absolutely. Right. We do, but let's go a little bit deeper. Let's take our infractions, Chris, our disciplinary infractions, things that we placed students in, in school suspension or out of school suspension, or detention for. And let's categorize them as categories that are objective and categories that are subjective. And what we found when we went through this exercise and probably I should trademark it for something. But I did, we through that exercise, Chris, in two systems, we found that in those objective categories, the gap was almost nonexistent. White kids are tardy, black kids are tardy, poor kids are tardy, rich kids are tardy. But when we get to those categories that are more subjective, disrespectful, defiant, some of those things that there may be some cultural disconnects and they can be more subjective, man. That's where we saw the big gaps. And there's some subconscious elements that are at play in all of us that caused that and the systems that are successful in the future, going to be those systems that are willing to confront that with the training lens and then from a policy and practice improvement lens.

Dr. Chris Balow (29:06):

Yeah, absolutely. And, and, and really put in frameworks and systems. And my company does this frameworks and systems that, that try to make those subjective things objectively. So you're not making a decision based on a characteristic of that child, whatever that is or your personal like, or dislike for that child.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (29:29):

Wow. The net that's, that's the work. Um, I've been fortunate enough to work with a few organizations and lead organizations around this whole notion of diversity equity and racial equity type training, and really making those commitments because it does not start with, what am I going to do? And that's as educators we've been taught to, there's a problem, what are we going to do to tackle it? What I found is when we jumped too quickly into the technical, what are we going to do? We miss the opportunity to know ourselves and do the adaptive work that's necessary so that we can be more effective in that technical space. So I think when districts unearth these type issues and these issues continue to come to the forefront, there has to be a system in place for the district to Paul's and really, really worked through as a team of educators in a very, very adaptive way. How am I showing up? And what role am I playing in the policies and practices that are creating a space that can be this, this, this proportionate? Oh yeah,

Dr. Chris Balow (30:38):

Yeah, absolutely agree. And part of my work over the years too, has been to help educators self reflect on why did I respond one way to this child and a different way to this other child reflect on why. And, and often there there's some, you know, we, we talk about, you know, internal biases or, or, or whatever, and that's self talk that self reflection can take people to a deeper level of understanding.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (31:08):

Absolutely. And when you do that, self-talk in that reflecting. That is a great, great step. But then when you are able to articulate your truth, when you have these epiphanies to your colleagues, that's just ratcheted it up. Even another level, when you can show up in front of colleagues and say, Hey, this is where I was, and I'm not proud of it because now I've done some reflecting. And now I see how I showed up to these issues, but here's where I am now, what an impact you can have on a colleague. And I've seen that happen and they're very, very, very high levels. And it's exciting to see those transformations. We can do this.

Dr. Chris Balow (31:48):

Thanks for sharing that. Let's shift gears a little bit. Um, you mentioned earlier about blended learning and, and hybrid learning models and so forth. And tell us a little bit about your work with sway three 60 and how that may be a real support for educators.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (32:05):

Swye 360 learning is a new platform. That's been in the makings for six plus years. And what sway three 60 is, is this a true virtual instruction platform? It is not just a video conferencing tool. It is not a learning management system in and of itself, but it brings the best of all of that together to create a true virtual instruction environment. And the three 60 element is key because we believe that in order to be effective with virtual instruction, you have to not only be able to touch the student, but also touch the teacher touch. The parent and administration has to be able to be a part of that process as well. So suede three 60 provides four different on-ramps into the platform to engage in the education of a child. It allows for that seamless support in terms of working with parents around where's my child, what is he missing? I can send an SMS message to the parent or an email to the parent. Immediately. Parent can request a video conference with the teacher teacher has that technology to make instruction, engaging interactive whiteboard technology, formative assessment, technology, auto grading of assessments, and create quizzes. So we're really trying to assimilate that classroom environment. So when a teacher gets to work each day in the brick and mortar environment, they go into the classroom and they say, this is my place for the day. Everything I need to deliver high quality instruction is here. Well, what we saw last spring was school districts out of necessity. We're just pulling every tool. They had tried to pull it together to deliver something to our young people and our families during this pandemic. But what we are hearing from an R and D standpoint from a lot of families and teachers and administrators, is that it was kind of clunky at best. So what sway has done a great job of is creating that home room type feel environment for every single educator. Who's working with our young people, excited and platform, and we're starting to get some synergy in the marketplace.

Dr. Chris Balow (34:09):

Hey, that, that sounds really, um, really important at this time. I was looking on their website too, and there's a coaching component that, that you build into it as well.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (34:20):

Oh my. Yes. Um, two levels of coaching. So we have about 400 coaches from across the country with their defined areas of expertise who already set up an in the platform ready to deliver coaching to teachers to young people are to, even to parents who might need it through the platform, but also if a district joins the company and they subscribe to the platform, they can bring in district instructional coaches, our reading specialist and the like, and they can serve as district level coaches in the platform. So that coaching element is so, so critical. We believe that in this virtual environment, professional development has to be synchronous and asynchronous. So we're providing some of that and it also has to continue to be ongoing and based on an individual teacher's needs. So how do I deliver guided reading instruction in the virtual environment? It's gonna feel different. It's gonna look different and I can start working on some things. And then I run into a few issues where that coaching support is there and built being Chris. It's exciting.

Dr. Chris Balow (35:22):

Yeah. That, that, and as we've been talking throughout this podcast, the challenges that today's educators face, nobody has all the skills and knowledge. So having that coach at the, at their ready would be awesome.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (35:35):


New Speaker (35:36):

Yeah. Well. Also, let's see. Tell us about your work with the Swift education center out of Kansas university. That sounds fascinating. Yes. The Swift center is awesome. I believe the Swift center and what we do. We're probably the, for most thought leaders in the country around multi tiered systems of support and under the leadership of dr. Wayne sailor and dr. Amy McCarthy are, we get to work with school districts, K-12 districts across the country, public schools, charter schools, you name it. And we will get to go in and put together a framework for really, really delivering high quality mode to tier systems of support. And what does that look like from a tiered instructional matrix standpoint? What are we doing instructionally so that our tears really, really can make a difference? What are the things we're doing in on the parent continuum on the leadership continuum? And the beauty of it is it's all supported by the latest research. So we just released, um, Don Miller who's on our team, dr. Miller and co-director Amy McCart just released a new publication. Equity-based multi tiered systems of support that book's getting a lot of synergy out in school district communities. So I'm excited to be a part of that team as they continue to look at the, the equity lens that we lend to our, to our framework, that's excited. And then also we just released as an org and it was starting to build some research based content around this whole notion of black lives. And so that really, really in a weave itself into what we're doing with multitude of systems of support, here's what we know from the data. And this is a piece that oftentimes communities and districts don't discuss, but in any group of students or subpopulation of students in a school district community, when you look within that group and you desegregate around race, African-Americans are still at the bottom in terms of opportunities in terms of scoring in terms of access. So let's just use special education. As an example, you can look at a school and in many cases, and you look at this notion of special education and you start talking about the types of behaviors and the types of services being received. You see some discrepancies around race, or even when you look at special education and you see the performance of students with, sorry, well, the diagnoses and disabilities, you see those gaps around race. So we're really, really in this, this particular moment, trying to not only look at an equity overlay, but then really, really looking at black lives. And that's been forged through partnership with the Gates foundation. We're doing some work with 20 charter management organizations through the bill and Melinda Gates foundation. And they're with multi tiered systems of support and special education students. But they're very, very clear that their work is centered on improving outcomes for black Brown and poor children. So that's really, really forced us or not forced us, but put us in a very, very unique situation whereby we can put resources toward the impact of our work on black lives. So that's been very, very important.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:58):

Well, that that's awesome. And, and personally, I know Dr. Saylor and Dr. McCart and the work of Swift in my 30 plus years in the field, and they do amazing work and anyone listening to his podcast check out Swift education center. And then finally, let's have you talk a little bit about your, your, your personal consulting businesses, founder of aspirational insights.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (39:22):

Yes. Aspirational insights consulting. It's a, it's a labor of love, man. I just believe that there's so much work that can be done. And I've had this array of experiences. I'm blessed to have a phenomenal wife. Who's an educator and some consultants that are partnered with, and basically what we're doing is going out right now. It's a lot of diversity equity and inclusion work. Um, but we really want to work into that space a lot. And also the human resources, space and human capital management budget and finances, just all of these experiences that we can bring to the table to help local school buildings, organizations, but even moving into government and nonprofit spaces. So we excited about that work slowed down a little bit because of COVID, but a few key clients are still working and pressing forward in their work. So we're excited about it.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:16):

Awesome. Well I encourage folks to, uh, Google aspirational insights and you'll find it, uh, also, um, Swye 360, that's spelled a little differently. It's S W Y E three 60, Google them and check out, check them out. I'm just really fascinated by, by the virtual learning platform there, and then also Swift education center at Kansas university. So, uh, dr. Carpenter or Dennis, may I call you Dennis? It's, it's been a really, really fascinating conversation for me personally. And I know our listeners will, will, uh, learn a lot from it and they can reach out to you at aspirational insights, um,

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (40:59):

And follow us on all of your social media platforms, pretty active on Twitter with aspirational insights, as well as, you know, Facebook. And one thing that I didn't elevate as a part of our company right now, it's really been about service during the climate that we're in. So we have the good trouble equity talks podcast. So feel free to go to our Facebook page and look at good trouble. Equity talks on YouTube, where we're really elevating some voices that really need to be heard during this time. Our most recent guests was Kansas city, Missouri superintendent, Dr. Modell, but we've elevated voices of black fathers. We've elevated all types of voices during this very, very trying time. So thank you.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:41):

That's a great title. Good trouble.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (41:44):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So let's do it.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:47):

All right. So, Hey, before I let you go, you have to engage in our little fun activity with all my guests. It's called this or that. And I'm going to say two things and you tell me which one you prefer. All right. And then you can provide your rationale as to why you prefer that. If you wish start off with an easy one dog or cat.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (42:09):

Oh man. Dog we don't have any pets right now, but my kids want a dog and they're trying to win me over with it.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:13):

Every kid should have a dog, as they say, Facebook or Twitter.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (42:17):


Dr. Chris Balow (42:19):


Dr. Dennis Carpenter (42:20):

The notion It's a little meatier. Um, I have lots of followers on Facebook as well, but I like to get things in a little meatier on Twitter. Yeah.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:28):

Okay. iOS or Android?

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (42:31):

iOS. iOS.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:32):

Okay. There you go. Uh, cake or pie.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (42:40):

Uh, I have to go cake. I'd have to go cake. I'm thinking about this one good pie I like, but man it's cake.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:46):

Okay. Sounds good. Big party or small gathering.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (42:50):

Small gathering. I mean, if you'd asked that question about 20 years earlier. Yeah. It probably is a big party, but the older I get small gathering.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:57):

Oh, I'm the same way. Football or basketball.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (43:02):

There is no both category. Those are my two favorite

Dr. Chris Balow (43:04):

You gotta pick one 51 49%.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (43:08):

Okay. Well, I have to go basketball because that's coming up here in another week. So it looks like we've gotta get a restart on basketball to some degree.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:14):

Me me too. I'm a big, big basketball guy. Um, jogging or hiking.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (43:20):

Jogging or hiking. I got to go hiking.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:24):

Okay. A nice car or a nice home interior home interior.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (43:30):

I like home interior again, 20 years earlier. It was my two seater, but that was before the wife and kids. But yeah, No, it's home interior.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:37):

Okay. A hamburger or taco.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (43:41):

taco. I stopped eating beef in 2008 and I have not reintroduced it to my diet.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:48):

Okay. All right. Um, car or truck?

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (43:53):

I am. I'm in a truck now in my last, yeah. I think it's truck.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:57):

Okay. You're a truck guy. Um, okay. Our last, our last one I ask of everybody toilet paper over or under.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (44:06):


Dr. Chris Balow (44:06):

You know, how you put, put the toilet paper on, does it unroll over the top or under?

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (44:12):


Dr. Chris Balow (44:13):

Under, okay. Okay. Uh, interesting that my, my survey on this most people choose over. So, so you're a unique person from that perspective.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (44:24):

Yeah I'm under man. I like under.

Dr. Chris Balow (44:25):

There you go. Well again, Dr. Carpenter's been a pleasure. Thanks for being a part of our podcast.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter (44:32):

Absolutely, I appreciate you all having me.

Voice Over (44:34):

You've been listening to the ChangeAgents In K-12 podcast brought to you by SchoolMint, be sure to subscribe. So you never miss a show and follow us on social media. Remember our brightest years are still ahead. See you next time.