The Change Agent

Dr. Stacy L. Scott
Head of behavioral and mental health services for Montgomery County MD schools; President and Founder of the Center for Understanding Equity; specializes in Educational Consulting, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Strategic Planning and Diversity Training

The Objective

To investigate the components necessary to create an environment where both students and teachers can perform to their potential.

Show Notes

Guest Dr. Stacy Scott discusses how to make equity work in schools, including what challenges may be faced and the characteristics to promote organization success. Lean into this conversation on how school leaders can transform their organization so all students can succeed.

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 11
Title: Organizational Redesign Through the “Equity Lens”
Subtitle: Approaching educational systems with a growth mindset

VoiceOver (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, everyone. It is my great pleasure to welcome Dr. Stacy Scott to the podcast. Uh, first, let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Scott. He has an amazing resume. I can't read all of it. It's just too likely, but he is the president and founder of the center for understanding equity. Dr. Scott holds a doctorate from Harvard graduate school of education in counseling and consulting psychology, and he's a licensed clinical psychologist in Massachusetts. So he specializes in educational consulting and leadership development and executive coaching and strategic planning and diversity training. He's a keynote speaker, a facilitator and trainer, and he's worked with organizations such as fortune 500 companies over the last 25 years. And he's developed a wide variety of tools and resources to help school districts. Uh, he's also had a private practice in psychology in Lexington, Massachusetts, and previously served on the faculty of the Harvard medical school as a lecture in psychology and child psychiatry. Not only that, he served as an associate superintendent in Montgomery County public schools in Maryland, and he has been a superintendent for districts in Massachusetts. He's also a visiting scholar at Harvard grad school of education, and he was appointed by governor William weld in Massachusetts to the state board of educators. Wow. Welcome to the podcast Dr. Scott.

Dr. Stacy Scott (01:47):

Thank you Chris, my pleasure.

Dr. Chris Balow (01:48):

Awesome. Well, um, let's jump right into this, Dr. Scott, I understand your, your latest book is getting close to being completed, making equity work revisited, uh, as a working title. Tell us a little bit about your, your newest, uh, endeavor.

Dr. Stacy Scott (02:05):

Well, I started writing making equity work in 2005 was my first, uh, edition. And, um, my focus was on looking at how schools needed to understand, uh, how to close performance gaps, how to help them understand how to change the culture of schools so that students could be high-performing answer that teachers could be high performing. I found that principals typically didn't know the sort of psychology of performance to the extent to which they could really impact the culture of their building sufficiently. After several years of being internal as a superintendent, I realized that, um, it's time to sort of write the next chapter and I needed to write more about from a leader's perspective around the organizational dynamics of organizations, and to think about how to help leaders to think about the organizational challenges that they had to deal with in order to be able to manage large system change over time. So I began thinking about how do I help leaders think about the, the adaptive processes that they need to put in place to change their systems? How do I need to create the capacities for those leaders to gain cultural competency and competency around equity in order to understand how do you in fact retrofit systems to manage change? Oftentimes we don't just need to reorganize the system. We actually need to destabilize it and then reconfigure it in ways that actually will drive change toward our desired outcomes. So thinking about how we do that is, is not simple. Those are the kinds of challenges that can politically put you in hot water as the system potentially destabilizes, while you attempt to rebuild a structure that will actually help get things done. So I wanted to help leaders think about how organizations can function most effectively, how to use an equity lens to drive improvement for all stakeholders and how to do it in a way that is most effective. So sort of began amassing case studies and problems of practice and tools that would help our leaders to figure out what they needed to do and how they could get their teams to follow them in this process.

Dr. Chris Balow (04:09):

Wow, that sounds like that could be incredibly transformative for schools. You know, I spent personally 33 years working in schools and, and sort of the inertia of things just sort of continues over and over. What you're proposing is that we have to really stop that inertia and do some perhaps really bold things.

Dr. Stacy Scott (04:31):

Well you know, ultimately it's embedded in the culture of the organization as to what its goals and values are. So unless you begin thinking about what we do with that culture, um, then things tend to carry on the way that they always have a challenge is to think boldly and, and not just about reform and change, but really about transformation, particularly at this moment in our time where there's so much unrest and people are coming back from COVID-19 and trying to think about what should schools look like? It's a perfect opportunity to think about transformation and to think about what schools might look like for the next generation, as opposed to what they look like in the past.

Dr. Chris Balow (05:06):

Yeah, that's, that's well stated. And, and your book seems to be very timely, uh, given the, the current state of affairs. So you talked about some of the organizational challenges for leaders. Could you highlight a couple of those?

Dr. Stacy Scott (05:20):

Well, a lot of times we come into organizations and just, as you've alluded just as you have alluded to things seem to not want to, to bend toward our, our ambitions in terms of making things better. So a lot of times, just because I'm one department won't speak to another, or that they're operating around the same challenges, but not necessarily seeing that their challenges are the thing that if they functioned collaboratively, that they can in fact get more done. So it's the sort of infighting that occurs. It's the siloing that causes people not to be able to, um, to communicate with each other. Um, it's the, that allow people to have control over different segments of the system, um, that caused them not to be functional with other sections. So those basic dysfunctions, which can happen in any organization from a fortune 500 to a nonprofit, to a school system and cause underperformance, or can cause a really wonderful mission to be undermined by, you know, small thinking. So helping to reconfigure those relationships is an important part of what a leader has to do to make things more effective.

Dr. Chris Balow (06:24):

Sure. So you, you talked about adaptive processes as well. And what kind of adaptive processes might might you recommend or have you seen out there in, in your work?

Dr. Stacy Scott (06:35):

Yeah, I think that what leaders have to do is to engage their teams specific specifically to leadership teams and rethinking how they're doing school. So I use a variety of, um, uh, equity tools, um, equity, rubrics to get schools, to think about, um, given the critical things that you have to do, what would be a rubric that would indicate to you what your current level of performance is? So I use my equity progress assessment, for example, I've created that for the Harvard project that I worked with for some time, the re-imagining integration for equitable and diverse schools to help them to think about how would you in fact, uh, challenge and transform academics or sense of belonging or, um, commitment to dismantling racist structures or diversity, how do you work with those particular issues? So you want to create processes that help people to think outside the box. And so we, by using rubrics, I often have helped people to think about where do they fall in the rubric? Are we proficient in this area or are we just emerging and starting that work out, what does it look like to be excellent and to be, um, highly competent in a particular area, by giving very explicit rubrics, you're able to help people to articulate where are we falling short and specifically, what do we need to do to get to the next level, and then engaging them in strategic planning processes that help them build plans to reliably get to the targets that they want. So we create those kinds of adaptive processes to help them to really understand what they have to deconstruct and then how they can construct new organizational processes to get where they want to go.

Dr. Chris Balow (08:13):

Yeah. Excellent. It sounds like very much researched, um, based in, in very systematic and how you approach this with, with, with districts.

Dr. Stacy Scott (08:23):

Well, like with Ron, Ron, Heifetz at Harvard, you know, spoke often about adaptive versus technical challenges. And so here, what we're trying to do is get beyond the technical challenges and you have to technically reorganized in order to be able to make things more efficient. The adaptive elements are the things that are really get to the culture. They really get to the underlying things that can really spoil your momentum along the way. So you have to get to those more adaptive challenges. How do people feel, how do they think, what do they value and how do we help to make sure that they're all valuing the highest possibilities for the organization, for the people in it?

Dr. Chris Balow (08:56):

Yeah. That's as a psychologist, I know you understand this, that internal belief systems and those values drive the way we perceive and act and everything.

Dr. Stacy Scott (09:08):

Yeah. And then the first making equity work, but my whole focus was on paradigm shifting and helping people to understand what paradigms are, how particularly the paradigm around intellectual development is pivotal to understanding why we have low expectations for some why we think some groups can't learn why we set up systems that track and organize so that some people don't even really have a chance to get to the highest, their highest possibilities in the new book. I want to take that to the next level, because really the issue is understanding paradigms, not just at the intellectual level, but really we have to understand it at a systemic and a societal level. How are these things driving? What we are doing in our organizations are as large and how are they impacting how we're managing our society? The current protests that we see here now in 2020 are really because there are paradigms operating within our society that are causing us to leave large groups of people out of the political, social and economic process. Unless we shift those underlying paradigms that are driving up behavior as a society where we're going to continue to have this kind of unrest periodically every generation until we resolve it.

Dr. Chris Balow (10:13):

Yeah. It's so interesting as a psychologist. It's so intriguing to me that, and for you as a psychologist to, to, to be thinking about, you mentioned the psychology of performance, the psychology of low expectations and the notion of teacher efficacy. Talk about that a little bit.

Dr. Stacy Scott (10:34):

Well, I was introduced to Carol Dweck work in, I think it was 1993, you know, um, she has become very popular as many of her colleagues Duckworth and others that she worked with. We worked with them early on in helping to think about how do we help teachers to shift their lesson planning in such a way that they can optimize students' confidence, optimize their effort and get high engagement so that they can reach their highest potential so that they can accelerate in their performance. In learning about that. I began to realize that to get to growth mindset. There's several things you really have to understand before you can really operationalize growth mindset. If you're not managing the goal setting process that people are using so that you help them understand how their emotions may be engaging with their goals and causing them to set core goals, then they may set four goals.

Dr. Stacy Scott (11:24):

They, over over challenge themselves or under challenge themselves, unless you help them to deal with their underlying attributions, which are about their explanations for how they manage success and failure, Carl winders work, unless you help them understand their attributions, then they could be thinking wrong about why they failed or what it takes to succeed. So you have to make sure that that's engineered appropriately. A lot of our young people are come from situations where they've really been. They've struggled. They've been beaten down, they've experienced helplessness, unless we understand how to shift that helplessness into more of a hopeful and more of an engaged perspective. Then we will have students that can't necessarily hear. It says we attempt to move them into a growth mindset. Growth mindset is all about mastery orientation. So it's all about helping people understand what does it take to master your challenges? What does it take to be engaged in a way that allows you to accelerate your performance and to eliminate any performance anxiety that you have along the way. So to do that, you have to understand the role of expectations. When you hear a positive expectation, how to go in that direction. When you hear a low expectation run the other way, let it run off your back, like water off a Duck's back because it needs to not affect you directly, that someone else may not think of you as they should. You still need to stay engaged and stay effective. So teachers need to understand that range of psychological theory in order to be able to do effective surgery on these young minds and make sure that we inoculate them. You take out all them surgically, take out all of, any of the bad stuff that's in there that causes them to think less of themselves and inoculate them against low expectations so that they can be successful in whatever environment they're in.

Dr. Chris Balow (13:02):

Yeah, that's so fascinating. And I think we could talk about attributional and, and belief systems that this entire podcast I was thinking too, you know, teachers, I think some of their attribution's, they must really play into this as well. That, you know, frankly, in my 30 plus years in schools, I would hear some educators say, well, that child comes from an environment that's X, Y, and Z. So now there's not much we can do sort of things out of my control and there's not much I can do about it. And that must also apply to district leaders that they, they assume that they can't change some of these things it's it's unchangeable.

Dr. Stacy Scott (13:43):

Absolutely. Yeah. That, that attribution really does get to the heart of what we think is possible for ourselves. Uh, teachers have the hard work of really dealing with those young minds. I was a middle school teacher. Those middle school students will really challenge you as they try to figure out their own world. So it is difficult for us to stay focused and stay engaged and stay positive on the hard work that we have to do. And yes, you're absolutely right though, the teachers are heroes on the ground doing that really they're really critical work. The leaders also are challenged to think, uh, to not necessarily be able to see a positive future. There are many intransigent challenges that they have right now. They're about to go into two or three years of difficult funding years where the funding will be short and they'll be having to cut staff and critical programming. And that gets really difficult. It's really kind of depressing when you have to manage those elements. So you really have to keep your head straight. What are your priorities? What are you capable of doing, finding, you know, you have to have your mentors and your team behind you to cheer you on one of the things that I created for leaders early on, I created a cultural analysis tool I call it, which is really a problem solving strategy mechanism. It's a tool for helping you look a challenging problem, deconstruct it so that you can put it back together with a clear vision of where you want to go and strategies that have gets you there with an action plan that will work. So it allows you to look at a problem that seem unsolvable come out of it with a positive sense of hope again, and then we engage and help your teams. We engage in problems that they otherwise might have given up on; it's tough work. So we need all the help we can.

Dr. Chris Balow (15:14):

Wow. That's, that's really exciting. So the cultural analysis tool, how, how does it work in a general sense?

Dr. Stacy Scott (15:22):

Yeah. So there's that deconstruction process that, you know, as a psychologist, we all know that diagnosis is the key to good treatment. So you really need to make sure you understand the roots of the problem, go to the history of it, understand all of those contributing factors so that after that root cause analysis, you're able to think about an outcome that is, um, desirable and feasible and then strategies that will reliably deal with the most significant contributors to that problem. You know, if you get to those two or three things that are really causing students to underperform, they're disengaging, or teachers are struggling to figure out the best way to give culturally relevant pedagogy, whatever the challenge is to get to the root of that. And then to devise the strategies that don't really support teachers to do what they want to do and students to be able to engage the way that they need to engage. Once you've identified those effective strategies and ways to measure those strategies and accomplish all seven of the folks in that model, you're able to implement plans that are reliably going to be effective.

Dr. Chris Balow (16:20):

Yeah, that sounds great. And I have seen in districts across the country, I mean, we really, what you're talking about is a really systematic way of, of strategic planning, you using a framework. And do you find that some districts when they're their strategic plans are built, they're, they're just massive. They're, you know, dozens and dozens of pages. And it, just, to me, it seems overwhelming.

Dr. Stacy Scott (16:47):

So I, yes, you're absolutely right. I teach strategic planning at Boston university. And so of course I get to see lots of plans and actually in our work with districts around, uh, doing some work with the state of Massachusetts, going to districts and asking them for their strategic plan. So we can analyze them, determine the degree to which they're ready to kind of really accomplish the equity work that they need to accomplish. And yes, so you sometimes see plans that are very thin, meaning they are clearly just done by one or two people in central office, and there's no real sort of connection and binding throughout the district as a whole other districts, much more elaborate plans so much so that no one's likely to ever read them. And they, if they're not coming up on a regular basis to the board or within the central office, uh, day to day experiences, and they're not really going to be guiding behavior. So my challenge is always to help the team to create a simple enough plan so that it can be every month the board is doing something in relationship to that plan, asking for data in relationship to that plan, talking about the goals and the plan and their progress. Each department sees those goals and understands they're contributing to those goals. Every principal understands the key goals and is operationalizing that they're building. Every teacher has personal development goals that are connected directly to the district's overall goals. It's that alignment that ultimately creates power within a system, the systems that I've seen perform well high-performing systems have that kind of alignment from top to bottom that allows them to be able to effectively drive change, drive key initiatives straight from top down.

Dr. Chris Balow (18:17):

Interesting. Um, I read something just today that a pretty famous educational consultant said that five years strategic plans are out the window. When we think about COVID-19 that, you know, we have to be able to respond in the moment and have that ability as well.

Dr. Stacy Scott (18:34):

That's true. Well, good plans are just that they're good plans and they can weather even these kinds of storms. Um, and, um, the challenge then is taking opportunity. Taking advantage of the opportunity of the Crisis is, um, difficult as it may be in traumatic as it can be to look for ways to accelerate the areas of growth and to reorganize with clear priorities around the things that you must do most of which should be in that plan. And then to figure out what things you can delay toward a later date when resources, time or energy will go arise to meet them.

Dr. Chris Balow (19:07):

Yes, well said, well, again, we can talk about strategic planning for this entire podcast too, but let's kind of shift a little bit. A lot of your work is around equity, uh, helping schools and districts focus on equity and cultural awareness. So what about equity is important to you, Dr. Scott?

Dr. Stacy Scott (19:29):

That is a rich question. So, you know, equity to me is about ultimately making sure that everyone in the system has what they need to reach. The challenging targets that we set for them. We set challenging targets for our teachers, and we want to make sure that they have the resources and the support to be able to help students to be able to be effective. Um, we need to do the same provisioning for our students, the different approaches that are necessary for them to be effective. Ultimately equity is about figuring out how we might redesign our systems so that they can be more functional. Our greatest gift to our students, I often say is this is a well run system. If it's running effectively, the way it's supposed to run, then it's going to meet the needs of those within its system in a way that is meaningful and effective. For me, sometimes that means taking the old system that we may have inherited as we came in as a leader and slowly taking it apart, putting it back together in a way that eliminates some of the siloing that eliminates some of the disconnection between key partners within the system, so they can be more effective. So for example, in this book, I'm talking about how, when I came to Framingham, Massachusetts as a superintendent, we basically took all the academic functions and put them all together under one roof, rather than having special ed off to the side or gifted and talented in another direction and regular ed sort of, you know, you know, separate unto itself, English language department, sort of all being featured center themselves to bring them all together under one department. So that every week they are talking about how are they helping students in general meet the challenging goals within the system? How are they sharing resources? How are they sharing professional development opportunities and the funds, the title funds, the entitlement funds that come to them from the federal government that often seem to be, unfundable like they can't be connected to connect them and to recognize the cost savings in training, all staff with those resources, with a challenging and a meaningful professional development that almost everybody leads, not just each of those departments, they all need to share that those resources with each other. So for me, equity is about sharing the resources, sharing the challenges together so that we can actually change the outcomes in ways that we might have otherwise thought was impossible.

Dr. Chris Balow (21:36):

And I would assume that the sharing of resources doesn't mean for example, that every school gets the same amount of allocation of some resource that it's really based on. As you said, everyone gets what they need to achieve their, or meet their needs and achieve the goals.

Dr. Stacy Scott (21:53):

That's right. You need a funding process, a budget process that allows for schools to advocate for what they need, their strategic planning process. Each year, the school improvement plan should articulate what they're working on, what they need so that you can allow them some flexibility with the resources that they have to be their particular challenges. And then those schools that have been historically struggling may need additional resources supports. And so you advocate for them or go outside and find additional supports to help them make sure that they're also successful.

Dr. Chris Balow (22:22):

Yeah. And I'm sure you you've run into as a district leader that, uh, some people don't like that approach. I remember this was 20 years ago in a school district where we had the idea that for teacher staffing, that the ratio, instead of being the same 24.5 at every school, that we were going to adjust that based on what you just described. And there was a little, a few upset folks.

Dr. Stacy Scott (22:47):

Well, no doubt that people sort of, um, have, especially if they're outside the systems and they don't understand the internal challenges that are facing, teachers need to be given the capacity within their classrooms to tell us what resources they need. And our job is to figure out how to make sure they get it. Principals need the authority to be able to make adjustments in their staffing and their structure to deal with the particular nuances of their community or their neighborhood or their students that are in their particular school. And if they don't have that capacity, then often their hands are tied in ways that really doesn't suit their role and their training and what really asking for them to do.

Dr. Chris Balow (23:24):

Right. How do we understand culture?

Dr. Stacy Scott (23:28):

Uh, so culture ultimately is the, the combination of values, traditions, habits, critical things within the school that determines its tone determines the expectations, the goals that it sets. So all of those are the critical elements that really together make up the school or the district. And, um, and they're important because ultimately they are, what's either helping you get to your goals or they are what's in your way. And so you may have to massage those values in a way that helps to make sure that everyone is holding common values for highest aspirations for all students. And that it's collaborative. The understood that this is about collaboration, it's about teamwork and, and it's about making sure we're all getting to the, to the, to the end goal together.

Dr. Chris Balow (24:15):

I would imagine too, that for kids, particularly students that have come from challenging environments, that relationships between the educator and the student is a really important part of the culture. That makes a difference in terms of student outcomes.

Dr. Stacy Scott (24:33):

I've had lots of conversations, certainly with, you know, maybe 50,000 teachers over the course of workshops yeah. Around this issue often, often comes up. Um, and the role of a teacher is challenging. There's no question about that, but I think it's made even more challenging if we get into a debate about do teachers do to care about their students. Um, I think that that's almost, to me, it's obvious that the teachers do care. They do feel it personally. So there shouldn't be any illusion that that's not important or that's not necessary or critical that there's a heart to heart connection between students and teachers. We learn from people. We trust that on our guard to let them new information. And so that teacher, student connection is vital. And this is where, what teachers are really good at, which is making that connection to students so that they believe that the teacher can take them to some new place in understanding. So that's where the is connecting with the student in terms of who they are, where their, what their values are, where they come from, what's important to them so that they can use that as material to be able to build a stronger, better students.

Dr. Chris Balow (25:42):

So, yeah, that's so well said. And some teachers may not think about it, but maybe spending time on relationships is just as critical as jumping into that textbook.

Dr. Stacy Scott (25:54):

Absolutely true. Yeah. And teachers often get that. I mean, they understand the role. Well, different teachers do different things. I remember going into, I was visiting some schools in Cleveland this year and walking through classrooms, all the classrooms in the building over the course of a couple of days. And some teachers you could clearly tell, they understood the importance of taking the time, connecting with every student, making them feel the culture you're creating in the room, have a personal connection about expectations for them about really being there together. And for other teachers, it was more like, well, I'm gone in and get to work. You know, here's your work paper, your worksheets, just get the work done. I'm here to help you get these worksheets done. And that's their point of connection with the students. And you can tell that the students were just not having it, not connecting with it, not feeling it. So the difference there is an obvious difference between those two teachers forget that. And those that need additional support to sort of figure out that that's really where it's at. That's the true currency of connection between teacher and student.

Dr. Chris Balow (26:48):

You know, with all of your vast experience you've been in, you know, thousands of schools. And can you think of a school that, that you've been in or perhaps worked with that really has overcome the odds where, you know, students with lots of headwinds in their lives where these, the students have really overcome the odds and what, what characteristics, and, and you've probably alluded to many of them, um, have these schools demonstrated,

Dr. Stacy Scott (27:14):

I have seen wonderful schools with the wonderful thing about going to Montgomery County in the years that I was there 2008, 2009 and 10 was that I got to watch a very high performing system that had very talented principals, wonderful teachers who were really pushing the limits of what was possible closing achievement gaps. Although, you know, in many different ways, it was very exciting to see they, they were doing very creative things. They were often, you know, blurring grade levels, you know, in order to allow students to be on individualized learning plans. So, you know, the student might have, it'd be accelerating in math. So they might be in second grade in terms of, you know, um, their, you know, science or ELA, but in math, they might have moved to third or fourth grade or, or the teachers creating multi-age classrooms or sort of doing extraordinary things. When you see schools that are being creative, going to high tech high, the series of schools in California, that, that from K to 12, that focus on, um, uh, project based learning, watching them do creative and innovative approaches, shows us a little bit of what we can do. Uh, salt Lake city's innovation, high school, where you see, uh, the students given the Liberty, they can come and go and many your success. They pleased their need to spend six days, six hours each day in school, or they can go back to their homeschool, which they can take a class. And if they like, but while they're in the main innovation high school, they don't have to go to classroom. They can learn online as much as they'd like. And they accelerate their learning. Their goal is to get through high school in two or three years. And then they can go to the community college, which is right next door to them, right. And the other half of their building and start their college early. And so they take personal responsibility for that. And a lot of their stuff online, they can go to classes where they want to, or need to, if they have a particular lecture that they want to learn from the teacher. And so they do that. So you watch schools that are attempting to reshape the nature of learning, and you watch that, show us how you can do learning differently. Some of the most creative things that are going on now are in school districts, like take Cleveland, Ohio, right now, they are looking at a mastery oriented learning process where they've been experimenting with this over the last four or five years. And they're really trying to think about how now post COVID-19, how they can go at it more aggressively. How do we reorient our schools so that students have to focus on their own learning trajectory, this mastery oriented. So they're on an individualized learning plan and they can accelerate their learning as they need to, but each student has that plan. And it's about mastery of the skills and the standards. Not necessarily what grade are you in? No. Or they shift and change the nuances of the relationship between teacher and student in a way that dramatically changes what learning is like. And so there are some examples out there that people are attempting to do things differently, and COVID-19 just for them, it's just an opportunity to try some new things and to accelerate a model that they may have already been working on. And it's exciting.

Dr. Chris Balow (30:05):

Yeah. That, that's just so fascinating. Reminds me of a conversation I had with, uh, another educational leader recently that basically he echoed exactly what you said and the schools he works with focused on the personal interests of every student and then building those learning plans, project based learning, and also internships out in the field around the area of interest. And they've been achieving as you described that kind of environment for students where they're like super engaged and really tapping into their interests.

Dr. Stacy Scott (30:39):

Yeah. I mean, I found park city high school, I'm in Utah also to be very similarly project based, students getting to go work with a software design company or the solar energy company, or to work with the local library, doing a marketing project, you know, different ways, which they get out of the school and learning through project based learning. I love it.

Dr. Chris Balow (30:57):

Yeah. Fantastic. How do we change organizational cultures through assessment planning and action? I think you've talked about that a little bit.

Dr. Stacy Scott (31:06):

A little bit, but I had to put it all together. I mean, so the assessment process is using different kinds of rubrics to ask ourselves, where are we on the, on the trajectory of, of, of learning in these particular areas, quality of our, of our academics, the quality of the culture that we create, the quality of our varying sort of systems that we're using, you know, where are we? And then thinking about the planning process that we use that create a strategic planning process that has equity lenses placed into it so that people are able to ask the questions, are we meeting the needs of everyone in our system? Are we setting goals that are actually realistic? Do we have a good action plan to actually getting there and then making sure that there's clear indicators involved so that the actions and the action steps can be fully implemented, monitored and checked off as being successful? I was very proud of the fact that in my work as a superintendent, we were always able to month to month and year to year look at our strategic plan and say, yes, we've accomplished 90 whatever percent, 98% of the items that were on our goals list for this year, we've accomplished we're ahead of schedule by year, or we are right on target and these critical goals. That was always very fine. Um, it just takes careful planning and making sure that the whole team and every department understands that those are their goals and that they can make them happen.

Dr. Chris Balow (32:21):

How do we, um, organize our cultures and structures to really impact the quality of collaboration and organizational performance?

Dr. Stacy Scott (32:30):

So that's a favorite question for me because, um, the focus of certainly chapter seven in my new book, really looking at sort of organizational redesign, I've been thinking about for some years about how I'll come in County, did it very well in terms of integrating the systems that it had and how to articulate that so that more leaders can know what is it that they did and how can we do that ourselves? So I have this notion where integration and collaboration are the two critical things that you need to be able to do. Integration is about the structures and how they are sort of set up to let information flow and data and engagement and interaction. The collaboration is about what the people are doing, who are managing those integrated structures. And so you have to teach people what collaboration looks like, how to use it effectively while they're using better processes and better structures. So getting that integration and that collaboration to work most effectively is what ultimately will make us have better schools or better systems, even as they grow and change for the 21st century. We still have to know how to work together with people. And we still have to think through the ability to create structures that actually work to get the work done.

Dr. Chris Balow (33:46):

Yeah. The, uh, my guess is that the ability to work with others and collaborate might be the harder part of that equation.

Dr. Stacy Scott (33:54):

Well, it is. And so thinking about, you know, from a leadership perspective, you're getting the right people in the room, you know, like Jim Collins said getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. So in Montgomery County every week, we'd have the 25 key leaders of that, you know, $2 billion, you know, 144,000 student district would sit together and hash out the critical challenges that the district was working with. And the way that, that, that conversation was structured because the various departments, half of which were about managing the building leaders and the other half about managing the critical departments within the system, talking to each other, thinking about how to integrate their work in a way that ultimately makes it most effective. It's about people. And, you know, you're not always gonna like each other or feel comfortable or totally happy, but they have to know how to, in the midst of the work to get the work done and to stay connected to each other in a way that is emotionally connected in meaningful connectivity,

Dr. Chris Balow (34:47):

That just must have been incredibly complex and such a large school district to figure all that out.

Dr. Stacy Scott (34:53):

Well, it is, I think, you know, Dr. Jerry WESA was a superintendent at the time, and I think he, he did well over the course of his 13, some odd years there to really build that connectivity, to build good leadership that was able to drive those conversations and to drive that work. And so, you know, those are kind of leadership models that we want to aspire to ourselves that we can, you know, do the same in our own organizations.

Dr. Chris Balow (35:17):

Yeah. And so much has been written about, you know, teaming and collaborating that, you know, trusting others and having building relationships, just like teachers and students is, is so important and, and getting out of your Fife dome and your silo and, and the goal is to make other people better, not just yourself.

Dr. Stacy Scott (35:39):

Well, then that takes, that does take growth. And so part of what you're trying to do is we're trying to mature ourselves as leaders and trying to take our team and caused them to grow and mature, and then also help them to do that with their, with their own individual teams. And that that's always an important challenge while you're managing the organizational development as well, get the people, help the people grow up them to be happy and to be effective.

Dr. Chris Balow (36:01):

Yeah. That's fantastic. How many districts are you currently working with Dr. Scott?

Dr. Stacy Scott (36:07):

I dunno. I don't even count. Um, you know, there's a dozen districts that we're working with in Massachusetts and the project that I've alluded to. Um, there's, you know, maybe a handful of districts around the country that I'm working with, right. More intimately, you know, from California to New Jersey to, to Ohio and, and sort of helping them to sort of figure out how do we use new tools to think about equity and in ways that help us to be more effective driving change, uh, keeping a focus on the critical equity needs within our systems. And for me, it's, it's sort of a learning playground where I can sort of take these tools, get out there and sort of see which ones are most useful and how do we refine them to make sure that we leave a legacy of those tools for the next generation of leaders?

Dr. Chris Balow (36:51):

Well, I know that districts must really value your, your work with them. I would encourage everyone to go to your website, the center for understanding equity.com and learn more about your organization and your work. I think you have a team working with you as well. And so.

Dr. Stacy Scott (37:13):

Yeah it's critical to, to have, uh, other hands to also sort of help and partners and colleagues, other organizations also that we collaborate with that help us to sort of keep moving forward. The creative leadership solutions group is a group that I am working very closely with, um, partners for many years. And so, um, you know, those are the key partners that, uh, I collaborate with around the country.

Dr. Chris Balow (37:37):

Fantastic. Well, Dr. Scott, I want to thank you for your time today, frankly, the information you've shared has been inspirational to me, and I know it will be to other educational leaders that they can really create that organizational redesign and have this integrated collaborative system that can really make a difference for students.

Dr. Stacy Scott (38:00):

Excellent. Chris, glad to be able to talk to you today, it's been a pleasure. I think our greatest challenge moving forward is to think about transformation of our systems. Um, we can't simply go forward in the ways in which we have historically expecting better results. So, um, that's where that's where the real need is. And so I'm excited to be a part of that process.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:20):

Great. Before I let you go, Dr. Scott, we have to play our little game called this or that, where, where I say two things and you choose which you prefer. And if you wish you can explain yourself or your rationale, so let's start off with dog or cat?

Dr. Stacy Scott (38:38):

Dog. I think, um, you know, dogs tend to, you know, can understand what you want them to do. Whereas you tell a cat what to do and they go, I don't want to do that. It's just good to if they want to do so. I like dogs.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:53):

Okay. iOS or Android?

Dr. Stacy Scott (38:57):

Definitely. I'm an iOS kind of guy. I liked the integration and the security that they have. It's definitely difficult to go back and forth. I'm an iOS guy.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:05):

Yeah, me too. All right. Do you like a big party or a small gathering?

Dr. Stacy Scott (39:11):

Um, I'm a big party kind of guy and I'm an extrovert. Um, I like the intimate conversations in the large gathering though. So that's the two sides of me showing.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:19):

Okay. That's, that's fantastic. Uh, okay. I'm a sports guy, so I don't know if you are, but football or basketball?

Dr. Stacy Scott (39:27):

Uh, football has taken front stage for me in more recent years, but I grew up trying to play basketball, but, um, was much better at football and I love watching football.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:36):

Okay. Jogging or hiking.

Dr. Stacy Scott (39:42):

Um, Hmm. Hiking. I tend to love long walks and I love scenery. And so, um, long hikes in the woods, you know, I live near Concord, Massachusetts, so Walden pond, and then there's nice Hills to climb. So I enjoy that.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:55):

Oh, sounds lovely. Car or truck?

Dr. Stacy Scott (40:00):

Cars. I love, um, fast cars. And, uh, and, and so I enjoy driving.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:06):

So do you have a fast car?

Dr. Stacy Scott (40:09):

Yes. I have fast cars, cars, you know, I, I love, uh, the old sob model and I love, you know, so a convertible, you know, salve is definitely has my heart and I had some legacy issues there. My father had one as well and, um, you know, but I love, you know, BMWs and, and, uh, other related, fast, fast things.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:30):

Very nice, very nice hamburger or hotdog?

Dr. Stacy Scott (40:34):

Um, definitely hamburgers. I kind of stopped eating red meat, but a good hamburger now. And again, just can't beat it.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:41):

Yeah, that's true. I don't eat them often, but every once in a while it hits the spot, um, prefer a TV or a book?

Dr. Stacy Scott (40:49):

You know, I think ever since I was a child, I've just fallen in love with the silver screen. So I love a TV and I might, I'm sort of auditorily focused. So I'll often take a book and just listen to it as opposed to reading it, just because that's how I like to take in information.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:04):

Awesome. Ocean or mountains?

Dr. Stacy Scott (41:07):

Love oceans. I think water is critical. It creates a sort of a peacefulness and also a centering. So I love oceans a mountain view can be wonderful. I can take it, but I love oceans.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:18):

Very good. One more. And I asked this of all my guests, a critical question, toilet paper over or under?

Dr. Stacy Scott (41:28):

Oh, how uselsss a question could that possibly be? Alright. Alright. I'll take the bait. I'm over kind of guy.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:34):

Okay. Very good. Well, just so you know, someone, you know, very well from creative leadership solutions, uh, responded that MIT actually did a study on this and they concluded under is the best way to go.

Dr. Stacy Scott (41:49):

I see. Well, you know, the, you know, there's no accounting for taste as they say. Yeah. I love all my colleagues at creative leadership solutions. And, um, and so I won't hold that against them.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:59):

Very. Good. Well, Stacy, it's been absolute joy spending time with you today. And I want to thank you again for joining us on the podcast.

Dr. Stacy Scott (42:08):

Thank you, Chris. I look forward to staying connected.

VoiceOver (42:11):

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.

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Season 1

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Guest Dr. Dennis Carpenter discusses challenges and the... Listen Now District Spotlight: Fort Worth Independent School District 8 District Spotlight: Fort Worth Independent School District In this District Spotlight, guest Dr. Kent Scribner, Superintendent of Fort Worth ISD, shares their response to the pandemic. Dr. Scribner also discusses leadership in... Listen Now Equity, Excellence, and Engagement: How can we accomplish it all? 9 Equity, Excellence, and Engagement: How can we accomplish it all? Guest Dr. Doug Reeves takes a deep dive into equity, excellence, and student engagement, sharing information on his personal research, common obstacles, best practices, as... Listen Now Formulating A Positive School Climate 10 Formulating A Positive School Climate What do SEL and School Climate efforts look like in practice and how can we continue to improve? Guest Heather Anderson discusses strategies used in... 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Listen Now Student Agency and the “Big Picture” 14 Student Agency and the “Big Picture” Guest Dr. Elliot Washor, co-founder of Big Picture Learning, joins us to share the impact of his organization and their work to foster learning spaces... Listen Now Marketing Matters 15 Marketing Matters Are you telling your school’s story? Guest Nick LeRoy, Founder and President of Bright Minds Marketing, examines the rise in school choice and its effect... Listen Now Connect, Learn, and Grow: An Educator’s Evolution 16 Connect, Learn, and Grow: An Educator's Evolution Guest Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth explains the importance of being a “Connected Educator” and how unconventional teaching can change engagement and outcomes for students. Poth's... Listen Now Creating Conditions For Powerful Learning: Answering the “Big Questions” 17 Creating Conditions For Powerful Learning: Answering the “Big Questions” How do we define ‘learning’ and how can educators support powerful learning in schools? 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Listen Now District Spotlight: Greeley-Evans School District Six 24 District Spotlight: Greeley-Evans School District Six Dr. Pilch discusses challenges and triumphs facing districts and superintendents with valuable advice for future school leaders. Listen Now District Spotlight: Santa Ana Unified School District 25 District Spotlight: Santa Ana Unified School District Using “strategic foresight” in order to plan for, innovate, and meet the challenges of our new educational environment, such as declining enrollment and social/emotional well-being... Listen Now Instruction That Closes Gaps 26 Instruction That Closes Gaps Eileen Murphy, Founder and CEO of ThinkCERCA, joins the podcast to discuss the relationship between literacy and Social-Emotional Learning. 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