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What JCPS Leaders Learned From a Week at Harvard University

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Jefferson County Public Schools administrators will work to improve communication between district leaders and school-level staff, addressing the big takeaway from officials' conference last week at Harvard University.Top JCPS officials spent last week at Harvard meeting with professors in the university's education and business schools—as well as leaders from the nation’s largest school districts—to get direction on how to improve information-sharing across the school system.JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said the district will develop teams made up of employees serving in various roles, including teachers and central-office staff.The teams will focus on finding solutions for district-wide issues, such as communication, responsiveness and aligning assessments with standards.She said the changes that come from the teams' work will be noticeable.“What I think you’re going to see is more alignment and more communication,” she said.  “We are going to work in a problem-solving structure with principals to talk about how we can improve communication."Hargens  said the “overwhelming amount of information” needs to be transparent for educators.“Information shouldn’t be power—information is for everyone to have,” she said.Related: School Board Gives JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens Positive ReviewShe added that JCPS’s central office staff should strive to work “side by side” with schools, rather than above schools.  This neutralization of power is something Hargens said JCPS and other large school districts, like Montgomery County, Md., and Clark County, Nev., are working to achieve.“This is an idea of mutual respect and lateral colleagues,” she said.  “We are all in this together.”Hargens said the conference was a success and the takeaways will help improve the district's ability to educate students.  She added that working alongside business professors form Harvard allowed JCPS leaders to “fine tune” their educational reach with a business-like approach.“It’s not a whole shift in how we are doing things, it’s just improving,” she said.The Harvard trip was partly funded by a grant from the university through the Public Education Leadership Project. The remaining funds were provided by the district at a cost of near $19,000, equal to about $2,400 per participant.The JCPS leaders that attended the conference included Michael Raisor, the districts chief operations officer; Cordelia Hardin, the district’s chief financial officer; Bob Rodosky, the district’s chief data officer and John Marshall, an assistant superintendent of the district’s department of diversity, equity and poverty programs.Three principals from district schools also attended.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.