By Juan Cabrera
Earning El Pasoan of the Year with Board President Dori Fenenbock certainly was an honor, but it got me thinking about what else we can accomplish and work on. How can I better support the principals and leadership that helped us articulate our vision and goals for EPISD?
As I reflect on the coming year, I am excited about using “lessons learned” to identify areas of improvement for our school system. I am meeting with my Administration and our Board of Trustees to gain their perspective on what has worked and where we might improve. After working with the Texas Education Agency through a transition from state control to local elected control, we are excited about the recent stability and consistency we have created.
During my first 3 ½ years as a Superintendent of Schools at EPISD we focused a lot of energy on new governance models, creating organizational frameworks for board oversight and our internal district teams and finally managing many external issues that were unique to our district.
While this work was unavoidable and necessary for our particular district, I am excited about the prospect of spending more time thinking about and impacting our classrooms. I am proud of our work rebuilding an infrastructure and foundation for our district, but I know that it is time to make an active shift to an increased focus on our teachers and classrooms. As I often like to tell anyone who will listen, ‘‘none of this work [central office] matters if there is not magic in the classroom.” With +/- 4000 teachers in EPISD, we have to make a lot of magic!
As with any leadership role, especially in a larger organization, it is important to distinguish between changes in areas we would like to impact and making changes which have a greater possibility of actually making an impact. In other words, it is being honest about the distance that often exists between policy changes at the board and superintendent level and what actually translates into positive impact in the classroom.
Much to my dismay, when I visit with teachers and principals, changes are not often received as positively as they were made at a board meeting. This too is a focus area for 2017–improved communication regarding initiatives and their impact. I want to ensure that we are all on the same page about EPISD in 2020 and the positive changes that will come in our journey to reaching this vision.
Given my appreciation for the distance between Superintendent and Board decision-making and classroom impact, my first priority for classroom impact in 2017 is evaluating and analyzing our support and supervision of Principals.
I know that if we want to every student to graduate and meet the following 5 learning goals, we have to have strong leadership in place to support the schools and staff that are facilitating learning for those students.
As a principal in EPISD, active learning, dual language education and SEL are necessary focuses. I believe principals deserve proper training and support from central offices in order to provide learning environments rich with these elements. This means they also deserve flexibility, autonomy and choice — just as we promote for our students.