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Leadership Lessons From Going “Back to School”

Dear Thompson Community:

One of the greatest perks of being the Superintendent of Schools for the Thompson School District is the opportunity I have to conduct frequent school visits and walkthroughs in order to observe teaching and learning in progress. As the superintendent, I recognize that student growth, achievement and support are paramount to ensuring ultimate success for our nearly 15,000 students. Our district exists to serve these needs, and there is no better place to observe this important work than in the school buildings themselves. During the months of January and February, I have invited our Board of Education members to accompany me on these visits. It is important to me that our board members get an up-close and personal view of our schools in action. After all, our board is entrusted to make the important policy and governance decisions for the district; I want them to see first-hand what our students are experiencing each and every day to help inform their perceptions as well as provide them with authentic interactions and observations with our students and staff within learning environments. I am pleased that all seven members have made the commitment to participate in these walkthroughs with me.

Each walkthrough is led by the building principal of that particular school. The board members and I not only tour the school building, but we also enter classrooms, learning spaces and school environments to observe the lessons and activities that are taking place. Board members and I frequently engage and interact with students by asking them questions such as what they are learning about as well as what they most enjoy about this particular class. Board members also frequently engage with teachers and school staff– sometimes just to thank them for their great work and contributions, and at other times to seek feedback or ask questions about their working experiences within the building. By spending time within our schools, Board of Education members and I are able to observe and witness first hand what is taking place within each and every one of our buildings. In the most authentic ways, these visits provide insight and important feedback in terms of what is going great and what needs may exist to bring about continuous improvement. Further, the participation of Board of Education members in these visits not only shows a genuine interest in the work that is taking place within TSD, it also shows a partnership and dedication in advancing the vision and goals of the district by being present and engaged.

As a school district leader, I recognize that leadership does not take place in an office or from behind a desk. It is important to be present and out and about. It is also important to be visible. I also recognize that providing meaningful and authentic opportunities for our Board of Education to observe and engage in authentic and unfiltered ways provides a lens, perspective and benchmark for our school district leaders to make informed and educated governance decisions. Like many parents and members of our community who go to work each and every day, our students also go to work. The job of our nearly 15,000 students is to learn, grow, develop, experience, play and become our future citizens, workers and leaders within our community and beyond. These school visits and walkthroughs provide a meaningful portal into what is taking place in our schools and buildings so that as leaders we can help make the necessary decisions to foster and support our students.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support.

Dr. Marc Schaffer
Thompson School District