On April 19th the incoming superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, Tracy Dorland, began her work leading the district. This month’s reflection will focus on leadership and my vision for how we (collectively) move forward in service to Jeffco students and families. In 2015, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation interviewed 250 business and community leaders to identify what unique characteristics make up effective leadership in Colorado. Based on these interviews, they determined five attributes of Colorado’s Civic DNA.
Inclusivity - Anyone who wants to work with us is welcome.
How are we practicing the value of inclusivity in our work with district staff, families, and community members so that decision making is informed by diverse perspectives? We have a responsibility as members of the board of education not only to listen but also to seek out underrepresented voices. Inclusivity is not a passive action, it requires intention. More and more we isolate ourselves in echo chambers of agreement, disavowing what doesn’t support our perspective. True inclusivity involves opening the doors of disagreement and finding shared self interest.
Collaboration - We get more done together.
How do we reduce barriers to collaboration such that Jeffco Public Schools is truly a partner with the community? Collaboration can be messy and time consuming. It can slow down processes and decision making to accommodate relationship development and trust building. It is inherently riskier from the perspective of legal and financial processes, and it is also the single most central factor in how the district can leverage community expertise and resources to best serve the needs of Jeffco students and families. The community knows the community - their assets, their challenges, and their vision.
Shared Vision - We’re always asking, what’s next?
How do we invite partners to the table to authentically co-create a vision for the district? People tend to support and feel ownership over what they’ve been involved in creating. It’s very easy to sit back and criticise someone else’s missteps or perceived failures when you have no part in their creation or implementation. The path may meander, but a shared vision allows all stakeholders to see their part in shaping the future and hold accountable those responsible for forging next steps.
Leadership - Giving up power to get things done.
How do each of us, as leaders within the district and community, leverage our unique power in service to the community rather than to individual pursuits? This attribute is critically important. Leadership is not coming to the table with predetermined answers or leveraging power to get more power. True leadership, in my humble opinion, involves forging pathways for others to have a voice, to have agency over their own future, and to feel ownership over and connectedness with the district. This has nothing to do with indecisiveness - decisions can be made through the lens of shared power that strengthen our collective work.
Responsibility - We’re proud to be in Colorado and want to make it even better.
How do we create a sense of shared responsibility for all Jeffco students, regardless of articulation area, demographics, abilities, and circumstances? I have witnessed first hand the absolute pride, caring, and concern that permeates throughout the Jeffco community. With seven municipalities comprising Jeffco, the issues and priorities aren’t always the same across the county. Recognizing differences and defining shared self interests are not mutually exclusive. We can care about issues and challenges specific to our community while maintaining a sense of responsibility to the greater whole.
I’m excited about this newest chapter in Jeffco Public Schools’ leadership, and will continue to advocate for our role as a community anchor steeped in the attributes identified above. It may not all be smooth sailing, but we can do hard things with grace, recognizing that we’re all learners and leaders within our community.