Dear Colleagues,I asked virtually every Plano ISD professional employee I met with during my first three months to provide me with written feedback related to what they might consider to be their "operational beliefs." I explained to them that if you ask an educator for belief statements, they will almost always include some form of the phrase "all children can learn." Absolutely that is a belief we should all hold. The challenge with that belief alone, however, is that it doesn't necessarily guide us toward any specific action. With that in mind, I asked people to give me "operational belief" statements that answer the following question: What is it I believe about the way we must work if in fact all children will learn to their greatest potential?
I had these written responses from everyone—hundreds of district, school-based and teacher leaders—compiled into one large document. I gave that to our 100-plus Leadership Team (basically all district and school-based administrators). I also provided them with synopses of a large number of studies conducted over the last two decades aimed at discovering how the culture and work in classrooms, schools and districts seemed to beat the odds when it came to multiple measures of student outcomes. These were conducted by a wide array of professional and research organizations, some of whom rarely agree with each other on anything. They did however agree on many of the things that seem to be the cornerstones of the work and culture at places where students excelled.
The agreement doesn't stop there. There were also significant similarities among the operational beliefs that were brought forward by Plano ISD educators. Finally, as you might have guessed, there was significant overlap between what we said we believed and the organizational behaviors that the research reported as drivers of excellence. If ever there was validation that we really do know what works, that was it.
With that in mind, we put members of our Leadership Team into more than 20 work groups to bring forward a first draft of Operational Belief statements that not only captured the essence of these work and culture commonalities, but also used language that conveyed the urgency and nobility behind them. After quite a bit of "wordsmithing," the Operational Beliefs brought forward are listed below.
In Plano ISD:
- We build meaningful and positive relationships with all stakeholders anchored in respect, compassion and trust and fueled by the mission of student success.
- We make intentional collaboration and teamwork the cornerstone of our organizational culture.
- We value and utilize multiple sources of data to provide purposeful feedback to students and to improve instructional design and delivery.
- We embrace high expectations and mutual accountability for staff and students supported by an unwavering belief in student potential.
- We will be a dynamic learning organization committed to continual reflection and innovation with a focus on improving the programs and practices that serve our students.
- We cultivate strong, shared leadership throughout our organization providing universal responsibility for a high-performing culture.
- We have a zero tolerance for destructive negativism.
- We constantly connect people to the nobility of our mission.
While there are only eight of them, they really do pack a pretty big organizational punch. Some of them actually involve the marriage of a couple of related beliefs to form a powerful description of the culture that exists in schools of incredible quality.
Let me make sure that we are clear when it comes to #7 – "We have a zero tolerance for destructive negativism." This does not mean we are looking for a legion of "yes men." On the contrary, when you look at the other belief statements, what rings through is an innovative, reflective culture that is constantly learning and where leadership and ownership permeate through every level of the organization. In such places, people who bring solution-oriented recommendations to current challenges are valued and given opportunity for collaboration and experimentation. If, on the other hand, someone spoke not of solutions but rather talked incessantly about what students cannot do or schools cannot accomplish, Plano ISD would simply not be the place for them. As I continue to encounter our people and programs, it is clear to me we are rich with dedicated and talented people who will thrive in the first organizational description.
Finally, let me stress that the development of the Operational Expectations and Operational Beliefs that I have shared in these first two Updates are not designed to be destined for the bookshelf. If you remember from my Strategic Plan introductory Update, these two items were described as "tenaciously constant." They represent organizational focus and beliefs that never change and they are always with us. We hire, budget, plan and develop employees guided by the direction and culture they represent. Put simply, if any action seems to run contrary to what we say we believe about the way we should do this incredibly important work, it becomes suspect.
Next week, the Strategic Plan elements described change from "tenaciously constant" to dynamic, reflective and innovative. They also get down to how all of this is designed to connect directly to your everyday work.
Once again, thank you for your work and your commitment to helping Plano ISD make a positive difference in the lives of our children.
Dr. Brian T. Binggeli
Superintendent of SchoolsSuperintendent's Update | February 19, 2016