What Should District Leaders Be Asking from Their Partners Right Now?

September 18, 2020 Sarah Williamson By Sarah Williamson
District Leaders Talking

In our latest episode of Opportunity Thrives, we talk with two superintendents about how they are evaluating their partners and how their relationships with vendors has changed since the pandemic. This is a special joint episode where we partnered with Talk Supes, a podcast hosted by Doug Roberts, the CEO and founder of the Institute for Education Innovation.

The pandemic has created one of the biggest disruptions in education that any of us have ever experienced. The demands with the shift to virtual learning, and strict new guidelines for health and safety, are certainly unparalleled and one of the most challenging environments our school systems have ever faced. 

More than ever, districts are leaning on technology partners and the private industry to support the dynamic and evolving needs required by the pandemic. In this new era of distance learning, we discuss what really matters and the responsibility of district solution partners and curriculum providers that are coming alongside districts to support student success. 

We dive into this topic with our guests, Dr. Andy Crozier, who is currently serving his 10th year as a public-school superintendent and his fifth year at Central Lee Community School District in Donnellson, Iowa; and Dr. Donald Shively of Paducah Public Schools in Paducah, Kentucky.

We kick off the discussion with the infamous tweet shared around the world by Superintendent Susan Enfield on March 11. “It’s 9 p.m., and I finally have time to send this message: to every vendor, solution partner, researcher, education advocate, etc. Please stop. Just stop. My Washington superintendent colleagues and I confronting school closures need to focus on our communities. Let us do our jobs.”

Doug Roberts and the superintendents expand on this tweet, sharing similar sentiments to Susan Enfield, and they discuss whether or not things have changed since the initial school closures. They share the companies they do want to hear from right now and those they would rather wait until later in the school year.

We also discussed the challenge of budget constraints and the tough decisions education leaders are making right now. Sustaining a high-quality virtual learning experience for their students, but also considering looming budget cuts, has been a major challenge. They discuss how these companies should be engaging with district leaders right now to help them make these tough decisions.

We discuss whether or not districts are leaning on more public-private partnerships in this new environment, and if so, what elements of these partnerships have been most helpful. The district leaders shared how they prioritized partners that responded to their changing needs and pivoted with them, providing hands-on support, and nurturing new ways of thinking. 

Particularly, when it comes to digital curriculum partners for virtual learning, we discussed how districts have evaluated potential vendors in a pandemic, and how that’s changed, and how they are working together to ensure students stay engaged to keep their districts nimble and flexible.

All of the guests shared how this unique experience we’re all going through will have a long-term impact on the future of education and some of the silver linings that are resulting from this unique challenge we’ve been presented.

It’s definitely worth listening to the full episode to understand how these district leaders are maximizing their relationships with their partners and vendors right now, how this has changed, and what their plans will be moving forward: https://opportunitythrives.com/what-should-district-leaders-be-asking-from-their-partners-right-now/.

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