Final Work Session Teaches District Stakeholders How to Use Data Effectively
When Dennis Lauro arrived in Hendrick Hudson earlier this year, to serve as the Interim Superintendent, he sought a means to remove emotion from the district’s decision-making processes.
At his previous stops in other districts, Lauro had seen first-hand the effectiveness of relying on data to render important educational decisions. His goal was to establish that same data-driven culture here in Hendrick Hudson.
Said Lauro: “It’s all about getting everyone on the same page.”
That desire became the impetus behind the district’s three recent work sessions, which brought in key stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and school board members. The last session was completed this week when Bradley Geise, the Senior Director of Education for the Future, led a two-day workshop that outlined how the district can use data analysis to create consensus and fuel improvement.
“It depersonalizes the improvement process,” said Geise, whose organization has served as a foundation for districts and state education departments for over 30 years. “When you use data effectively, relationships and interdependencies are revealed. But it must be aligned with a framework for improvement that is inclusive of those structures that typically exist within organizations. A district’s mission, its vision, its plans — this ties together a lot of those elements.”
Lauro said Geise and Education for the Future first trained staff members in the Pelham Union Free School District over 20 years ago. The skills learned in subsequent years — when both Lauro and Hendrick Hudson’s new Superintendent of Schools, Michael A. Tromblee, both worked in Pelham — are still applied today.
The foundational tools and resources, which, in Hendrick Hudson, will include the results of recent student and parent questionnaires, provide vital information that can be referenced throughout the school year.
During this week’s workshops with Geise at the Hendrick Hudson Free Library, teams broke into groups, analyzed the data, and brainstormed ideas.
“The conversations become easier because people are speaking about the same things,” Lauro said. “I witnessed it; there becomes a better understanding of the bigger picture.”
“The whole thing is building a capacity to do this,” Geise said, speaking about both the present and the future.
Geise’s workshop followed those held earlier this school year that were led by Maurice Sykes, the Director of the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at the University of District of Columbia, and Dr. Peg Oliveira, the Director of the Gesell Program in Early Childhood at the Yale Child Study Center. Those sessions centered around early childhood development from an educational and philosophical point of view. Geise’s workshops are geared to help the district at every grade level.
“This is the one that pulled everything together,” Lauro said.
The district has created site-based teams for each building that are designed to give a voice to teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. The data will be applied to build consensus for those teams and key leaders now, of course, but the process is also designed to be ongoing.
Future data will be gathered and analyzed by staff again. It will allow stakeholders to continue to drive future conversations, and seek continuous improvement.
“The idea was to put a system in place that would outlive me,” Lauro said. “They’ll do perception data every year. The staff will review it and take it back to their buildings to have broader conversations. And it should continue to affect the conversation all year long.”