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Launching the Collaborative Design Team for Oak Ridge and Forestdale

A Collaborative Effort: Forestdale and Oak Ridge Collaborative Design Teams

by Trish Hill, Principal – Oak Ridge and Marc J. Smith, Principal – Forestdale

In addition to forming the Reorganization Planning Teams, we determined that we needed a dedicated group of teachers working with us a building principals to support the transition to next year.  The Collaborative Design Team (CDT) model is one that is fashioned after a very successful model that has been used at Sandwich High School for several years.  

One of the characteristics that separates the CDT from the RPT is that the CDT’s will continue beyond the reorganization of the schools.  The purpose of the CDT is to act as a “think tank” that supports the building principal in ensuring the school continues to innovate, improve and grow.  The group works continuously to expand their own shared knowledge base so as to make sure educational initiatives are founded in current thinking and research.

With our current plan for reorganization, the possibilities for innovation are nearly limitless.  So the question that we found we were asking ourselves was, “How do we collect and encourage the possibilities of innovation to be certain that we are able to accomplish ‘something’ for the start of next year?”

During our travels back and forth to Providence for a conference earlier this month, the two of us chewed up the miles considering topics that the CDT could tackle this year that would benefit both schools, include work that could begin immediately and develop in parallel with a wide variety of other initiatives ongoing in the district.

As conversation often does, we found ourselves on many tangents.  One of these tangential topics was that of our site visits to other PK-2 and 3-6 schools in Massachusetts.  In discussing those visits, we were both struck by how ‘intentional’ everything at the two Duxbury schools appeared to be.  We both left confident that we understood the values of each school and could identify areas where those values played out in their decision making process.  This is a characteristic that we both want to emulate in our schools going forward.

As we began to pick apart the behaviors that made these schools so intentional, we felt that there were clear messages being communicated to students about learning, citizenship and community.  It was then that we had an ‘ah-ha’ moment.  We had found the work of the 2014-2015 CDT.  We would explore the question, “What types of messages to we want to communicate to students in our schools and how do we want to go about communicating those message?”

While our first meeting was designated to important group tasks such as norm-setting and calendar-setting, we ended the meeting by discussing our goal.  Each member of the group was asked to consider the question and bring with them ideas and the inspiration that fuels those ideas to the next meeting.

We also shared an important and comprehensive document created by the Administrative Team during an August Workshop. It’s called the Action Plan, 2014-2016 and is a combination “shared To-Do List,” Timeline, and Planning, Implementation and Evaluation Guide. It lists every task to be done, who is involved in the execution of each task, the communication plan and the measure of success. The teachers noted the length and breadth of the document, and we asked them to help make it longer and deeper!  We are working together through a Google Doc to collect suggestions, critiques and questions about the Action Plan. It is important that teachers have a voice in the details of the Reorganization of the schools and the CDT members represent their colleagues in this work.

We were both energized by the work that began in our first meeting and eagerly awaiting our next meeting so that we can ‘get to work.’