The Metro Atlanta area is growing in school innovation with the transformation of failing schools to Charter operated, charter or theme schools. Failing schools are often a result of failed leadership and school operations. School with poor performing operations departments impact teachers and children, especially African American and Latina students.
Many parents of Black and brown children are concerned about the quality of education that their children are receiving in traditional public schools. The ongoing debate on ed reform has proven that traditional public school policies and procedures are too restrictive on teachers and staff. As a public school teacher, I know first hand the importance of ensuring that the educational services provided don’t just look good on paper. The benefit of having school choice is the flexibility in how schools are operated. However, many schools miss the mark with key areas of running a successful school of choice which include strong academics, operations and governance.
As a former Charter school board leader, I know it’s especially hard to operate an educational program. Look at major school district, Atlanta Public Schools. The current leadership has partnered with Charter schools over the last couple of years to operate failing schools. This came after the cheating scandal and the clear realization that traditional public schools aren’t pushing enough Black and Brown students towards success. That’s why other schools such as Ivy Prep Academy, 7 Pillars Career Academy and The RISE Schools are just a few charter schools in Metro Atlanta offering Metro Atlanta parents a different choice other than their traditional public schools.
So what’s the secret to running a successful school?
It starts with knowing the impact of operations on student achievement. A lot of parents are unfamiliar with school choice. Even more parents and educators think it’s easy to open and operate a school. It’s not! Simply opening a school that offers a different option isn’t just going to fixing the issues in the educational system.
We cannot only look at academics to determine the success of a school. School operations impacts morale, culture and how achievement happens. Just because charter schools are performing better academically, doesn’t mean it’s easy work. School choice leaders and supporters still have to ensure that academically, operationally and financially our schools are successful. A huge part of this lift resides in the schools’ operations.
It’s especially hard for new charter schools and other non traditional schools that offering special education, gifted, accelerated, remedial as well as general education programs with little or even less resources than traditional public schools. To be clear, it’s not as if traditional public schools have everything that they need, but they do have more than many non traditional schools. That’s why we must ensure that non traditional schools as well as traditional public schools are truly being supported.
The school operations department is the epicenter of the school!
Imagine how complicated it is for a growing non traditional school like The RISE Schools . The school is located in a Fulton County public school that was closed. The RISE Schools offer innovative SEL and Student Activities programs and currently renevating and expanding their space. This can’t be successfully done for students to achieve without a strong operations department in place.
The RISE Schools have figured how the key to keeping academics gorwing and students making continual progress. Alongside their thriving academic program is the operations department lead by a long time educator, Derrell Miller. In speaking with Derrell, he shares what it takes to run a successful charter school operations department in order for student achievement to take place.
Miller states that, “it begins with knowing what enhances the academic program.” Many of these things reside in the operations department. Operations impacts the Derrell shares his perspective of how impactful operations are to the school’s academic program.
3 Top Areas of School Operations
- Creating an environment conducive to learning throughout the school campus both externally and internally.
- Being purposeful as it relates to hiring faculty/staff that are committed to the mission and vision of the school, board of directors, and CEO.
- Situating the school as a “safe haven” by establishing itself as a vital part of the community in which it is located, having a visible commitment to educational advocacy, and remaining open to suggestions from community partners.
Derrell states that, “The school operations department is the epicenter of the school, the heartbeat if you will. The department sets the tone for how a school will be perceived by the community, families, and most importantly the students it serves. The school operations department must constantly interface with all areas, departments, and aspects within a school community to ensure continuity as it relates to systems and processes. School operations is critical to the success or failure of day to day “life” within a school because it ensures that from opening to closing, the school is equipped with all necessary tools to be impactful.”
Both traditional and non traditional public schools have staff members that impact school operations. Moreover, these persons impact the experiene of teachers, parents and community residents.
What makes a strong, supportive school operations department?
Staff– The staff within an operations department is integral to ensuring good morale throughout the entire school community as they receive immediate feedback regarding any issues that may be present.
Shared vision among operations staff– Having a vision that has been mutually agreed upon by all members of the operations department assists the Director in receiving “buy-in” from all staff and ensures that in the absence of the Director that assigned responsibilities that uphold the vision will be executed without reservation.
Remaining mindful of the school’s mission– Consistently ensuring that the mission of the school is at the forefront of all decisions, policies, and procedures.
Successful charter schools have high functioning operations departments. The success of school operations allows school leaders to provide the necessary resources needed to make the impossible happen in schools. When all teachers are intentionally supported, all students succeed. Innovation in non traditional schools programming is possible because of successful operating systems.
School operations is critical to the success or failure of day to day “life” within a school!
Derrell Miller, a charter school Operations Director, highlights why the initiatives in non traditional schools support their teachers in driving all students towards success. Operations and finance impact the learning process in schools. Resources, additional support through paraprofessional, certification programs, advance learning, remedial programs, etc are all products of the operations department that interwine with academics.
We fix failing schools by ensuring school board leaders are supporting school leaders in implemeting strong processes and procedures that are aligned to policy. iThis is best seen through the success of the school or school districts operations department. Miller believes that having a strong school operations department in place allows for more support to given to teachers and students.
As a teacher, I completely agree. We need support in and out of the classroom to help us get all students to succeed.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.