A guest post by Dr. Christine Burton, Ed. D., Millburn Superintendent of Schools (NJ).
As a superintendent, I often get bombarded with sales calls for the latest tools, updated services or state of the art programs to bring to my district. So how does a district leader know what initiative is worthy of the time, talent and expense to invest in their district’s limited resources? Questions like this one are often posed to superintendents in our ongoing quest for continuous improvement.
In Millburn Township School District, there was no question that the Future Ready Schools (FRS) project was the right endeavor for the district to take on towards our district’s overall vision. The Future Ready Schools Framework provides a set of key strategies that encompass all of the facets necessary for change management of a district’s digital conversion. In research and in practical applications we often look toward having a framework as a lens through which to assess the road map to get from Point A to Point G; it usually takes multiple steps to go anywhere worth going. These important elements and the addition of resources make the FRS framework a practical tool that will that endure as an essential standard for all future planning in all areas.
We got involved in working with Jeremy Reich, FRS Project Coordinator for NJ as the district was embarking on a number of major shifts in technology. We had moved from the stand- alone computer teacher to the tech facilitator model and were making the move from tablet computers to Chromebooks. Like many districts, we sought to find how others had made these types of changes in order to glean best practices. The FRS framework delved into the leadership, professional development and financial considerations that were integral to the initiatives we were tackling, as well as the additional components of data security and use of space & time that were part of our district’s recent referendum vote.
With our district’s sights on building innovation into curriculum and instruction, the $26MM referendum projects included innovative space additions at our Middle and High Schools along with renovations at each of our 6 elementary schools to provide flexible, creative spaces. The gears of the FRS framework and the associated resources gave our Director of Technology, Evan Abramson, additional contacts and training to inform the design and infrastructure in these spaces. Likewise, our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Kyle Arlington, utilized a number of the gears to inform revisions to curriculum and professional development. We’ve combined the FRS framework with our district’s Millburn Instructional Mindset (MIM) framework as a second set of gears working together toward empowering staff and students to be Future Ready.
This integrated approach was further strengthened by structuring a district goal to form teams at 8 schools to identify areas of growth for each school and the district. An important driver in our district’s efforts has been the support of the Board of Education, the administration and the leaders at each of our schools. Evan Abramson, our Director of Technology, has spearheaded these efforts in our district as well as at the state level as the Future Ready Technology Support and Services Chair. His expertise has been invaluable to informing our team’s efforts as well as those of schools who are embarking on this exciting work. His networking, both internally with our district systems, as well as with technology professionals around the state, has helped to forge partnerships and connections with other school leaders in K-12 and higher education as well as associations in the Technology industry such as Google.
As a district in pursuit of continuous improvement, our work embodies the iterative process. Our vision seeks to motivate students to answer the question: How have you been able to use your new skills and knowledge to make a positive difference? We’ve already showcased our students who have used their creativity, woodworking and coding skills to create kiosks that monitor senior students who leave and return from lunch as part of their senior privilege. We will continue to foster opportunities for staff and students to challenge themselves to collaborate, create, and innovate. We are proud to be part of the Future Ready Schools framework in guiding our planning toward preparing our students as leaders and innovators of the future.
Dr. Christine Burton, Ed. joined the district in 2010 as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. She later took on the role of Superintendent and is in my fourth year. Follow all of Millburn’s great work on Twitter at @millburnschools.
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