Response to the Reading Eagle

For many reasons, people may not have access to the local newspaper. To help get the message out there, I’ve copied my responses to their questions below.

What issue is driving you to run for office?

This is the most transformative time for US education in a lifetime. The disruption due to COVIE we have all experienced presents an amazing learning opportunity to examine assumptions about educational policy and to make changes that benefit students and the community for decades to come.

The broad-scale adoption of online learning led us to one of three outcomes. It either worked better than education-as-usual, worse, or about the same.  Every one of those outcomes presents challenges and opportunities.  Maybe we have found a better way to deliver education at scale?  Or perhaps gaps in achievement and equity have widened, and we need to develop tangible strategies to close that gap quickly?

This drives me: the potential to create and shape a better system for our students, families, and community.

What are you learning when you talk to voters?

The voters I have talked to value two things: transparency and consistency.  They want to have access to all the information used to make decisions to understand the logic and rationale behind them. They want people to communicate directly with them, not at them.  The public is capable of handling nuance and the context; let’s share it.

Voters also value consistency, especially in messaging. This has been an extremely confusing time, with mixed messages coming from school leadership.  Rumors and half-truths spread fast through social media, and parents and concerned stakeholders are left with frustration and confusion. Therefore, decisions must be explained in the open and then disseminated in a clear, consistent, and accessible manner.

A new baby; a new pledge

So here’s my daughter, Eloise. Born on Friday. Her older brothers and sister are ecstatic to have her home.

For me, the decision to bring yet another child into this world involves two principles. First, that the world that she enters will be a good one, with good people doing good things. Second, that I personally have a responsibility to make the world that way.

Eloise and my other children aren’t the only reason that I’m running. But I truly believe that if I want things to be better for them, then I have a personal duty to use whatever skills I have in the way that maximize their impact.

Let’s make sure that all kids in the post-COVID world end up better than the pre-COVID one, and let’s use our schools to help get them there.

What does Readiness have to do with school-based change?

Most of my work over the past decade have been around readiness for change. This involves considering the conditions that are needed to put a specific policy, program, or practice into place. Exeter Township is faced with many changes over the coming years. We need to both get ready and then stay ready to implement these changes well. But what does it mean to be ready?

Readiness isn’t one thing. There are actually many different elements that contribute to how successful a new change will be.

General Capacities: These are the conditions that are relevant, no matter what the change is. This includes things like leadership (Dr. Minor, the School Board, the principals), the culture of the school, the flexibility and adaptability to change, how the school finds and uses resources, and many more.

Innovation-Specific Capacities: These are the conditions that are needed for a specific change. Putting into place virtual learning is very different then developing a testing program, or implementing a new math curriculum.

Motivation. Readiness is more than skills; it also involves the psychological commitment and motivation of those putting the change into place. This involves whether the change seems beneficial, whether the change fits, how much of a priority the change is, and many more.

I’ve used this model of readiness in dozens of studies and settings, including a study of school safety in California, and with Haitian immigrants in Atlanta-base churches. What we have learned is that change requires that both the tangible and psychological factors be addressed when implementing a change. That makes it more likely the change will succeed.

There are going to be many changes as Exeter emerges from COVID. The reality is that we’re never going back to the way things were in February 2020. Therefore, we need to ensure that our stakeholders have both the motivation and skills to put and maintain changes that will benefit our students and our community.

The good news! Readiness can built. There is ample research in schools that demonstrate effective ways to support change. My colleague and friend, Gene Hall, an expert on educational leadership, always likes to say, “Change is a process, not an event.” Let’s start the process right and make sure our changes are successful.

What has Dr. Minor been tweeting about?

I like to cull data from lots of different sources. It’s a good way to keep on top of emerging trends without having to always rely on surveys or other really intrusive methods. In that vein, let’s take a look at what Dr. Minor has been tweeting about since she took over the superintendent role last year.

This is a quick word count that tells us two basic things.

  1. It’s clear that the most frequent topic that she’s been communicating about is COVID and COVID response. From my perspective, I’m hard pressed to think of another issue that warrants even close to this much attention.
  2. I find it interesting that State Sen. Judy Schwank shows up so much. No other elected official appears. How can our relationships with local and state-level representative be leveraged? It’s an open question.

Let’s just use this as a benchmark of what the Superintendent thinks is important. Does this align with what the other stakeholder groups say is important? Are the needs being met?

Just trying to step up.

Hi! I’m Jonathan and I’m running for Exeter School Board. Over the coming weeks, I’ll talk more about my rationale, motivation, and values, and how this drove me to run this year. But for today, I want to start with the importance of community service.

I tend to think that I’m a pretty principled guy. I fall short of those principles a lot, but at least know that I have a set of core things that I strive to. There are lots of emerging needs that our schools have. If I believe what I think and say, then I should be willing to step up and work towards those beliefs.

Putting myself out there isn’t easy. I’ve certainly got enough going on. But, part of informed citizenship requires work and effort. So, let’s get this show on the road.