AEA 267 chief shares results from nearly 60 district visits

As many of you know, AEA 267 Chief Administrator, Dr. Roark Horn, has been on a whirlwind tour this year having visited nearly every public school district served by our agency since being hired July 1. (He has four school district visits left which will be completed later this month.) As part of each visit, Horn has asked those he has met with (primarily administrative teams) three basic questions: 1.) What are we doing well? 2.) What do we need to improve on? 3.) What solutions would you propose for areas of improvement?

In this podcast, Roark talks about the site visits and shares the “emerging themes” based upon what he heard.

For those that prefer to read rather than watch (the podcast runs approximately 27 minutes), below please find a summary.

Areas of Improvement

Shifting of personnel and communication to both partners and staff

Districts want us to figure out as quickly as possible if there will be changes in personnel assigned to them and then develop consistent means of notifying district leaders, such as personal contact, followed up by a letter. We recognize that shifting personnel also presents a challenge to staff, who sometimes are just as anxious to know where their assignment might be. We can grow and improve this area.

It is more convenient for some to go to other AEA’s for services

Generally, we are the beneficiaries of this, but it speaks to the need for increased consistency in our statewide AEA system for comparable services.

Know the audience

Not all initiatives fit all districts or are needed in all districts. There is a call for more differentiation among services to partners, which in turn calls for increased analysis with partners to determine needs. There is a sense that districts would like to ‘gamble’ on the four to five initiatives that will work in most districts, get very expert at those, and free up consultant time to work with partners to analyze what their data is showing in regards to their student outcomes, and plan purposefully to improve student achievement.

Distribute the right amount of information to the right people at the right times

The issue is not that people aren’t getting the information they want or need, but often some of the ‘important’ information gets lost in the frequency/amount that is passed along. We need to filter this better and be more focused on getting it to the right people in multiple forms that suit the audience.

Can initial identification of special needs students be done in a more expedited manner?

Mostly this comes from teacher surveys about AEA partnerships. Are we really purposely delaying the process (we certainly don’t believe this is the case), or just doing a poor job of communicating why the process has and needs certain timelines? Another piece of this improvement area is to continue to improve the paperwork process.

Need to be aware of geographical concerns and issues

There are really two problems: are districts on the edge of the agency receiving equitable services? If so, we need to make sure that is communicated well. And can we build back some regionalization while at the same time taking advantage of the positives that are available to us as a large agency with a great deal of diversity?

As we get even better at our services, and as we promote them more, people will likely want them more. Can we meet those wishes at the same time our resources are being reduced?

Like everyone in education, we will need to figure out how to do ‘less with less,’ but we need to focus on doing ‘the right less.’ When we have to reduce or alter a service for increased efficiency, we need to communicate those decisions well in advance to district leaders and provide the rationale for them.

Supportive Trends

  • Responsiveness in all areas across the board. Almost like we can read their minds (but can we position ourselves to be proactive and responsive?)
  • Team Rep model well accepted after challenging rollout. Strong positives now, but lessons learned on the initial communication.
  • Use of webinars to disseminate information.
  • Resource piece (media materials and technology services).
  • Use of wikis, Google-apps, etc – electronic collaboration for folks is wonderful and supported by us; we are on top of the technology needed to support this quickly evolving trend – clearly a focus of our work going forward.
  • SINA/DINA Schools are very appreciative of support and work.
  • Assistance from Director of Finance.
  • Those in the first year of the preschool grant very appreciative of help they are getting from the AEA.
  • Almost all districts like their personal contacts with the AEA, to the point where they are concerned about losing those people to retirements and/or internal shifting.


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