Sharing a spirit of collaboration, focusing on continuous improvement, and connecting with the work are crucial actions for how Christian County School District, Kentucky leaders work together to achieve increased performance in all aspects of the organization.  Everything the executive team does is a collaborative effort, which is pretty amazing since none had worked together until 6 years ago. The superintendents’ cabinet members (executive team) are an interdependent team. Whether planning for the future or reflecting on accomplishments and challenges, the team collaborates to get the work done.

Mary Ann Gemmill, Superintendent, Laura Morris, Chief Administrative Officer, Amy Wilcox, Chief Instructional Officer, Susie Hartline, Director of Strategic Planning, Federal Programs, Grant Development gathered to share their story and their reflective practices.  Even Brad Hawkins, Chief Operations Officer, participated in the reflection although he was overseeing set up for graduation as we spoke. Every person plays a role in the journey to excellence.

Christian County’s Journey to Excellence

When the results of Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill‘s evaluation by the school board are reported, her cabinet collectively owns the results – as well as any feedback from the board.  The district’s intensive, evidence-based evaluation has led to deep conversations with the team about how to create a road map for strategic improvement.  They had begun with nothing.  The team had a retreat and developed an academic plan. Within two years they built a strategic plan with a vision and mission.

“We each took a piece of the strategic plan and owned it.  How could we make it happen in each of the categories of the strategic plan?” Mary Ann Gemmill, Superintendent, shares with us.  The struggle was in determining what next and answer the question—How do we make the strategic plan come to life?  They found an answer – a Destination High Performance conference sponsored by Studer Education℠. That’s where the journey began for them.

Gemmill continues, “This year (2017-18) we spent the full year with our Studer Education coach. We did book studies, discussed what we wanted to accomplish, and developed a plan. We already had pieces in place.  We were doing customer service visits to get everyone in central office into the schools to get feedback.  Then we heard about rounding!  We looked at each other and said, we are already doing that.” The visits to schools with some checking in was occurring but more targeted questions were needed. The results from the rounding needed to be shared with those rounded with. Thus the questions changed and the use of a stoplight report began.

So How Does Christian County Look at Their End of the Year Results?

Reflecting on their data to determine actions needed for improvement, Christian County uses their scorecard priorities and data to monitor performance and adjust actions in real-time.  Susie Hartline, Director of Strategic Planning, Federal Programs, Grant Development shares, “we don’t get student performance results until October so aligning these results with our strategic plan leaves a big gap of time between when the data are needed and when it arrives.  Our scorecards are key to being able to report to the board on achieving our strategic priorities. We determine the metrics for each goal aligned to a priority. We are able to monitor our progress toward goals on our time.”

Amy Wilcox, Chief Instructional Officer, adds, “We had to look at the processes for monitoring progress that were in place. We were doing the 30-60-90 day action plans in academics with closing the achievement gap goals.  Working with Studer, we moved into a 45-90 cycle which gave us a better, more relevant look at the data.  We then cascaded this process to schools. Based on each school’s goals and data points, an action plan was created.  Every 45 days these action plans are monitored.” This 45 day review allows the executive team to provide support and assistance to schools and to celebrate their accomplishments.

Laura Morris, Chief Administrative Officer, shares, “We have another area we look at.  Morris quoted Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Now we are getting data through stakeholder surveys – employee, support services, and parent surveys.  Our parent involvement action plan is based on the results of the parent survey. We now have better answers to our questions because we asked the people who have the answers.

Christian County’s 45-90 day reflective practice, facilitated by their coach, Nannette Johnson, determines if they are achieving their goals.  And most importantly, to ask the question why and then take action.

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