New Tech Network (NTN) school leaders understand that a “return to normal” cannot – nor should not – be the outcome we seek within our schools. In early March 2021, more than 300 NTN school leaders convened virtually at Spring Leadership Summit intent on making certain that every student is afforded a school experience that provides them access to opportunities for their future. This form of leadership requires one to sit within this complex moment of our history, hear from those whom they serve, and thoughtfully move towards the equitable change that the communities deserve. Transformational work succeeds not as a solo endeavor, but through Listen to Lead Forward – a principle that catalyzed our learning and connection across the three-day event.
We kicked off Spring Virtual Leadership Summit the only way that felt right: By lifting up the Voices of our Network with a dynamic audio compilation of interviews from our schools. After hearing from students, teachers, and parents, NTN’s Jude Garnier was joined by the five school leaders (Kelly Renier, Director at DeKalb New Tech; Jameile Choice, Principal at New Tech High School @ B.F. Darrell; Julie Wiliey, Principal at Hill Country College Preparatory High School; Sandra Thiffault, Principal at Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence K-8; Mark Stolan, Director at Lobo School of Innovation) who contributed to the audio
compilation as they shared their perspectives and intentions about leading forward. Following the introduction from school leaders, Central Coast New Tech Senior Darius Rogness kicked off the event by sharing his powerful ideas. Darius shared about his formative years growing up with his mother and how he, as a young person of color, cultivated an appreciation for his own identity, leading him to develop listening and identity workshops for his school community. Darius shared tangible resources for schools to use right away and explained that his dedication towards listening to understand others stems from a conviction to promote allyship and shared prosperity across our society.
After the kick off, attendees spent time Reflecting and Renewing, choosing from a short read or podcast meant to stimulate thinking about the act of listening, while also offering the chance to go for a reflective walk or relax and settle in for the event. Rounding out the day was NTN’s Lens on Learning, where leaders unpacked how New Tech Network’s Learning Organization Framework can support their leadership practice, with valuable NTN tools. School teams concluded the day by making sense of how the framework can support their specific aims, while also mapping out their learning for the next two days of the event.
A strength of our national network is that NTN schools serve communities that reflect the diversity of our society. That’s why this day began with NTN school leaders connecting over the circles of culture that inform their interactions and leadership stances. Next, keynote speaker Shane Safir – author of The Listening Leader: Creating the Conditions for Equitable School Transformation and the recently released book Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation – offered our network leaders different ways to think about and collect meaningful data to inform their leadership practice. Finally, attendees chose among four unique learning sessions, like How to Design Adult Learning that Doesn’t Stink and Leaders as Warm Demanders: Supporting Innovation.
Effective listening requires introspection, which is why Day 3’s connecting session focused on how leaders can navigate their own triggers, in an effort to more fully understand and lead others. Afterwards, attendees were given the opportunity to choose from unique learning sessions that included Developing Teachers, One Conversation to the Next and Leveraging the NTN Culture Survey as a Listening Leader. After Reflect & Renew time to gather one’s thoughts and process, Spring Virtual Leadership Summit closed out when we heard from more voices in our network. Celeste Cano (New Tech Administrator at Rocket New Tech @ Irvin High School) and Dr. Tonya M. Bailey (Principal at Encore Academy Reynoldsburg High School) shared their personal take-aways, focused on what they’ll take with them moving forward based on their new learning and connections.
New Tech Network school leaders carry a collective purpose of fostering schools where students are emotionally supported, and afforded the chance to apply new knowledge and skills towards authentic problems. This shared charge was evident in the connections made over Slack, conversations kindled in breakout rooms, and during opportunities to reflect out loud during Spring Virtual Leadership Summit. In Listen to Lead Forward, New Tech Network school leaders are well on their way towards lifting up and empowering the voices of those they serve, so that every student is provided the opportunities they deserve. In doing so, our network continues to build a treasury of aspiration, shared ownership, and equitable opportunity for our nation’s public school students.
The momentum from Leadership Summit continues at Beyond NTAC, our largest annual event July 19-22. Join us this summer as we gather virtually to reflect, renew and connect as we explore how educators in our network can build systems and practices for students to Thrive Forward.
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