How NTN Supports Architects of Shared Leadership
Hardin County Schools began working with New Tech Network in 2020 with an overall goal to support middle and high schools in project-based learning, establish teacher collaboration both in individual schools and across the district, and support school leaders in the change management process. As part of Hardin County’s innovation efforts, district leaders opted to send school leadership teams to NTN’s Leadership Summit, a three-day national gathering that provides opportunities to collaborate and learn to respond effectively to adult learning needs within their own school context.
“Fostering shared leadership is an area of focused growth in our district,” said Brandy New, Hardin County Schools Director of Innovation. “One of the reasons we decided to partner with New Tech Network is that they work with leaders as much as they do teachers, especially in the beginning of the partnership, and we knew our goal for attending Leadership Summit was to push further on what shared leadership means for our district.”
Hardin County Schools sent six school teams that each included a principal and school educators. “We’ve been focused on opening the lines of communication and amplifying the teacher voice in all of this work, and making sure our educators are being valued and heard,” said New.
Incorporating classroom educator voices is also a priority for Tanya Jury, Principal at Bluegrass Middle School. In addition to leading Bluegrass Middle School, Jury has also served as a middle school teacher, assistant principal, and principal at other schools throughout the state.
“We have approximately 46 teachers and classified staff, and we have a very transient student population, due to our proximity to Fort Knox Army base, with more than 60% free-and-reduced lunch,” said Jury. “I think our diversity of students and staff is what makes Bluegrass Middle so special.”
Bluegrass Middle School also ensures that each student actively participates in activities such as clubs hosted by the staff, and advisory groups involving community service projects. “Our vision is all about providing opportunities and experiences for kids. I don’t ever want a student to leave Bluegrass Middle school and say ‘I can’t do’ or ‘I can’t be’ because I went to Bluegrass,” said Jury.
Following participation in New Tech Network’s Leadership Summit, Hardin County district leadership observed significant changes in leadership practices. “We saw a mindset shift in our principals,” said New. “They were empowered to lean on their teachers, and shared the ongoing respect they have for their teachers’ contributions – they’re leveraging their teachers for their skills, and we saw this change in just those two days.”
The theme for the Leadership Summit the year Hardin County teams attended was “Charting Your Course for Powerful Adult Learning,” which was designed to provide leaders with an opportunity to reflect on their previous and current management of adult learning.
“The reality is that leaders, no matter how skilled they are, will never be able to directly instruct every child in their schools,” explained Jim May, New Tech Network Co-CEO. “Thus, producing meaningful improvements in the quality of student learning and the quality of the student experience requires leaders to work in partnership with their adult colleagues to achieve those ends. This is no less true for district leaders who support school leaders across their systems. The only way to do this is to intentionally and methodically cultivate a culture of the soul and a culture of the mind that constantly tends to the learning and growth of the adults.”
Bluegrass Middle School was the first district school to adopt the NTN Model, which has served as a beacon of change and prompted other Hardin County schools to partner with NTN to support deeper learning practices. “At first, I didn’t know what to expect or what it was going to look like when we implemented the model,” said Jury, “but we had a phenomenal coach, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without her exceptionally strong coaching and the support from NTN’s leadership services.”
NTN’s Leadership Summit is one of many professional development opportunities available to schools and districts. Other services include individual school coaching, implementation support, leadership development and national events that support all aspects of project-based learning and school change.
“I think there’s so much value in attending NTN’s Leadership Summit, not just for the connections you make with other leaders facing the same challenges,” said Jury, “but also because you receive that validation, that confidence, that you’re on the right path to provide a better experience for your school and students.”