LEADERSHIP TO BUILD ON SUCCESS
THE BREAKTHROUGH COACH: When we spoke last, you were principal of an elementary school in Eugene, Oregon. You were the youngest principal in the district and you faced substantial challenges. That school had a very high poverty rate (80% free & reduced lunch students), 35% English-language learners, and 35% student turnover during the course of the academic year. How does Rosa Parks Elementary compare with that?
PACO FURLAN: Rosa Parks is much more diverse, on all levels. Economically, we range from students who are homeless to those who are the children of the professors at U.C., Berkeley. Ethnically, 40% are white, 30% are Hispanic and 15% are African-American. Our children speak 70 different languages!
TBC: What was the situation when you arrived at this new assignment 3 years ago?
PF: I was the 6th principal in 9 years. We were the 2nd lowest-performing school in the district, and had never made AYP. The average Academic Performance Index (API) in our state was 800 – Rosa Parks’ score was 770. We had huge achievement gaps, with only 20% of our African-American students, 30% of our Hispanic students and 40% of our poor students meeting benchmarks. The whole education community – students, staff and parents – were hungry for leadership. There was a real lack of vision, no systems in place, and very poor use of resources. In addition, there was real conflict over the allocation of those resources. The higher-end parents wanted to see more directed towards enrichment versus intervention. Satisfying the broad community required some very difficult maneuvering.
TBC: Did you even have substantial resources?
PF: Yes, as a matter of fact. The Berkeley School Excellence Project is very well-funded. The more affluent parents want their children to be educated in a diverse environment and are willing support that. The challenge is to balance their needs with those of ESL and poor children and provide an educationally rich environment for all of them.
TBC: When you began your work in Oregon, you used other schools as models for practices to make the improvements you wanted to make. Did you do the same when you came to California?
PF: Yes. Representatives from all parts of our school community joined me in observation visits to other schools in Berkeley, as well as schools in Oakland.
TBC: You attributed much of your professional and personal success in Oregon to full implementation of The Breakthrough Coach Management Methodology™. Have you found that to be a replicatable model for your work in Berkeley?
PF: Definitely! I implemented TBC’s model from day 1. When I arrived at Rosa Parks, I found an office filled with junk, and even an old envelope filled with cash from some long-ago fundraiser! I emptied the office (I now have only 2 chairs, a conference table, a bookshelf, and a stand-up desk). I immediately began daily meetings with my secretary and empowered her to manage my calendar. We began using TBC’s recommended accountability log and request forms, and – most important – began regularly scheduling at least 2 coaching days out of the office each week. Thanks to TBC, I was able to put a system in place immediately and get down to work as an instructional leader.
TBC: What was the reaction among your colleagues?
BS: People were fascinated! The staff respects my time, as I respect theirs, and parents know they can make an appointment for a full discussion of any issue their child may be having. At least half of the other principals in the district are now using TBC’s methodology.
TBC: How is your school doing educationally?
PF: Our progress has been dramatic. During my first year, we were able to institute an in-school intervention program at the end of the school day. We made AYP, our API rose to 825. and we were the highest-performing school with our socio-economic demographic in Alameda County.
By the end of last year:
• Our Latino students improved 30% in both reading and math
• Our African-American students improved 15% in both areas
• Total student achievement rose 18% in reading and 10% in math
• Our API is in the mid-880′s
• We are the 3rd highest-performing of all schools in the district
TBC: It sounds as though The Breakthrough Coach Management Methodology™ has been a model you’ve been able to replicate successfully in this new environment.
PF: Absolutely! I believe in it whole-heartedly. TBC has changed my life, both personally and professionally.