Students are the heart of every school. So, why is it that so many of the conversations in schools revolve around the needs of teachers, parents, Board members, alumni, and others? In most schools, the mission and vision clearly state that students are the priority. However, a closer examination of discussions at the Board level or the senior leadership level would reveal that students are often an afterthought. It is important for schools to be clear on who they work for: the students. According to Dal Sohi, Director of K-12 Education Solutions in Redondo Beach, California, structures should be put in place to reinforce this with the entire school community.
What Does Your Organizational Chart Say About Your Priorities?
A quick examination of school websites will reveal that most are structured similarly with a clearly documented hierarchy, starting with the Board on top, then the Head and senior leadership team. Then, the organizational chart splinters into divisional teams with teachers, assistants, co-curricular staff and others represented. The operations functions (Business Office, HR, Communications, Facilites, etc) also filter down to show each of those employees. With the majority of schools, however, there is no mention of students anywhere on the organizational structure. This gaping omission is a sign of a school that has neglected what matters most, the students.
Meeting in the Middle: Putting Students at the Center
Forward thinking schools are coming to realize that their organizational structure does not accurately represent their priorities or support a student-focused approach. It is critical for Boards and leadership teams to engage in a conversation about why they exist. That “why” holds the key to discarding the traditional hierarchical approach and replacing it with an organizational model that places students appropriately at the center. For example, the model below demonstrates how to build an ecosystem around students, keeping in mind their needs as students and as people. What results is a new paradigm, with students at the center and the people who are most impactful, teachers and parents, supporting them at the closest level. From there the model goes on to demonstrate how the next ring supports the people who support the students. Finally, the Head/Leadership Team and the Board complete a holistic model that converges on students at the center.
Develop Essential Agreements that Clearly Put Students First
Schools are often surprised at how elegant and functional the model is. Dal Sohi works with schools to guide their strategic planning process and find common ground among all stakeholders. Imagine if every school were to begin their Board meetings, leadership meetings, and parent meetings with this model in mind. It would focus the conversations and reinforce that the adults are all supporting actors in schools. Students are the main characters, and they should rightfully occupy center stage. This concentric organizational model gives all stakeholders a clear and united message about where the spotlight needs to be during decision making. The time is right for schools to re-examine what their organizational chart says about their priorities. Are students firmly in the center or are they an afterthought? I believe it is time for school communities to meet in the middle and put students at the center.
Dal Sohi is an educational consultant and Director of K-12 Educational Solutions located in Redondo Beach, CA. He works with schools to achieve their goals through a student-focused approach that promotes best practice and a school culture of continuous improvement. Dal can be reached at dsohi@K12educationsolutions.com