In our state, charter public schools are located from the heart of Puget Sound to the Palouse. While limited in number, the WA charter public school sector is outsized in its spirit of collaboration, coordination, and connection. We have to be. Until there is equitable funding for charter public schools commensurate with our traditional public school peers, we have to marshal our resources so that the efforts that start with one can ultimately benefit all.
WA Charters’ Communities of Practice (CoPs) are created specifically for this purpose. Each CoP – with subjects ranging from board leadership to high school design – is built to share information and facilitate learning with peers. Each is an opportunity to connect the sector in service together for the families who chose our schools.
“At WA Charters, we have incubated not only schools, but also great ideas with the goal to see them spread to the broader public education sector,” said Rekha Bhatt, Co-President of Innovative Schools. “After all, that’s our north star vision – a great public school system accessible to all students in Washington state. We are proud to partner with folks that have fresh ideas about how to harness what we’re learning in the charter public school sector and positively impact change more broadly. We did it with the True Measure Collaborative and support groups like Joule Growth Partners, and we’re eager to see what we can help to build next.”
A working example of this programming is the Operations CoP, created for operations professionals such as Directors of Operations, Chief Operating Officers, and Operations/Office Managers to experience high quality professional learning and build meaningful connections with other operation teams in Washington. The Operations CoP convenes both in person and remotely with agendas including topics like systematizing compliance, events and enrollment, standard operating procedures/checklists, consultancy and school visit protocols, Finance 101 and time and task management.
“Operations teams are the behind-the-scenes folks that make Washington’s schools vibrant communities of learning. Each of these schools has complicated needs surrounding finances, purchasing, meals, transportation, enrollment, compliance, facilities, janitorial, technology, events, logistics, communications, and so many other systems, and it is operations teams who meet these needs,” said Anders Lindgren, Founder and President of SchoolOps and leader of WA Charters’ Operations Leadership Communities of Practice. “And yet, despite their critical role, the nationwide norm for operations staff is that we teach ourselves as we go, and we do so in relative isolation. I was so excited to join WA Charters in providing a space where operations teams are experiencing high quality professional learning built specifically for them and creating community to solve problems collaboratively. Our Community of Practice is so talented, and it’s incredible to see what we can accomplish when we invest in our operations staff!”
Just days after launching the WA Charters Operations CoP in June, Anders traveled to ESD105, which supports 25 school districts in Central Washington, to launch an Operations CoP with their team. Anders celebrates the parallel learning opportunities, noting that, “promoting operational excellence, like so many critical ideas in education, is not unique to charter public schools or traditional public schools. It’s about creating great schools, period.”
On an August 8 Zoom session, participants discussed readings from The Checklist Manifesto, analyzed a case study of a botched school event, and walked through tools and templates they could use to plan and execute excellent back-to-school events. Because the charter public school sector has a high bar set for accountability both to the communities we serve and to our regulator and legislature, we have found reason for optimism when the feedback from participants was so positive.
“Honestly, being surrounded by ops personnel felt great. It was so nice to share experiences with people that understand it on a firsthand basis.”
“Engaging with the framework of checklists and incorporating them into SOPs was helpful in thinking of how we structure our procedures.”
“TEMPLATES! SO HELPFUL! With time to learn them, use them, and discuss them. The perfect balance of individual, team, larger team, and community work. Great guiding questions.”
Our next Communities of Practice topic is ”Managing Operations Teams and Feedback Best Practices”, and will be held remotely on Tuesday, October 17th. Please contact Anders Lindgren at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about individual sessions and resources, or to participate in next year’s cohort.