A Foundation of Trust: Building Bridges Across the District to Support School Leaders in Boston Public Schools
Jackson, Shahara C.
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CitationJackson, Shahara C. 2021. A Foundation of Trust: Building Bridges Across the District to Support School Leaders in Boston Public Schools. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
AbstractAs home to the oldest elementary and high schools in the United States, Boston has always been one step ahead of the rest of the country in education policy. Amid the calamity, strife and uncertainty of 2020, Boston Public Schools has striven to maintain the trailblazing pace set four centuries ago. Caught in the middle of the chaos are the 54,000 school-aged children in Boston and the adults responsible for their care—parents, teachers, school leaders and educational staff around the world, especially adults responsible for decision-making about their ongoing learning.
Currently, however, there is a fundamental disconnect between the activities of the central office and the support needed by school leaders. This disconnect has to do specifically with what support school leaders need to create the right conditions for teachers to provide high-quality equitable instruction for all students. For BPS to advance equity and transform academic outcomes for each student, the district needs to create the conditions that will position school leaders and the central office to achieve the goal by working together.
Successful relationships between school-based and district office leaders allow for colleagues to interact, learn together, and build trust—all critical components in education systems pursuing change (Finnigan 2017). In an attempt to bridge the gap between district office and school-based leaders, I conducted a pilot by pairing school leaders with a district partner to collaborate on the implementation of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) for all school leaders district-wide. In order to determine the appropriate level of support for these pairings, I conducted more than 50 interviews with staff and leaders within Boston Public Schools and leveraged data obtained through the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) framework to focus on PLC leaders’ acute needs and adapt the structures of support accordingly.
In my analysis, I reflected on the three drivers of Frances Frei’s Trust Triangle—authenticity, empathy and logic. This capstone acknowledges the current state of affairs and offers concrete recommendations for Boston Public Schools to (a) build a foundation of trust to increase effective communication between school leaders and district office leaders; (b) provide support for school leaders to increase their capacity as instructional leaders; and (c) ensure leadership carries out three core responsibilities: providing direction, protection and order for school leaders, all of which are critical in times of crisis.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370279