How to ‘Speak Administrator’ | Pivot Points

District administrators want new collaborations between school districts, businesses, and higher education. Librarians can help by gaining a better understanding of local and global educational priorities and facilitating external relationships.

Do you ever wonder what district administrators dream about?

Or what keeps them up at night?

In October, I had the opportunity to learn about the strategic priorities of districts around the country at the fall meeting of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. Through an informal survey and discussions, dozens of stories emerged from leading districts about innovative makerspaces, teacher-created curriculum, partnerships with higher education, and sophisticated 1:1 implementations. Several categories emerged, revealing short- and near-term educational issues likely to impact schools. These can serve as planning guides, in and beyond the library.

Over the next several columns, I will examine these priorities. They include: cultivating transformation in instructional practice, digital content, curriculum and management, sustaining 1:1 programs, leveraging strategic partnerships, and flexible learning spaces and time.

Strategic partnering One of the key topics at the meeting was leveraging strategic partnerships. District leaders shared examples of successful collaborations between school districts, businesses, and higher education. Successful districts had forged relationships with external partners and stakeholders by providing services, consultation, PD, or research. They also identified challenges. The first was overcoming misconceptions, assumptions, and old thinking about education. There was consensus that partnerships need sustained communication with stakeholders, including exposure to exemplary practices and success stories. Districts are also seeking a road map for developing effective partnerships including sequencing, best practices, project management, communications, and marketing. A final challenge was identifying individuals to be advocates, connectors, and catalysts. Finding an inside person significantly affected how quickly and likely a partnership might be formed. When I consider school library programs, I immediately think of the rich tradition of library partnerships. Many teacher librarians can speak with pride about collaborations with public and university libraries. These can be as simple as a school working with a local library or expansive programs such as Nashville’s Limitless Libraries. Many collaborations are linked to district initiatives. As districts seek to innovate, they look for support, ideas, and access to resources. This is a golden opportunity for teacher librarians to step forward as partners. Educational leaders often overlook the IT specialists lurking in their local school library. This may be a problem of language and perception. Many librarians still speak a language different than educational leaders’. While the meanings might be the same, the descriptors have changed. SLJ1411w-COL_Pivot-Table-OldNewFacilitating external relationships Teacher librarians can also facilitate new external relationships. Many have experience planning, sustaining, and evaluating partnerships. District leaders may not. Stepping forward offers teacher librarians a rare opportunity to double dip—to build new relationships with stakeholders and district leaders. They can also leverage professional networks and personal contacts to identify that inside person to jumpstart a relationship. Successful partnerships are based on common goals and effective collaboration. While many librarians possess a collaborative ethos, there is a growth opportunity in building alliances with district leaders. If teacher librarians can better understand local and global educational priorities, they can better align strategic planning and work alongside other leaders. For some, that might mean learning to “speak Administrator.”

Ray-Mark_Contrib_WebMark Ray ( is the director of instructional technology and library services at the Vancouver (WA) Public Schools.

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