2.2 Provide strategic school design supports to create and grow district schools and programs


+ The new schools strategy identifies, supports, and empowers school leaders to create and expand quality school options.

Entrepreneurial school leaders are one of the most valuable assets a district has to create and expand quality school options. The central office’s role in cultivating these leaders involves setting up conditions to identify, train, empower, and support them.

Identifying Leaders: Districts should specifically look for leaders with the competencies required for developing a new school, namely top-performers and self-starters who can attract and organize a team around a vision for a new school.

Training: Leaders tapped to launch a new school or program need time and individual coaching. Training should focus on fostering alignment between instructional vision, school culture, and organizational systems and structures.

Empowerment: Entrepreneurial leaders need room to operate through specific, guaranteed autonomies on key aspects of school design, hiring, and budgets.

Ongoing Support: New leaders need coaching throughout the foundational years to navigate school startup. Coaches in your schools should also look for high-performers on founding teams that can be cultivated to become the next generation of leaders.

+ Creating and replicating high-quality schools is an annual process that builds from the district’s portfolio review cycle.

A new schools strategy is composed of four overall streams of work across an annual cycle. This work is informed by the district’s ongoing portfolio process in which the district makes strategic-decisions regarding school openings and closings. These decisions provide the basis for recruiting and developing school leaders to fill gaps created by portfolio actions.

Phase 1 – Portfolio: Ongoing

Identifies Needs: This strategic and data-based decision-making process (described in Lever 1) helps the district determine what types of schools or programs are needed and where.

Phase 2 – Leader Recruitment and Selection Process

Meets Demand: The overall objective is to bring on entrepreneurial and talented leaders to create new schools and programs in need-areas as identified by the portfolio process. Some strategies include open calls for applications to create new schools or programs (Denver, New York City) or more top-down approaches of identifying skilled leaders and inviting them to fill gaps.

Phase 3 – New Leader Development

Creating Space for Leaders to Succeed: Examples of successful new school strategies, such as the Office of New Schools in New York City, understand that even in “year zero,” planning to open a new school is a demanding task. It is imperative that these leaders are given the time and support they need to plan. In New York, leaders are released from their positions to plan and given 30+ days of leadership coaching.

Phase 4 – Community Engagement

Forming Relationships: This work involves including both the new school community (e.g. parents and neighbors) and potential community partners that can support the work.

Phase 5 – Post-Opening Support: Year One

Sustaining Success: Support for new leaders must extend beyond the first day of launching their new school. Leaders need ongoing coaching and operational flexibility to succeed.