In 2003, with a toddler and a long career in the private sector, I chose to circle back to where I began in public education. I re-entered as a district administrator in Pittsburg Unified. I stayed in that position for nine years and had a great opportunity to collaborate on projects with other district leaders in other departments. In Pittsburgh, collaboration across departments was expected as an element of a functional professional learning community. We were encouraged to meet the needs of all students in our specialized areas. During my time there, partnering with other departments was obvious.
In the private sector, different departments are expected also to work towards a common goal. There is very little leeway given to departments that are isolated in nature and non-collaborative as a an approach to the work.
I have been in three districts since re-establishing my commitment to public education. At each district I have seen great examples of district level partnerships across departments who have members committed to our only goal: educating students. I have also seen departments that do not believe there is anything to be gained in partnerships. How many have you heard this comment, “that’s not my department. “. Those four simple words can cause ongoing ripples in the system that directly impact student learning.
In my current district, I am very lucky to have a partnership with the Director of Maintenance and Operations, Mike Benzien. He is an absolute pro and on a daily basis over extends his reach in an effort to ensure all students have a quality educational experience. Because of his attitude towards his work, he and I very quickly established a partnership that has served us and the district well. We are entering our second summer together and our approach is very simple tech follows maintenance. When I meet with my department on the topic of summer planning I reiterate the statement often. Tech follows maintenance. This approach is as follows: Tech needs to prep the room, maintenance cleans the room, Tech put the room back together. Over and over and over across 11 campuses this is the mantra.
This spring break, Technology and Maintenance embarked upon a very aggressive schedule. Both departments worked extremely hard towards the same goal: preparing spaces for learning. And following the mantra mentioned above, Tech followed Maintenance.
When we begin our very short summer with our very long list of projects we will not be alone as a department but rather a partner with Maintenance. The power of partnerships are as critical as the power of relationships. Do you have a district department that you are not working well with? Have you ever approached department leadership and asked them if they would like to partner on a project?
Please feel free to add your comments on this topic. It is not one that has been given much thought or attention but I believe it’s a real gem worth considering.