inside our Practice
The Partnership believes that in order to be successful, school leaders must prioritize building strong operational systems within their schools and empowering their staff and teachers through effective delegation.
From an operations perspective, we work to model the types of equitable supports and investments required to close equity gaps. We do this by building the capacity of school leaders in high-leverage aspects of organizational and operational leadership and strategically supplementing District operational services in order to provide differentiated assistance that addresses the specific needs of each school. Our operational supports promote creative thinking to solve problems and to proactively build, improve, and maintain operational systems for school success.
Partnership operational supports focus on three areas:
- Navigating district processes to remove barriers that interfere with the achievement of our mission
- Strategic budget supports and advocacy to ensure maximum impact for every dollar at the school site
- Student recruitment and enrollment support to perform effective community outreach, build school- and network-level brand, and fully enroll schools within the feeder pattern.
“Knowing that the Partnership advocates and supports is an added layer of peace of mind. When situations arise that require a greater degree of advocacy than the principal can provide, the Partnership steps in.”Luis BarrazaPrincipal, Sunrise Elementary School
NAVIGATING DISTRICT PROCESSES TO REMOVE BARRIERS
Too often, principals at high-need schools are forced to dedicate large quantities of time to operational activities that, while important, detract from focusing on providing amazing instruction to students in every classroom, every day.
For example, a school may have a facilities issue involving a broken fence that has made the school susceptible to break-ins, vandalism, or trespassing. Or a school leader may have secured a corporation’s interest in partnering on a playground refresh project without a clear understanding of or ability to effectively navigate district rules and procedure in order to make it happen.
What Sets the Partnership Approach Apart
We support the school leader to effectively navigate the system and escalate requests and concerns as appropriate to ensure the smooth operation of the campus.
We work to harness our school leaders’ naturally creative approaches to problem solving and help them think “outside the box” to implement their ideas within the framework of a larger bureaucratic system. Navigating the broad and complex landscape of District operations support and keeping abreast of (often changing) policies and guidelines can feel so overwhelming that administrators are systematically discouraged to think and act in innovative ways.
We focus on increasing the capacity of school leaders in operations and advocacy and support them in building systems that ensure this work happens efficiently, even with minimal investment from the school leader. We supplement District training by working with school leaders to further explain processes, and to operationalize plans in a way that meets individual school’s needs.
We can maintain a focus on systems and capacity building because there are several core operational services that the District is responsible for providing for our schools (e.g., facilities, communications, school meals, transportation, finance, and more). This frees us up to provide differentiated support to supplement what the District already provides.
When it comes to the safety of students and adults and ensuring the basic functions of a school are operating soundly, we know that it is critical for schools to be compliant with district and state mandates. When we assist with day-to-day compliance and operational school needs, we do so with a service- and solution-oriented mindset and work to ensure the school has strong systems in place to proactively identify critical obligations and needs throughout the year (e.g., with textbooks, income verification forms, mandatory staff trainings, and more).
We work with the principal to highlight the implications of these critical obligations for their schools (e.g., collecting family income verification forms impacts school funding levels), develop systems and procedures to address routine operational needs, and delegate tasks to free up their time to focus on student learning.
We work closely with schools to track facilities-related issues and act as a persistent advocate to the District on their behalf. Our team maintains strong relationships with District facilities leadership to escalate emergent issues and find solutions quickly. The team also works closely with partner organizations who want to invest resources to improve school facilities, whether through painting, building new playgrounds, or adding more green space.
In order to educate all students to be college- and career-ready, school leaders must maximize every dollar in the school’s budget and ensure that those dollars are being spent equitably and strategically.
Our specialized staff work with school leaders to understand the vision for their school and think creatively about how to implement that vision by maximizing the school’s existing budget.
What Sets the Partnership Approach Apart
The Partnership supports school leaders to budget strategically by maximizing flexibility and advocating for equitable funding. Because our schools receive support from the District to maintain compliance and budget fidelity, our staff can focus on the highest leverage aspects of school budgeting and provide strategic advice on where to allocate dollars for maximum student impact. With a ratio of 1 Operations team member for every 6 school leaders, we take a more hands-on approach, providing regular budget updates, conducting analyses of how funds are being spent and where more flexibility can be created, and helping leaders interpret district guidelines and policies.
student recruitment & enrollment
With a declining birthrate in Los Angeles County and many families choosing to leave the city for more affordable communities or to enroll their students elsewhere, District enrollment has been declining over time.
This has major implications for school budgets and a direct impact on the students who remain enrolled, as cuts can often mean a developing teacher has to be let go, a school nurse is available on campus only one day a week instead of five, or a promising intervention program must be cut because of declining funding. Districts in urban areas with a variety of school options in competition with one another can no longer take student enrollment as a given, and instead have had to ramp up community outreach and recruitment efforts.
What Sets the Partnership Approach Apart
Because of the strong alignment between student recruitment, school budgeting, and the broader effort to build strong operational systems on-site, the Partnership Operations team has a staff member dedicated to leading network-wide and school-specific student recruitment strategy and support. This allows us to go deep with school leaders to strategize ways to increase the visibility of the school in the community and to recruit students and families. We provide targeted, school-specific student recruitment support to help leaders develop level- and site-specific recruitment plans that highlight the unique programs and offerings at the school.
Leverage the district’s operational services.
Our focus on strategic operations only works because we recognize the important role the District plays in the day-to-day operations of our schools in areas like communications, finance, school meals, transportation, facilities, and more. We leverage these services to enable our narrow focus on the most strategic, high-leverage aspects of school operations.
Harness school leaders’ creativity to navigate compliance requirements.
School leaders know what’s best for their schools, and it’s our job to find a way to help them implement creative solutions within the confines of district policy and guidelines. As easy as it can be to criticize compliance guidelines because they can pull leaders away from instructional leadership, it’s also extremely important to ensure that the budget is managed responsibly and that students and staff are safe on campus. To counteract the top-down nature of compliance mandates, we work to ensure that our supports are school-site focused and solutions-oriented so we can implement the creative visions of our school leaders with the resources and tools available.
Double down on capacity building.
We are proud of the fact that we do our best to say “yes” to what our schools ask for at any given moment. The downside to this is that our team often ends up doing more direct service than capacity building. One way we’re planning to address this next year is by pairing formal professional development with on-site coaching focused specifically on developing school leaders’ skills in management and delegation.
Scale and relationships matter.
Our ability to see patterns across our schools is essential in identifying equity challenges and navigating the common barriers that most adversely impact the highest-need schools and communities. Maintaining a “bird’s eye” view across the network and leveraging close relationships that we build with District staff allows us to highlight and advocate for the removal of obstacles and to speak with authority on the challenges our schools and communities collectively face.