In search of a single set of utilities to truly help a school leader lead.
GUEST COLUMN | by William McCoy
As time has passed, the job of school principal has shifted from one of Instructional Leader to Administrator. The mandates of the job have taken principals from their campuses and classrooms, to their desks. This is bad for instruction, for discipline, and for kids.
As a school superintendent, I have been watching this slow shift in the principal, and I have felt unable to help at a fundamental level. The necessities of the job, the job that I am asking principals to do, has become more about paper than people. There are work orders to be filled out, vehicles to be managed, parent/student/community surveys to be compiled, campus facility inspections to manage, and don’t forget about Instructional Leadership!
The field of education technology is beautifully vast, but I came up empty when seeking a single set of utilities that would help me.
So as I watch great principals grow distant from their primary objective, ensuring the education of children, it finally became untenable. Something had to change, and I couldn’t find the answers anywhere other than inside myself. I started to look at the pieces of the principal’s job that are a drain on their valuable time, and that keep them at a distance from classrooms and students. The only reasonable goal I could develop was to find a way to increase their efficiency (saving them time) and to get them out of their offices and back into classrooms.
I looked at the processes and procedures that our district has implemented that resulted in slowly eating away at the valuable day of a principal. Where were efficiencies to be found, and how could logic and technology overcome the “administrivia” in our district? I found several challenges, and took them on one by one.
My background is in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology which provides me the constant lens of technology as a tool. It was through that lens that the answers began to come into focus. Let’s be clear, though I understand the capabilities of technology, I am not a programmer. I could not just sit down and write programs to solve the issues that I saw in my district. Instead, I had to seek out tools with the capability of being shaped into tools that would be useful for my principals.
The field of education technology is beautifully vast, but I came up empty when seeking a single set of utilities that would help me. Many offered similar ideas, but none of them were comprehensive enough to cover the territory that I was to conquer. The answer came not from the education field at all, but from the business and conference management world. (I told you I did my research!)
I started approaching business companies with my idea, much of the time speaking of ideas and concepts that were somewhat foreign to the business industry. There are no Common Core standards in business, and I was often referring to ideas using the language of Education, and not that of Business. I had to become a salesman of my ideas to the business sector before I could see if the business sector could do anything about my struggling principals. It was incredibly frustrating.
The breakthrough came when I was able to start speaking with a businessman from New Zealand, Stephen Cohn. I had written an inquiry about a possible technology partnership with his company, Contact Software. Stephen is the CEO of the company, and he actually responded to my inquiry, and then he listened to what I had in mind. By then, I had attempted to explain my idea so many times to others that I was fairly good at providing the vision, and the way in which his company could partner to create my idea. It became not only an extended conversation across the Pacific, but across typical Business and Education fields. We both had a great deal of translation to do between our worlds, but the work is moving ahead.
Through our partnership together we have started to plot a mutually beneficial course. With his help, I have been able to create a suite of Utilities for schools called Zippy Campus. Zippy Campus provides the following supports to schools:
*A campus walk-through tool that encompasses best practices, professional teaching standards, and the Common Core.
*An incredibly fast emergency response system that allows administrators to send and receive status updates to staff via an app tailored to this purpose.
*A series of electronic surveys tailored to a variety of purposes (Title I, School Climate, Customer Service, and Bullying) that are taken via portable electronic devices and are compiled automatically for administrators, Site Councils, and School Boards.
*An app that quickly assists staff members in notifying custodians/maintenance crews of problems.
*A system that simplifies fleet management check-in and check-out procedures.
All of the pieces of Zippy Campus work on iOS and Android devices, which makes them accessible to most school districts that receive cell service. The prototype utilities are currently under development, and we are finalizing the pricing, marketing, and distribution channels for our efforts.
Stay tuned for something great!
William McCoy is a district superintendent and founder of Zippy Campus. William looks forward to announcing the launch of his products in June of 2014. If you have any questions, inquiries or ideas to share, he would love to hear from you. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org