Applying wide-ranging lessons; West takes part in leadership institute

Published Saturday, November 10, 2018

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Different View

DIFFERENT VIEW – Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West joined 24 other school leaders from around the South on a trip to New York City last month with the Thompson Leadership Institute. Submitted photo

Watching a rooftop PE class in New York City with the Empire State Building in the background, Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West knew he was far from the wide open spaces of North Texas.

He visited several NYC schools last month with the Thompson Leadership Institute, and although the surroundings were different, he realized they shared a mission – to educate and prepare kids for the next step.

“I can’t think of many similarities between Boyd ISD in Wise County and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School for the performing arts that we’ve visited,” West said. “But that being said, you got to see how their schools evolve, how they look at issues and how they take a situation and the considerations they have to take to make kids successful.

“When you really drill it down to what the common denominator is, it’s they are working with kids just like we’re working with kids.”

West was among 25 superintendents across Texas and the Southwest picked for this year’s Thompson Executive Leadership Institute class. The goal of the institute is to bring school leaders together “to test ideas, discover new concepts and information, build networks, and engage in face-to-face interactions with session leaders and each other,” the website claims.

Superintendents picked for the institute receive a scholarship that covers the cost of a field trip to New York’s Columbia University and several New York City schools. The superintendents also meet six other times in Austin, including this week to discuss various educational issues.

“It’s kind of a think-tank atmosphere,” West explained. “We have certain topics that we discuss and certain issues that come up that we have different perspectives on.”

This year’s class has superintendents from large and small districts across the state and also in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alabama. West is the only superintendent from Region 11 in North Texas.

“It’s a great opportunity because there’s large schools and small schools there,” West said. “There’s urban schools and rural schools. It’s a unique gathering of superintendents that I would never have had the opportunity to come together with outside of this.”

On the trip to New York, the group visited campuses that were classified as high poverty and highly successful.

“It was an example of it doesn’t matter what the demographics of your students are, there is still every opportunity for schools to be successful,” West said.

Along with spending time together on the field trips and in a workshop setting at Columbia, the superintendents also dine and hang out together. West said the extra time together gives them a chance to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other.

“We hang out and visit and just talk about different things,” West said.

“When I first went down there, you know, I didn’t know what to expect. Within just a few days, we’ve really got to bond with these other superintendents. It’s going to be the best training and staff development that I’ve been through in my career.”

The sessions he’s taken part in have strengthened his belief in the new direction the district has taken with appointing staff members on a leadership team to direct various departments.

“They are classroom teachers that are sharing in some of the leadership responsibilities,” West explained. “The point of it is we’re not using an assistant superintendent role where all those responsibilities are dumped on to one person. We’re letting people that are working in that area every day be our specialist in that area.”

The teachers work a few extra days and earn a stipend for taking on the roles. West said it also helps the district identify emerging leaders.

In February, Boyd school board members will take part in a visioning session through the institute.

“It’ll be a great training for our team of eight,” West said. “Myself and the board will go down to Austin, and we’ll spend a couple of days down there in a pretty intense training session that will be district specific.”

West said he’s looking forward to the rest of the training over the next few months, learning the other approaches taken by peers in education and adopting them to help Boyd ISD.

“There’s no cookie cutter approach to success,” West said. “You take the circumstances that you’re given and you work those particular circumstances and you come up with the best thing for your students and for your district.”

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