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A leader’s social-emotional skills are particularly critical to help teams navigate change. FY20 called on every school and district leader to do just that.

COVID-19, coupled with national calls to address systemic inequities in government, school and society, created a monumental leadership challenge for all those in a position to decide how schools will serve their communities.  In FY19, we advocated for the importance of SEL with our Human Element Report and launch of our SEL Toolkit. In FY20, we turned advocacy into action, working with leaders to know themselves better so they could more successfully lead their teams.

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We built a free engagement booth that offers accessible and fun exercises for participants to build their own SEL muscle. Designed as an interactive sensory and informational exhibit, attendees at the Georgia School Superintendent Association’s Fall Bootstrap, the Georgia Association for Education Leaders Winter Conference, and participants in our Base Camp and Leadership Summit Cohorts were invited to experience the booth.

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In August 2019, GLISI co-hosted a Critical Issues Forum in partnership with the Georgia Partnership for Excellence and Education (GPEE), leading a discussion on the importance of social-emotional skill development of leaders in education, business, and civic life. Additionally, our Executive Director championed the importance of leader SEL at GPEE's Critical Issues Media Symposium in January 2020.

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Cultures of Belonging and Learning Together (COBALT) is a program that builds on the competencies identified in our SEL toolkit and provides direct skill-development training to educators. In FY20, COBALT supported over one hundred leaders in Carroll County and Clayton County Schools who, combined, serve 56,883 students.

This video captures how COBALT is affecting leader practice, school culture, and students in Clayton County.

"Working with GLISI gave me a broad idea of the why behind our initiative and helped me feel empowered to do my part to improve the school from within my classroom!"

GLISI Participant

Teacher | Bibb County School District

"Working with GLISI gave me a broad idea of the why behind our initiative and helped me feel empowered to do my part to improve the school from within my classroom!"

GLISI Participant

Teacher | Bibb County School District

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Students learn something from every adult at school.  Too often, we think of the leaders of climate and culture as the teachers and principals in a building. But classified employees are critical influencers of culture too.

In FY20, we partnered with Forsyth County Schools to help them empower their classified staff and expand leadership development support to include those on the frontlines of shaping the student experience.

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"As a first year principal trying to figure out how to lead through a pandemic, I walked into the work with GLISI unsure of myself, but I found immediate comfort and support."

GLISI Participant

"As a first year principal trying to figure out how to lead through a pandemic, I walked into the work with GLISI unsure of myself, but I found immediate comfort and support."

GLISI Participant

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March 2020 will forever be remembered by educators as the time when schools closed their doors.

For educators in rural systems, anxiety and sense of helplessness was further compounded due to their geographic isolation from neighboring districts and a more limited network of support and resources compared to that of their urban and suburban peers.

Fortunately for our partners in Burke, Emanuel and Jefferson Counties, they were already a part of a network called Teachers Transforming Teaching Together (4T) that launched before the pandemic. 4T is a network improvement community that brings rural systems together and amplifies the voice of educators in rural districts as leaders of innovation.

We could have never foreseen the immense need for a network such as this before COVID, but were privileged to facilitate connections between these three systems that resulted in more collaboration and trust in one another to problem solve, together.

4T gave educators two things that the rest of their peers around the world so desperately craved in March:

1.  Authentic connection to other educators trying to solve the problems they were suddenly facing.
2.  A real voice in shaping strategies to meet the needs of students who were now more disconnected than ever before.

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Convening 1 | August 2019
District teams meet for the first time to introduce themselves and discuss their challenges. For many, this was their first time engaging in community with peers outside their district.

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Convening 2 | August 2019

Leaning on each other, district teams collaboratively identified their problem of practice and outlined ways to utilize the support of the 4T network to meet their goals. 

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Convening 3 | January 2020

In addition to on-site coaching between each convening, district teams developed a plan of action to specifically address their problem of practice. 4T served as a safe space for educators to ask, challenge, and build effective action plans with a community of peers.
 

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Convening 4 | April 2020

At the first of our virtual convenings, teams utilized the community and psychological safety of the 4T Network to navigate their shared challenges of virtual learning.

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Future Convenings

Student engagement is a common problem of practice for a lot of schools due to COVID, especially for 4T District teams. In addition to rountine convenings, 4T will continue to use improvement science and on-site coaching to turn up rural district voice as they tackle student engagement challenges.