Partner Spotlight: Paulding County Schools

We recently spoke with Dr. Cynthia Davies, Executive Director of School Improvement and Federal Programs, to learn how Paulding County Schools are growing leaders and creating new opportunities and support for their educators as they continue to face mounting requirements and expectations. GLISI is proud to partner with school districts across Georgia and are pleased to see our partners develop sustained system improvements that outlast learning engagements with our team.


GLISI: Can you share with us, Dr. Davies, how you first partnered with GLISI and how the partnership has evolved over time?


Dr. Cynthia Davies: Yes. There is a core group of us [at Paulding County Schools] who have been to GLISI and partnered with you all throughout the years. My experience started back when we were bringing teams to BCLS to support assessment improvements. We then took the next step to engaging with GLISI to build and facilitate Paulding County’s Aspiring Leaders Program. Since that partnership began, we have instituted our own leadership cohort programs, data retreats that have changed throughout the years, and implemented new school improvement plan strategies.


GLISI: Can you tell us about what kind of success you’ve seen as a result of establishing systemic leadership support and programs?


Dr. Davies: GLISI’s partnership inspired the leadership development of the Evaluation and Assessment Coordinator role in the district. This school administrator role is in charge of the teacher evaluation system, and they are the “curriculum gurus” who run our professional learning communities. They play a pivotal role in teacher retention and school building success. From the first cohort of Aspiring Leaders we have established and maintained a leadership track that supports leadership development, thoughtful hiring and selection, and continuity of leadership expectations across our district[1].


GLISI: You also mentioned Data Retreats. What do those look like – then and now – for your district?


Dr. Davies: Data Retreats are something that came directly from our first engagement with GLISI. It was our first attempt to systemically clarify goals, identify root causes of performance challenges, implement meaningful action steps, and identify critical process goals to monitor and measure. The retreat is powerful, but we found it needed connections throughout the year.  School Improvement Roundtables were born out of this need, which we host three times a year. We invite principals to share their Strategic Improvement Plans in advance, and then we have them sit at a table together to run protocols and give each other feedback. We gather each level of school together – elementary, middle, and high school. For district office leaders, this time is equally beneficial. It offers us a chance to hear from our principals directly, learn where priorities overlap and where there are gaps.


GLISI: Many teams from Paulding have attended Base Camp and Leadership Summit over the years. Could you share how you all approach that experience and investment?


Dr. Davies: I’ve attended Base Camp and Leadership Summit personally several times—as a principal and as a central office leader. The beauty of GLISI is, I walk away with a new nugget every time. Sometimes, I even pull out my old BCLS manual and with a new lens, something else speaks to me. To me, that speaks to the depth of what GLISI provides.


Prior to the pandemic, our district would send new principals and their teams to BCLS. It was beneficial but maybe a little premature. When the pandemic hit, we got behind on our normal cycle and that was a silver lining. Because we were off schedule, we started taking principals that had 1-2 years of experience instead of brand-new principals. We found that the impact is much greater bringing them after they have a year under their belt. We learned that our principals need to get in there, learn their staff, find out the needs of their building, and how their own strengths and weaknesses impact their team. We are seeing even greater results with our principals and school leaders because they are less overwhelmed and have a clear understanding of their role with respect to leading their team at BCLS. We believe that investing in them this way – first giving them the time to get their footing before sending them into this sanctioned intensive time as a team – is best for them, their teams, and their school.


GLISI: When it comes to investing time and resources in your leaders, what have you learned?


Dr. Davies: We have 33 schools, and following the pandemic, we ended up with 17 new principals. That also meant there were new Assistant Principals, new EACs, and new team dynamics. We knew that we needed to pour into our leaders because so many were brand new. But we also know that just because someone is a veteran doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from or don’t want opportunities to continue learning, especially with their teams. Many of our veteran people are in new places or have new teams themselves that are ever evolving. So even though some of these people have participated in some kind of leadership or learning opportunity, like ones with GLISI or our own, we remind them that the land they lived in then is very different from now. So getting that opportunity to refresh and re-spark is really exciting!



Thank you to Dr. Cynthia Davies and Paulding County Schools for sharing their story. We’d love to hear how you and your district and teams are implementing practices and making an impact. If you are interested in sharing your story, reach out to Alison Alwes at [email protected]



[1] You can learn more about the impact of the Aspiring Leaders partnership on Paulding County through this peer-reviewed journal article.

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