By Tresha Ward, Katie Rouse, Stephanie Spangler, and Eleisha Nelson-Reed of Bellwether Education Partners
Over the last four weeks, authorizers across the country have had to make a flood of challenging and unfamiliar decisions about their own operations, as well as how to guide their schools through the current crisis: Should we encourage or require our schools to close their doors, and for how long? What is our role in helping schools quickly and radically change their operations and instruction to support kids and families, possibly indefinitely? How will we, as authorizers, need to adapt? And how should we evaluate and assess our school’s progress during this period and into the future?
The past month could leave even the best decision-makers feeling overwhelmed. As the front lines for students and families, school leaders’ choices carry enormous weight, and the uncertainty of how the next several months will unfold only makes it harder. One leader we spoke to shared: “There is a knee-jerk reaction to do everything right now.” We empathize deeply with leaders on the ground and believe authorizers can help be sources of guidance and support, as well as help to relieve stress on schools, at this time.
Strategic planning might be the last thing on the minds of authorizers during this current crisis; and it may be the last thing on the mind of school leaders who are tackling a new challenge every day related to instruction, online learning, connecting students and families to vital services, and beginning to think forward to next year. But straightforward plans that help your organization focus on the most important issues are essential. Bellwether’s “COVID-19 Strategic Planning Toolkit for Education & Nonprofit Leaders” is an easy-to-use, practical resource that can help authorizers make decisions and actionable plans amid these complicated questions. And for school leaders who also use this tool, it can provide a shared language and framework for confronting these challenges together.
The planning framework that is the crux of this toolkit takes leaders through four key steps: Reground, Prioritize, Plan, and Connect. At each step, we prompt education and nonprofit leaders with a series of key questions to help clarify their thinking and decision-making. In addition to a brief explanation of each step, this toolkit includes a workbook that can be tailored and populated with your organization’s information. These resources help leaders move from making decisions in a reactive, crisis-driven way to developing intentional short- and long-term actionable plans.
We hope to help decision makers cut through the anxiety of this moment by enabling them to zoom in on key mission-aligned priorities and develop simple plans to execute them.