Leroy Nunery: Keynote @ #EduCon 2.3

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Chris Lehmann, Principal of SLA, kicked off the morning activities, reminding the audience that SLA is streaming live. Click this link to join. Lehmann reminds us that this unconference is an event planned by the students of SLA who are master planners at rescheduling on the fly. Wonderful multitaskers, the students work within empowered spaces to live and fulfill core concepts of SLA. We come together around the spirit of innovation; our goal is to set ourselves to be better tomorrow than we are today. Lehmann challenged us to connect, because it is a challenging time as an educator facing things we didn’t anticipate years ago. Re-energize yourself and renew your sense of what we can do together. Learn deeply and reflect on the learning, and on Sunday, make EduCon live beyond the walls by rededicating ourselves to the spirit of learning, re-dedication, a new plan for change.

Dr. Frederic M. N. Bertley, Ph.D., Vice President of Science and Innovation, along with Jessica Jones, Franklin Institute and SLA Coordinator for EduCon 2.3, help make this conference partnership work. Lehmann introduced our morning Keytnote Speaker, Leroy Nunery, Deputy Chief of Philadelphia schools as the person who makes education work in the field.

You can find Nunery’s PowerPoint presentation here.

Nunery is proud of this conference that he sees as a revival created by students. Philadelphia’s current context addresses budget, facilities master plan, and competition. Stimulus money is going away soon, so steps are taken to address and adjust, but their news is not uncommon throughout the country: low revenues constraining times. It is interesting that some critics address the use of stimulus money and investments in education, but Nunery cites the AYP met is investable money in the right place. The challenge today is to find the way to continue the success.

Looking at facilities, you need to consider the empty spaces. What are schools facing and how does that context influence school change? Hits to the city have impacted keeping jobs within core jobs and knowledge economies. Households need an affordable place to live and some jobs have gone away. Building face deferred maintenance and the district is looking at adjusting its enviornment footprints to make them what they need to be. Frequently, students cross the city for program requirements that suit them. That means students hollow out neighborhoods if the pattern continues. So, Philadephia is looking at changing those patterns for equity, metaphysical and physical.

The private sector in education is what other businesses face. We have competition. Brick-and-mortar charter schools and cyberschools are growing robust environments. Parents are a part of these decisions about students not traveling across the city. Blended environments are becoming the tool of the day through technology, and that is the strength of technology enabling equity. Facing us is competition in technology as well. We need to offer value proposition; what is the value of what you provide for a public good for education? Some resources are now free. Is education a commodity? Do we offer something that you cannot get anywhere else. It’s how you structure the educational package and bring it to the people who want it.

Facing the truth, enrollment is declining in public schools. The sharp declination in public enrollment is guestimated to produce 70,000 empty seats, or all of Lincoln Field. When you explain this statistic to taxpaying parents, you need to define the “must-haves” revealed as critical and basic needs for transformation and intervention. Nunery says they are creating the conversation publicly, but are sometimes met with resistance from the non-educational sector.

When looking at the critical and basic needs from the public, it wants arts, music, foreign language, athletics, vocational training, health education, education tailored for all levels, and life skills. Must haves include computers, technology, lib raries, resources for families, class size, green spaces, playgoruds, science labs, and a dedicated cafeteria.  Also included are security staff, bathrooms that are clean, JVAC, security cameras, indoor/outdoor lighting, and healthy food for diverse diets.

Another concept that the district is trying to explain to the public is consolidation. Resource efficiencies enable better utilization of staff and specials. Program realignment can improve access by eliminating redundancy by repurposing available resources for emerging and unnique programs of study. Service alignment improves maintenance and custodial services by prioritizing capital schedule and expenditures, including revising transportation services. Finally, program enhancement by better populated schools that can yield greater academic program offerings and opportunities for students. Philadelphia is far flung geographically, but Nunery wants equity in all of the above, not resource-starved schools.

Utilization and facility conditions looks at a matrix of buildings and how they are used despite how they were built out. Low utilization and high conditions of maintenance may mean that some schools are closed or repurposed.

Nunery says that you will need at some point to deliver value to the people who are your constituents. Our goal is to create centers of excellence that leverage existing competencies, existing know-how, and existing space. We need a paradigm shift when we talk about the value of a seat. You need to define what that value means, how many times a day we can use it, and how do we increase utilization by delivering things people in that seat don’t usually get.

A system needs a comprehensive vision for instructional improvement systems. Nunery says that he doesn’t want his teachers to leave after 3-4 years of learning as new teachers. He wants them to stay, become better teachers and have the district support teachers as they learn their craft. We need to use innovation and creativity to create solutions. We need to give students something they want to learn, want to do, and STEM and SLAM have given students some exposure to low-cost options, both in and out of school, in areas hollowed out by population loss. The marketplace says we need talent, and overseas talent has gone away. We need to fish where we are. Put STEM and ARTS on a cart.

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