Goals and strategies helps guide Tecumseh schools' superintendent
When Dr. Kelly Coffin interviewed for the position of Superintendent of Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS) last February, she pointed out how she believed communication was key. She said she would bring “vision and leadership experience,” and proposed a 90-day entry plan that identified focus areas she planned to begin working on.
“I like to have a plan and have an idea of what needs to be accomplished and lay it out in small chunks,” Coffin said. “Also, at that time I wanted the board to see how I approach things. I’m really focused by goals and strategies — setting them, communicating with stakeholders and achieving them.”
Coffin officially started at TPS July 1, and has been on the job more than 90 days, but thought the community might be interested in reviewing how she’s addressed those goals.
Goal 1 was District Governance, with the objective to establish the TPS board and superintendent as a cohesive leadership team with a student-centered agenda, building positive working relationships with board members.
“I meet with each board member once a month, and that’s been very beneficial to me,” Coffin said. “While we have seven people serving, they all have different backgrounds, different passions, and it’s important for me to know them so we can work together.” She added that board members also get weekly updates, along with agenda packets prior to each meeting. A second retreat is also being planned.
Goal 2 was Community and Public Relations, with an objective to establish the trust and confidence of the community through open, honest and transparent communication and to establish positive working relationships with key leaders and members of the school district, businesses, service organizations, support agencies and the community. She continues to work on Schools of Choice from the perspective of attracting students who live in the district to remain in the district.
Coffin held early meetings with administrators and staff members, but also with small groups of high school seniors. She plans to take time to meet with every senior who will graduate from Tecumseh High School this year.
“That’s some of the best feedback I get,” she said. “Kids are pretty open to share and I’m interested in hearing about their K-12 years from their own perspectives. They share some interesting information and last year, we used some of the feedback to make some changes at the high school.”
Coffin is also working to promote positive relationships with the media.
“I think there was a pretty negative perception about the schools and the media, but I don’t find that at all and I’m really happy with that,” she said.
She also has an open door policy, but says she doesn’t just sit and wait for others to come in.
“I go out and try to get feedback from parents, teachers and the community,” she said.
Goal 3 was Student Achievement, with the objective to determine the current state of student achievement for TPS students utilizing both state and local assessment data in order to determine the course of action for improved student outcomes.
“We continue to review the data, as well as curriculum, instruction, and assessment,” Coffin said. Common core standards have now been adopted, and implementation is underway. A School Improvement report will be given at the next board meeting. TPS principals also report achievement at the meetings.
Goal 4 was Organizational Effectiveness and Efficiency, with the objective to identify “where we are” and “where we are going,” keeping the focus on students and increased student achievement.
Coffin said the district’s strategic planning process is now underway, and that was a big step, along with settling all labor contracts. She’s also been reviewing funding streams/resource allocations as part of the district’s budgeting process. Coming from the LISD and working with Judy Pfund, Finance and Operations Director, gave her an advantage for understanding the process, she added.
Also part of this goal was to meet with district leaders, parents and families, and external partner organizations.
“During the strategic planning process this summer, I took away so much information from others who joined us,” she said. “It was really eye opening for me how people perceive the district in a very positive light, which is nice and good to hear. Sometimes we only hear the negative.”
Goal 5 was District Climate and Culture, with the objective to establish and support positive relationships with key district leaders, including staff working in all areas of the organization, to build upon the positive work occurring in the district as well as develop a plan to address challenges.
“There is some work to do, but I try to be visible and spend a lot of time at district events and in the classrooms,” Coffin said. She meets monthly with administrators and the TEA leadership. “Just because they’re teachers and we’re management doesn’t mean there has to be an adversarial relationship.”
Coffin said she’s always been goal driven and likes to have a plan. The staff seems to be receptive to the way things have been going and to her leadership style.
“Everything is not perfect by any means and I think certainly this may be a honeymoon period. I’m not naïve about that,” she said. “There are going to be decisions some people may not agree with but I have shared with them that even if they don’t agree, they will know why a decision is being made. I think that’s what people want.”
She believes she came into the job with the advantage of knowing people, having lived and taught in Tecumseh. “I have to say I was so ready and able to do things now that I couldn’t have done if I didn’t know all the players,” she said.
Key to her style is being able to spend time in the classroom. “For me, that’s the goal of our work — teaching and learning happens in the classroom,” she said. “It helps me keep that perspective so little things don’t become big things and I can stay focused on the core of my work. I need that. It’s the right kind of busy. It helps me keep the focus on teaching and learning.”