Since June 2016, with the support of the Joyce Foundation, three Chief Talent Officers of urban school districts—Mindy Schlegel of Indianapolis Public Schools, Maggie Sullivan of Minneapolis Public Schools and Matt Lyons of Chicago Public Schools—have participated in a community of practice to support their work. You can learn more and watch a set of videos about their experience here. Below is an interview about their respective experiences.
How has this community of practice made a difference in your district?
Maggie Sullivan (MPS): I can’t even express how important it has been to the district. We’ve had the chance to collaborate, solve problems and think differently in a way I never have before.
Matt Lyons (CPS): Besides the opportunity to connect with colleagues, it has led to concrete changes in our practice—we’ve expanded giving out early offers to teachers much more quickly than we would have otherwise, for instance.
Mindy Schlegel (IPS): It has been invaluable to collaborate. It’s been helpful to have a chance to talk through both high-level issues and small operational challenges that we all collectively face. Without a structure like a CoP, I wouldn’t have the time or space to make those connections.
How has the CoP helped you address specific challenges you face?
Maggie Sullivan (MPS): Though our districts are different in some ways, we face many of the same challenges. It has been so helpful to have open discussion when we talk about specific problems, get genuine advice, ideas and questions while hearing about the great work other districts are doing.
Matt Lyons (CPS): The opportunity to collaborate really accelerates our learning. It has also been incredible helpful to have a chance to workshop ideas.
Mindy Schlegel (IPS): There is a really productive mix of structured and unstructured time. The opportunity to participate in a problem of practice while still having time for unstructured conversation has been really helpful and has had a direct impact on our work in the district.
Describe the relationships you have built with your colleagues.
Maggie Sullivan (MPS): It’s been so amazing to have the opportunity to learn from such talented colleagues. We’ve built a real community of trust among us. There’s a genuine desire to push each other and learn from each other.
Matt Lyons (CPS): We’ve been able to build remarkable relationships with each other. Working with Mindy and Maggie in particular has been so helpful—they are so talented that I feel like I have to up my game and rise to the challenge.
Mindy Schlegel (IPS): Maggie and Matt are both just so talented and committed to kids. In a way, it is comforting to see that two talented colleagues are facing some of the same challenges I am.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Matt Lyons (CPS): Throughout this process, what has come out most strongly is the real commitment from all of us to the success of each other and our students. We know that we’re all on the same team, working together. And that has been extremely valuable.
Mindy Schlegel (IPS): Beyond the many benefits I’ve described earlier, it has also been helpful to have some off-site time to focus on our professional development. Too often cabinet level leaders in school districts do not have opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations and development opportunties.
Maggie Sullivan (MPS): It is truly a privilege to do this work. This CoP is an incredible development and, if expanded more widely, would make a huge impact on other Chief Talent Officers, and ultimately students.