- Tony Wold, Ed.D.
Public Schools Post-Pandemic Moving Toward A Restorative Restart (Strategies to Reengage Students)
Part 1: Transformation
Welcome back to the newsletter. As a chief business official, my primary role was to ensure that our educators had the resources necessary to implement the vision of the board of education and superintendent and that our teachers were supported to deliver quality instruction to all students. Most CBOs have come up from the Classified support ranks of school districts or shifted into the role from traditional pathways such as accounting.
I did indeed earn a Business degree from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, but that was not where my career took me at first. When I graduated the economy was at a down point, and I found myself playing a lot of golf to pass the time between job interviews. Ultimately, I saw an advertisement for substitute teachers that could work on a 30-day emergency credential with just a degree and passing a basic skills test. I made the decision to pursue this pathway a week before Christmas.
I applied the day before Christmas Break and on the first Monday in January, I was assigned to a bilingual high school Algebra class for seniors who needed the course to graduate. They had not had a permanent teacher the entire year, and the best score in the class was 56. I walked into that classroom not speaking any Spanish, but within 30 minutes I knew what I was going to do with my career.
In addition to golf, I had been doing a lot of reading between job interviews, and two resonated with me at the time. Space, by James Michener, and The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe, captured the era in American history where dreams came alive. Men behind the scenes such as Gene Krantz and the team of Astronauts focused on what many believed was impossible. I found that numbers are universal and with connections, a little luck in translation, and tireless effort you can make a difference in students’ lives. I sat down with these classes and made one statement to everyone. “You will not fail; because I am not going to let you.”
"Nail the basics first. Detail the details later"
Fast forward to June (somehow a waiver was obtained for me to stay past 30 days) and the lowest score in the classes was 62. It took home visits, lunch every day, morning roundups, and a lot of personal connections, but we got them there. How did I do it? I slowed everything down and focused on the fundamentals of number sense and exponents to provide a new foundation. I made assignments into recipes and instructions, and they became relevant to the students.
This started a journey into education that has blessed me with amazing experiences. First, I had to substitute teach for several years while I went back to school at night to obtain a teaching credential. I was hired as a football and track coach. Once I was in the classroom, I quickly saw the power of good leadership and how it could transform a school from several of my mentors. That led me to become a site administrator, and then quickly after I moved into a district Director of Student Assessment and Curriculum role.
From there I moved to a role of supervising school from the district level, then through the Student Services, Human Resources, and Business roles, to finally become a chief business official. I learned that I was most effective in supporting other educators to be the best they could be and that my ability to teach and connect with students was something that could translate to an administrative role. While I have been focused on the operations of school districts, I still remember my roots in learning theory and research-based strategies. This series is going to lean on those roots.
Students across America have ended the third year of disjointed and varied educational experiences. Simply stated, many students now on break this summer who are about to enter 3rd grade in the fall have yet to have a “normal” year of instruction. In research published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation it was found that if students are not reading on grade level by 3rd grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of school.
In another study, it was determined at the secondary level that 67% of the students who ended up dropping out had chronic absentee