Overplan the Logistics!
The work that is being undertaken in and out of our districts in New Jersey is nothing short of excellent. That point is illustrated in hundreds if not thousands of examples of excellence in academics and broad community-based partnerships that are being led by district administrators in relevant ways. Oftentimes our work is reviewed by dignitaries and scholars who wish to visit our great schools and districts to learn more from the front lines of education.
It is not unusual to field a call from the Governor’s Office, the County Office of Education, higher education researchers or even from the United States Secretary of Education in order to inquire about a site visit to a program in our schools. In fact, as Delran Township was gearing up for the opening of the 2021-2022 school year a call from Dr. Miguel Cardona’s office triggered an immediate response in planning for the arrival and subsequent programming for him and his team.
When these requests come forth, the work of district administration moves from matters of curriculum and instruction; student integration and the execution of our day-to-day student programming to large scale visitor operations, coordination of security with multiple entities, all matters related to COVID-19 protocols and executing all of these items flawlessly to meet the expectations for all attendees.
The initial work regarding a visit from the US Secretary of Education focused on the end in mind: What did Dr. Cardona wish to see? How did he wish to interact with our stakeholders? To what extent did he wish to navigate our facility? These discussions take place between an advance team whose life’s work is to handle all movements (down to restroom breaks and telephone access to the White House) of the Secretary. Once those matters are articulated the district offers an operation plan contingent upon the size and scope of its facility in concert with the planned activities of the school day for the thousands of students we serve.
The negotiation of our programmatic plan was subject to review from multiple entities: United States Secret Service; United States Department of Homeland Security; New Jersey State Police; local law enforcement agencies and district security personnel. The goal of the visit is twofold: safety and security of the visitors and all in attendance as well as offering a framework in which to view academics in action coupled with interaction with stakeholders in our schools.
As district leaders we are tasked to address multiple leadership capacities simultaneously. It is imperative for any district planning team to include both operations and the instructional core subcommittees in order to ensure that the goals of the visit are met. It is a successful practice to knowingly overplan the logistics and to, yes, sweat the small stuff.
The challenge of hosting during COVID-19 requires the development of bona fide entrance procedures, exit procedures and strict adherence to the structural core while visitors are on site to mitigate any risks connected to COVID-19. Those initiatives include contact tracing procedures, advanced communication with attendees as to those procedures to ensure a clear understanding for all attendees and to meet the needs of all in attendance.
Delran Township hosted Dr. Miguel Cardona on September 8, 2021. It was our first day of school and served as a tremendous challenge that was met with great success with one end in mind: by overplanning the operational components of the visit we would allow for the vast and far-reaching examination of our academic and professional staffing success in our classrooms district wide.