Napa County Office of Education
Napa & Santa Rosa, CA
Julie McClure has administered after school and other community-based programs in Napa and Julie McClure has administered after school expanded learning and other community-based programs in Napa and Sonoma counties for 20 years. At the Napa County Office of Education's Community Programs, Julie and her staff provide training and coaching on a range of expanded learning topics supporting line staff, site supervisors, and program administrators. The focus of Community Programs is to share promising practices in building effective school-community partnerships to improve student achievement and promote healthy behaviors. Julie has a BA in Psychology from UC Berkeley and Masters in Public Administration from Sonoma State University.
What can after school programs do to support children who are experiencing fears related to the impacts of deportation? Many of our programs work with children and families who have deep fears about the changing immigration climate and increased deportations. Knowing what to do to support students and families on these issues can be hard for staff. They want to help but do not have expertise in this area. They also want to know what is ok to say and do in their role.
Here are some actions that can be taken in in partnership with our school districts to address these new immigration issues. In developing this list, I relied heavily on the resources of Teaching Tolerance.
1. Issue a program-wide statement in multiple languages indicating that the program is a safe and welcoming environment for all students.
2. Focus on building inclusive environments to reinforce the feeling of safety and security. This could range from establishing classroom ground rules to anti-bullying programs to creating time each day for students to express themselves in a safe environment.
3. Support staff in how to speak to students. Staff should let them know that they have a right to a safe educational environment. Staff can also let students know that it is ok to be confused or scared and that there are resources available to support them. It is, however, also important staff not make promises that cannot be kept in this uncertain environment.
4. Create a bilingual list of community organizations who provide resources, counseling, and support on immigration issues. This can then serve as a referral list for when issues arise.
5. Provide materials and community resources that support families in knowing their rights. Many communities also have organizations that are holding workshops on these issues that you can share with your families. Here are some additional sources of information on immigration rights as they pertain to schools:
6. Identify a bilingual staff member to be a resource for families around these issues.
7. Work with the school to provide counseling and support to students who have had a family member deported.
8. Provide support for staff and time for them to talk about these complex issues.
For everyone working in Expanded Learning programs, you are providing a safe and vital environment to all children and families. You help students feel safe, supported, and heard which is so vital now.
For breakfast I had toast with jalapeno cream cheese, a cutie, and coffee.
Now that we are a few weeks into the school year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how to get into the groove. We have weathered the lead up to program start up and are now several weeks in...so, how do we turn the corner, how to we get ourselves on track for success throughout the year, how do we get in tothe groove? (play the Madonna song for inspiration!)
Here are some of my strategies...
1. Celebrate start up success. Celebrate getting through start up activities and acknowledge yourself and those you are working with who are working hard to make the program a success.
2. Get on a more regular schedule. We can all do some crazy hours trying to get everyone hired, screened, trained, and settled in. I admit I need to practice this one more but I think it is helpful to start planning for a schedule that will be manageable for the rest of the year.
3. Seek inspiration. Now that the pace of back to school is winding down, seek out ways to stay inspired throughout the year. You can take class, start a book you have been wanting to read, set up a standing lunch date with a mentor, or spend some time with Ted Talks, whatever gets you in a productive zone.
4. Evaluate your workload management. Do a time study on yourself and encourage others you work with to do the same. You may need re-calibrate from start-up mode to make sure you are allotting appropriate time for the important components of your work.
5. Measure your progress. Plan opportunities throughout the year for your team to revisit progress towards goals and evaluate program quality. This is key to keeping the groove going and ensuring your and your team's motivation remains high.
How do you get into the groove?
For breakfast I had a boring piece of toast but some much more exciting pineapple and a really amazing and needed coffee.
As funders, partners, and education departments require out-of-school time programs do some type of quality assessment, I thought it would be timely to discuss successful strategies for implementing a quality assessment process. The last thing we want is to do the work to conduct an assessment and then have the results just sit on a shelf until a report is due...but we all know that can happen if we don't have a plan for how to use the information to inform practice. Below are some approaches that have been effective for us over the years in bringing assessment to life in our programs.
Determine a Process. There is a lot of information available on the different types of assessment tools, along with comparative analyses that allow you to see how comprehensively each tool addresses the standards. In my opinion, most of these tools provide a similar service. It is more about how you use the tool and the process you create around its use than the tool itself. If it is something you do just once and don't spend much time following up, it will have little positive impact on your program. It is the creation of a timeline for both the initial process and waypoints to monitor implementation of next steps that drives the improvement process.
Be Inclusive. When you invite people from a diverse cross-section of your program to participate, it increases buy-in and produces the most useful information. This means having all levels of the program participate in the assessment process (managers, line staff, fiscal staff, principals, and other stakeholders). It can be enlightening to see the differences in perception depending on someone's role in the program and can point to specific areas that may warrant additional dialog and role-specific training.
Create Focus. Sometimes the assessments can feel very daunting in their length and scope. They are generally lengthy in order to be comprehensive but so much data can lead to inertia by overwhelm. Use the assessment to select one or two key areas to really focus on. This doesn't mean the other areas aren't important but it can be demoralizing to attempt to tackle too much all at once. This strategy will enable you to develop a long term plan that divides up the work into manageable chunks.
Align Your Tools. One approach that has worked well is aligning program surveys and rubrics (observation forms, evaluations, teacher/parent surveys, student focus groups, etc.) to use the language of the assessment. This gives you a built-in ongoing measure of progress across constituent groups and further invites program staff and stakeholders to work together on issue areas identified in the assessment.
Start a New Language. With your entire staff and stakeholders involved in the assessment process, you can begin to create your own language of improvement. To get there, you have to spend time discussing your definition of the quality elements and the action steps that are agreed upon to achieve improvement. Improvement can be more rapid and comprehensive if everyone is moving towards a common goal, helping each other and holding each other accountable along the way.
For breakfast I had a burrito and coffee this morning.
As after school leaders, we are used to begging and borrowing, making a lot out of a little, and operating at beyond peak levels of productivity to make our programs the best they can be for our students and their families. We want to get the most out of our budgets and that is a good thing—but there are limits.
Our after school programs have evolved so much in the past decade. They have moved from programs that provide academic enrichment, homework support, active recreation, and clubs to even more expansive learning opportunities. We now incorporate project based learning, health and wellness activities, academic tutoring, social emotional learning, and college and career readiness support to broaden student learning opportunities. To effectively deliver these services we need highly qualified staff and we need more of them than the required 1:20 ratio would suggest.
In addition to providing more quality elements, the reality is the improved economy has increased the cost of running a quality after school program while funding has remained flat. The state minimum wage will rise to $10 hour in January 2016 (more than 30% higher than what it was when the current daily reimbursement rate was established for State after school funding), placing increasing upward pressure on wages across the board. This is a positive sign for our economy but because the funding for after school programs remains stagnant, it has put increasing strain on programs to recruit and maintain qualified staff.
According to a 2009 study by the Wallace Foundation (already outdated based on recent economic improvements), the cost to run an out-of-school-time program during the school year ranged from $14-$31 per student slot. This is in stark opposition to the funding, when you consider funding provided through ASES and 21st Century is just $7.50 per student slot. This disparity has only continued to grow, requiring more and more matching funding or necessitating cuts in programming.
Not only do we need to increase wages to recruit and retain high quality staff, we must also increase professional development to continue offering experiences that expand learning and open opportunities for our students.
We need multiple strategies to maintain high quality expanded learning programs, but we can begin by increasing ASES/21st Century funding to keep pace with the increased cost of living and pressure on wages.
What can we do? We need to continue to tell our story to legislators, local leaders, our school district partners, parents, and other stakeholders. The Partnership for Children and Youth also has a survey where I encourage you to weigh in on this issue.
This morning I enjoyed a grapefruit, a cranberry orange mini-scone, and a cup of coffee.
To promote an environment of innovation and improvement, one strategy we employ is engaging our staff in developing and then sharing their expertise with their peers. It is in an effort to promote a learning community philosophy to encourage leadership, promote learning, and foster expertise. Through the learning community we are focusing on intentional personal and program improvement, fostering expertise and leadership, and creating internal capacity for staff development.
Promoting Personal & Program Improvement
We have a diverse committee that puts together a list of internal staff expertise. Staff are asked to identify their expertise and participate in sharing it with their peers. The committee also surveys the staff to understand what the professional development needs and wants are among the staff. Those with expertise in the areas of need or interest are then asked to deliver trainings and other learning experiences. In addition to this approach, we also ask staff to lead discussions in their areas of interest. For example, we have a training series that has different staff members leading discussions on selected TED Talks.
The committee also identifies where outside training and support are needed and encourages staff to attend external trainings to expand or develop expertise. Every staff member is asked to develop their own professional development goals, which are discussed and reviewed in the performance evaluation process. All of this is in an effort to continue to grow and expand personal skills, which improve program performance and promote an environment of innovation.
Fostering Expertise & Leadership
Through the learning community, the goal is that staff at all levels of the organization see themselves as ongoing learners and leaders in their field. This happens from their own continued learning as well as rising to high expectations. Being asked to lead a workshop for peers builds confidence. To teach is to first learn, so in that way it also promotes learning in the person developing the workshop. These "teachers" further take on the mantle of leader as they showcase their skills to their peers.
Building Internal Capacity
An added benefit to this strategy is that you are growing your organization's staff development capacity in a very cost effective way. You don't have to pay consultants or send staff to as many external trainings, saving money on fees and travel and focusing in on your internal capacity.
I think it is also a great model for our students. They see that the staff is taking charge of their own education and growth, which can only have a positive benefit for our students, hopefully inspiring them to own their own learning and capacity for leadership.
Speaking of a learning community, I am looking forward to one of the best learning opportunities while we are here at BOOST. I can see a series of internal trainings over the next couple of days that are inspired by BOOST, so those that attend are sharing their learning with those who aren't able to be here. What do you think?
To spice up my day, I had potatoes and cottage cheese with Tabasco for breakfast this morning.
The holiday season is upon us — a time of year when we recognize those in our personal lives we are thankful for. It is also a great time to think about recognizing those in our work life. Things can get so busy during the year that we forget to let those we work with know how much we value their contributions. That is why having a Recognition Plan can be so valuable.
Those that work in our after school programs, and with our most vulnerable youth, really benefit from ongoing support and recognition to feel engaged in the program and get through challenges. The best thinking and research in this area indicates effective recognition should:
• Have both an individual and team component
• Be aligned with organizational goals and values
• Increase employee engagement
• Create a positive work environment
• Reward innovation, attitude and performance
• Improve employee retention
It is important that recognition is meaningful, specific and connected with activities that staff value. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be personal and tied to the vision of the organization. Here are some practices from my experience to get you thinking about your recognition strategy:
Write a personal note to a staff member who has done something great, thoughtful, or supportive. It is so simple but often is the most meaningful. I remind myself to be specific about what I am thankful for and to connect it to our vision of supporting student success.
Create your own personal certificate to give to those who have an achievement, present at a meeting, or reach a certain goal. I got this idea from our Superintendent who gives out her own award, which staff often post on their walls with pride.
Invite an employee to coffee or lunch to celebrate an accomplishment. This provides some one-on-one time to acknowledge the accomplishment and make a personal connection and explore future career steps.
Find out what the staff person enjoys and get a gift that aligns with their interests/strengths. This can run the gamut but it is best when connected to the vision. As an example, I got a personalized coach whistle to thank a staff person who loves sports and organized a sports league in our after school program.
Provide, as a reward, opportunities for staff development to support career aspirations. I have offered a registration to the BOOST conference to staff who attain certain goals.
Honor those exhibiting best practices. This recognizes individual accomplishments and reaffirms specific program strategies and elements you want to see in your program.
Include appreciations at every staff meeting. At our staff meetings, we always conclude with an opportunity for staff to recognize each other.
Honor a Staff Member of the Month, create a "Catch Inspiration" Award to highlight inspirational staff/stories, or create a staff nominated "Wall of Fame" and post on social media. We have done a variety of these types of recognition strategies, usually focusing on our Facebook page, blog and newsletter. It is a great public recognition that the honoree can send to their families and friends.
Honor years of service along with personal milestones. This is an annual celebration at my organization. However you celebrate it, the recognition of time given to the organization is an important and motivating right of passage.
Honor innovation with a special award where the winner can challenge you to do something new. This is a great way to get more deeply involved with staff and it is fun and motivating too.
Bring a care package to staff teams that have done great work, made it through a challenging time, or reached a milestone. We honor school site teams with care packages and gifts throughout the year in honor of accomplishments, with thanks for a job well done, and to appreciate the strength shown in getting through challenging times.
Organize a party to appreciate staff and provide time for personal connections. We have a committee that focuses on creating social opportunities and other strategies to support a positive workplace. It is great to get the whole organization involved and owning recognition—it encourages a culture of appreciation.
Some Other Ideas
• Have staff fill out a "Recognition Preference Profile" so you know what type of recognition is preferred.
• Keep an inventory of recognition strategies and what works well (or not).
I hope some of these ideas spur your thinking about how to support, recognize, and honor those who do this necessary work. Recognize!
I began my day with half a grapefruit, sourdough toast, and coffee.
I woke up early this morning in Washington DC where I am attending a conference on School Counseling programs. We are working on a new program to incorporate school counseling into our after school programs in order to provide students the emotional support they need to succeed.
Despite my desire to linger in bed, I know I must get up in order to have time to stand in line for 45 minutes at Market Lunch at the Eastern Market to enjoy Blue Bucks (blueberry pancakes), eggs and biscuits....yum! Even though I am in DC for work, I am trying on this trip to see some sites as well. I have looked at many "things to see" lists and read several "top 10 things to do" articles providing advice on the best attractions in the nation's Capitol.
As I walk to the Metro and get on the train, I began to think about the important things to see and do in After School programs. There is so much good and important work being done but if I had to boil it down into the key elements of successful after school programs, what would they be? Inspiration comes as I sit down with a table of kids and their parents to enjoy my Market treats....
Top 5 After School Attractions:
1. The relationships. The success of After School programs starts here. It is the relationships developed between the program staff and students that make it so special. The most important thing After School does is connect students to caring adults who want to know them and support their social and academic success. It is seen in the program coordinator who asks child after child to read them their story and provides each her rapt attention...encouraging at every step. It is witnessed in the classroom leader who spends time with the students finding out how their weekend was, showing her interest in her wide smile and engaged eyes. It is the AmeriCorps member working diligently with a student on her reading while inviting her to express herself and take a chance. These relationships are everything and you must see them when you visit.
2. The creativity. We have such an opportunity in after school to encourage creativity and expansive thinking in students. You should come to see these creative moments that happen every day in After School programs. It is in the little girl's excitement at making her own Amazonian Headdress. It is the pride of expression as a boy performs his rap in honor of Dr. King and his ideals.
3. The play. Play is a must see in any After School program. After School has the ability to encourage play and provide opportunities for students to actively engage in physical activities that build social skills, improve health, and create joy! It is the excitement expressed by the boy who won a rousing game of Jenga. It is in the students learning the essential skills of volleyball, playing and learning together as a team.
4. The discovery. After School has the unique opportunity to expose children to new experiences, new ideas, and new places in the community and world. You have to see it when visiting After School. It is the fun of learning seen when students use the KidzScience Falling and Flying kit to make parachutes and build rockets. It is a student's experience of the wonder of tidepools in a visit to the beach...for the first time.
5. The growth. The most special thing to see in After School is the growth of a student. It is one of the most special sites. It is seen in the "a-ha" moments during a science lesson on centrifugal force. It is witnessed in the smile of accomplishment when a student reaches a new reading level. It is clearly expressed in the boy who once acted out who now has a leadership role in his class.
So, next time you're visiting an After School program, please note these must see attractions. Or, if you haven't been to a program in a while....get out there and see the great work these wonderful professionals and their students are doing each and every day!