Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey
Agreeing on one course of action may not be easy when most educators come together. But not in Texas.
At a recent leadership meeting of school administrators, principals, and assistant principals, Leslie Bonar, assistant principal from the Schertz Elementary School, explained to the other leaders about the importance of Baldrige in her district. “While we have used many silver bullets to try to improve our work, Baldrige is the lens by which we inform all of our improvement efforts.” Her superintendent Dr. Greg Gibson said he could not have said it better.
Three years ago, Schertz-Cibola Universal City Independent School District and other public school districts in Texas began a venture to explore how the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence could help superintendents and cabinet members. Through benchmarking key processes, methods, and tools, these senior leaders report a lot of learning:
- Improved strategic planning and scorecard implementation
- Aligned budgets to strategic goals and objectives
- Operational excellence through continuous improvement tools
- Governance alignment to Baldrige and changing of policies and procedures to enable Baldrige-based initiatives
- Sustainable leadership in high-performing districts
According to Laura Longmire, one of the facilitators of the network and an examiner for the Baldrige-based Texas Award for Performance Excellence (TAPE), “The approach was meant to provide a safe learning environment for senior leaders to learn from one another. . . . All of our network districts relish the benchmarking opportunities.”
The network meets on average four times during the school year, exploring topics for benchmarking that are centered around the Baldrige Education Criteria. The goal of the group, according to Longmire, is to accelerate performance excellence in the member districts through the process of benchmarking and knowledge sharing. “Baldrige is the baseline for all of these districts. They all aspire for excellence and are using state or national quality programs to enable their journeys,” she said.
On several occasions, award-winning executives have been guest speakers at meetings; this enables the superintendents to benchmark outside of their business segments. For example, Charles Korbell (CEO of 2001 Baldrige Award recipient Clarke American) and Bo McBee (retired senior vice president of Hewlett-Packard and formerly of 1995 Baldrige Award recipient Armstrong World Industries) have been two of these leaders. Longmire said the network also uses information that Baldrige-winning school districts make available as benchmarking topics.
The meetings are hosted by one member district, which minimizes the costs for being a benchmarking member. There are no dues or costs to the districts. The network’s last meeting focused on “operational excellence” and improvements.
Each session is facilitated by Laura, Paula Sommer, and Joe Muzikowski, all of whom are Baldrige Performance Excellence Program or TAPE examiners/judges. As part of the meeting agendas, Muzikowski does extensive research on “best practices” used by Baldrige winners. Each district goes home with copies of everyone’s process/method/tool, the best practices research, and notes from the sharing session. The districts that miss a meeting are given the same materials to ensure that they get the best practices that can be adopted/adapted to their districts.
Any Texas school district can participate, and the network is even open to sharing with school districts outside of the state. Sommer has developed and used technology to enable remote districts to participate in the meetings.
“We are hoping to engage more districts and promote better education throughout the districts,” said Longmire. She said there are even some higher-education colleges that would like to become a part of the network. “I guess you might say that we just want this total ‘supply chain’ to work together, building high performance in all of the education sector,” Longmire added.
Dr. Denise Kutch, assistant superintendent of Mesquite Independent School District, told Longmire, “Thank you for re-energizing our network. We learn so much from our sharing meetings.”