Within the first few minutes of meeting Zandra Galván, a person can’t help but feel their own enthusiasm and optimism on the rise. She is by nature both coach and cheerleader—the epitome of authentic positive energy and she doesn’t hold back her personality as superintendent of California’s Greenfield Union School District. Galván leads the diverse K–8 district of approximately 3,500 students located south of Silicon Valley and Salinas and knows the region well. She freely expresses her love of her town and the learning community. Galván is one of those rare education leaders who is a product of the very school district she attended as a child. During her lifetime, she has witnessed the evolution of an area intriguingly rich in both tradition and innovation. From agriculture to high tech, Galván has a penchant for living out her mantra: all means all. First for people, then for possibilities. When she proudly shares stories about her team’s work, you can feel her conviction that their efforts exhaust all options for all involved and affected.
An outspoken advocate for those who historically have been marginalized, Galván said about all she comes in contact with at Greenfield, “I’ll drop anything, anytime to help women who are wanting to rise, people of color, to support another person because their success is the success for all students.” Such a disposition was called into action at the beginning of the pandemic when, like other districts, establishing a reliable line of communication with every registered household became an urgency nearly overnight. And then there were her teachers who needed immediate support for making the shift to online instruction and supporting effective learning from home.
Instead of retreating, Galván relied upon her colleagues’ expertise, their prior investment in becoming a 1:1 district with student devices and reached out to friends at CUE, an exceptional California edtech network and technical assistance nonprofit organization. This further expanded her own network in the moment of need and was introduced to the Future Ready Schools® (FRS) framework. Galván said,
During the pandemic, every teacher was a first year teacher, And they assisted each other to build capacity analyzing lessons and developing their practice. Social media became even more important for teachers to go to Twitter and join [personal learning networks], attending CUE sessions to better their skill sets. Nobody needed to feel shame in not knowing how to use a specific tool or accomplish a desired goal with their students and curriculum design.
The value was immediately apparent, as Galván and her team saw their philosophy and work for Greenfield’s families reflected in components of the framework. She said, “We looked at the framework and discovered we were in alignment.”
Equitable “Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment,” the Greenfield Way
Although Greenfield’s aforementioned 1:1 program aligns with the Robust Infrastructure component, it’s Galván’s prior experience as a curriculum leader that deserves focus, as her efforts before the pandemic ensured that deeper learning could continue. She said, “When the pandemic hit, we had teachers all over the map and asked them what they needed to continue in their progressing digital literacy.” In order to provide higher resolution to their working Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, her team relied upon the complementary ISTE Standards for building a progressive staircase in skill development across their professional learning work in all schools.
Regarding access, she speaks beyond device provision to what those devices afford students learning anytime, anywhere and cites two keys to their successful work during and beyond the pandemic. It opened up even more challenges where Greenfield staff had to do their best to not just give students access but provide long-distance support as well. For such guardrails, Greenfield partners with Common Sense Media to curate student-appropriate content and protect students further. She said, “We have tech specialists at every site to analyze where students are accessing and shutting down sites that are forbidden, taking that temperature check 24/7, and staying close to families about that.”
With digital literacy bolstered and access and safety covered, Greenfield’s strategy also encompasses the framework’s emphasis on leveraging technology to personalize learning. The Greenfield team smartly activates students’ agency in curating or creating their own content aligned with standards and guideposts that the district knows chapter and verse. According to Galván, “We have mapped the essential standards for all core content and attached common assessments to them and drove towards summative assessments at the end.” And while the pandemic upended standardized testing, it didn’t impact Greenfield one way or the other. She said, “We received a waiver for the state assessments, but that didn’t matter because we have constructed our own through all grade levels. Because we want to know how students are achieving regardless of compliance.”
Greenfield’s culture doesn’t tolerate doing things simply to “check the box.” That’s how their teachers and instructional coaches operate from their weekly planning through observing each other in practice. These educators are serious about their craft even outside the classroom. Galván, said, “We protect weekly [professional learning community] meetings for teachers to share data, analyze it, and spend 20% time there, but 80% of their time is on designing lessons.” Regarding assessment’s role, Galván said,, “The culture within our district is assessment for learning in order to support each other and share best practices so that we can glean information from each other and improve our practice as a whole.” Such consistency in how Greenfield educators reflect on all student data aligns with the updated [social and emotional learning] supports in the recently released FRS Student Health and Wellness Guide. This is what a future ready school looks like when committed professionals collaborate. But the collaboration doesn’t stop at the campus boundaries.
A FUTURE READY GUIDE TO IMPROVE STUDENT HEALTH AND WELL-BEING THROUGH DISTRICT LEADERSHIP
Grounded in the evidence-based Future Ready Schools® (FRS) framework, this guide provides a road map for creating a systemic approach to prioritizing students’ health and well-being each day. The framework keeps learners at the center and encourages districts to address each of the seven key categories, called “gears,” to ensure implementation fidelity on the district’s transformation journey.
The guide offers the following:
- Resources for social and emotional learning
- Student health and wellness pedagogy and research
- Questions to consider for program design and implementation
- Resources to explore best practices
- Examples from districts around the country
Use this new guide to design a customized approach that meets your learners’ unique needs.
Community Partnerships in Greenfield Means Actually Partnering
Greenfield’s proximity to both the nation’s largest regional supplier of produce and the most influential technology companies offers the community’s families both unique opportunity and obligation. Opportunity in the form of exposure to a diverse range of professional interests to make available to their students and obligation to prepare those students well for postsecondary plans, whether that be going to college or starting a career. Galván’s intentional efforts to forge partnerships aligns with the FRS framework’s suggestions for both diversity and connectedness.
Galván talked to business, government, and university leaders in their community to get a shared vision of what happens to our learners after they graduate from Greenfield. She asserts that Google, Apple, Lego, and FIRST all invest in Greenfield, because “we road-mapped the curriculum, instruction, and assessment to get into the postsecondary world and asked how we were going to support teachers to get there.”
Galván reminds us that “parents are also community partners! This is critical. We’re still engaging our parents at the same level we did during learning from home. We taught parents what we were teaching our kids through our Parent Academies. And parents walked away knowing their kids were getting the opportunities, too.”
She said, “If you can see it, you can believe it, you can dream it, and then it’s going to become your reality. So, we also take our students and parents to universities as part of our Parent Academies.” As many as 96% of Greenfield students below the poverty line are going to visit the best colleges and universities in the region, such as Stanford, California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo, and the University of California–Santa Cruz. Although Greenfield Union School District is only grades K–8, Galván said, “Every child, every single year goes to a different university. We’ve mapped this for all grade levels all the way up through 8th grade so every single year they’re visiting. A zip code is never going to predetermine the success of any of our students. We are going to give them access and go the extra mile because it’s never ever crowded.”
Like her energy, enthusiasm, and optimism. Galván’s influence knows no boundaries. Each family in her district benefits from her vision converted into action. And when she is not focused exclusively upon education issues, you can find her pursuing her passion for wellness, which she actively shares on her social media profiles. Every person, idea, and thing that matters to Galván proves her commitment to Greenfield’s motto. For her, all truly means all.