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Future Ready Schools®: Raising Readers to Leaders, One Page at a Time

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Future Ready Schools® Invites You to a Participate in a Webinar

Future Ready Schools®: Raising Readers to Leaders, One Page at a Time

Phil Harding
, Technology Integration Specialist, Val Verde Unified School District (CA) (VVUSD) (@pharding2)
Michael R. McCormick, Superintendent, VVUSD (@ValVerdeSupt)
Greg McWhorter, Technology Integration Specialist, VVUSD (@gmcwhortervvusd)
Garrick Owen, Coordinator of State and Federal Programs, VVUSD (@garrickCowen)

Tom Murray
, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools®, Alliance for Excellent Education

On May 31, 2018 Future Ready Schools® (FRS) held a webinar as part of its Leadership Hub, a one-stop-shop of professional learning opportunities for school leaders.

California’s Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD) created a vision that ensures all students are treated with equity and to access regarding all aspects of their learning experiences. VVUSD believes in the infusion of technology into learning through hands-on application to help their students achieve college and career readiness. The teachers act as coaches who guide classroom learning and use authentic projects and personalized learning experiences that tie in with real-life challenges. The students demonstrate twenty-first-century skills—collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity—while forming approaches that employ a growth mindset and the tenacity to persevere.

In this webinar, members of the VVUSD leadership team shared how they used the five-step FRS planning process to create their district’s FRS action plan. They described the process used during their two years of intense planning and collaboration with various departments within the district, along with input from parent groups. Through this systematic research-based process, they created a dynamic plan that puts their students first and provides them with opportunities to acquire twenty-first-century career skills that will carry them into the future.

Watch FRS and leaders from VVUSD for a real-life example of how to use the FRS five-step planning process in order to maximize student-centered learning opportunities and leverage technology to prepare students for success in college, a career, and citizenship.

Panelists also addressed questions submitted by online viewers.

Please direct questions concerning the webinar to If you are unable to watch the webinar live, please register to receive the video archive directly in your inbox.

Future Ready Schools® is a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

Follow FRS on Twitter (; Facebook (; and the FRS Leadership Hub (

If you are interested in renting the Alliance’s facilities for your next meeting or webinar, please visit our facilities page to learn more.

Tom Murray:              What an honor it is to have the four of you today. Thank you for taking the time out there early on the West Coast. We appreciate you joining us. Can you take just a few moment to introduce yourselves?


Garrick Owen:            Sure. My name is Garrick Owen. I am the coordinator of state and federal programs here in Val Verde. I oversee all the categorical funding for the district.


Michael McCormick:  Good morning, everybody. Michael McCormick, Superintendent of the Val Verde Unified School District, and so pleased to be joining you, Tom. Thanks a bunch for the opportunity.


Phil Harding:             And I’m Phil Harding. I’m the technology integration specialist. I also am a proud CTO member. And I deal with everything A to Z with ed tech.


Greg McWhorter:       And my name is Greg McWhorter. I am also a technology integration specialist, and I am lucky to work with these gentlemen.


Tom Murray:              Awesome. It is a pleasure to have you guys today. You have been on the map and doing great things. Tell us a little bit about your path towards becoming _____. What does it look like for you?


Michael McCormick:  It started, gosh, I want to say several years ago. We actually kind of got the call to action to sign up and sign the pledge. And in thinking about the pledge at the time, the plan or the framework was very much in alignment with a lot of the things that we had been thinking about in Val Verde. We kind of had a homegrown initiative called Powering up Passion and Purpose. And it was really looking at ways that yes, we were going to bring devices on to the system for students and teachers. But we never really wanted to lose sight of the fact that it was always going to be about teaching and learning. And when I first was introduced to the Future Ready framework, I thought, man, this is very much in alignment with the thinking that we have. But it provided the gears and kind of a way for us to think about different segments of our planning process and what that was going to mean for us. Because we knew that it wasn’t going to be simply about the device. If we were going to truly move the system forward, it was going to have to be rooted in teaching and learning, and getting the community involved and making sure that the teachers were engaged early on in the planning process, and looking at what was going to be our sustainability and some long-term replacement costs of the devices. And so how we were going to build in those _____. There was a lot to look at. And I think the _____ for us was this was very much an alignment thinking. So we were excited to join and get on this path.


Tom Murray:              Yeah, that’s wonderful. And one of the things that you said multiple times is really the heart of Future Ready; this is about high-quality teaching and learning. This is about experiences for all kids. This is about leveraging technology. Sometimes we’ll get a question or a little bit of pushback about, you know, is this about technology? And technology is certainly an important aspect of what we’ll talk about today and some of the things that you’re doing. But it’s easy to jump on a technology bandwagon – it’s low-level learning – and then we lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing.


So one of the things that I loved hearing from your vision is that focus on high-quality teaching and learning. And you said that multiple times.


Now, one of the reasons we really wanted to highlight you all today, you started sharing out on social media this plan you’ve called Val Verde framework. It’s a plan that you’ve developed moving forward. Can you tell us about the evolution of the plan that you’ve created and even some challenges you’ve faced creating your Val Verde Framework?


Phil Harding:             Well, first Tom, when Mike called me into his office and I said hey, what about this Future Ready thing?  And we started talking about it. And he decided that yeah, we need to take the pledge. A lot of people I think take the pledge and then they don’t think of what’s going to happen in the machine after we make the pledge. Are we going to really make an impact on our community? And I think with the Future Ready Dashboard and how it’s set up, that school districts should follow the guidelines to a T really. Because one of the things we had to do was do a self-assessment first of all. After you take the pledge, you need to do that self-assessment. So when you do the self-assessment, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Are we really doing what we think we’re doing?


And then you’ve got to bring in all your stakeholders. You’ve got to involve your technology department, you’ve got to involve your fiscal guy. You’ve got to bring everybody as a team in and do a true evaluation of where you’re at. Because how can you write a roadmap if you don’t know where you’re at, where you’re going to start?


Greg McWhorter:       I’d like to add that I think we were kind of lucky too, because with our top-down leadership from Mike McCormick here and his vision, we didn’t face maybe some of the challenges others might have. We had it kind of lucky because his vision aligned right with us and with what we were feeling. So we were able to get in there and start doing that self-assessment right away and working together as a team.


And probably my biggest contribution to this was just being Phil’s biggest cheerleader and helping him to get this done. Because I kept telling him, “Phil, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do this. We’ve got to work on it.” And Phil had the vision of how to put it together, and I just kind of helped him.


Michael McCormick:  You know, it’s funny. We used some tools along the way. We had this thing tucked into the Google Docs. And so we had a lot of people working on it. But, you know, I think in a lot of good plans there is that one person who is really trying to drag the plan across the finish line. And I think that was really, you know, Phil in his role of kind of being that lead or the person that was gathering all the input. So if you look at the plan, I think there is that common voice that runs through the plan. And that’s because everything was kind of filtered to Phil and then he was that person who was the final author after all the input was given.


Phil Harding:             And you know what, Tom, what I found when I went to San Bernardino County recently to kind of give a discussion talk on Future Ready plan writing and how should you do it, one of the things that I shared was it’s easy to get in the gears and get caught. And I know I got stuck. And I had my cheerleader over here going, “Hey, come on, Phil, I know you can get this across the finish line.”


But you know what really unlocked it was one day I walked into Garrick Owens’ office. And we were having this discussion. And he runs our LCAP. And he’ll explain LCAP to the national audience here in a little bit. But what happened was Garrick and I were having kind of a side conversation about hey, what if we – step back a moment and look at this as if we meld the LCAP with the technology with our overall vision that Mike has for where we’re taking our students and our teachers. And you know what? It seemed like it unlocked al the gears at once. I got on a roll.


And one of the things I think it’s important for a district is you do have that one point person that goes around and checks on all your teammates, “Hey, did you get your fiscal gear done yet? Be we’re going to share that in two weeks. Hey, is the community partnership gear done?” You know, you have to make sure somebody quarterbacks it. Right, Greg?


Greg McWhorter:       It’s a collaborative effort definitely to get the Future Ready plan down. But you’ve really got to have that super motivator that can kind of bring everyone along and say come on, guys, we’ve got to do it for the team.


Phil Harding:             Yeah. And you know what? Tom, I also found out you’ve got to make sure you have a diverse team. Because it helps move the gears along a lot better. Because you may be looking at it the way you look at things. Like I tend to look at things from an IT perspective a lot of times or a fiscal perspective. Because I’ve always been the technology plan writer in the district or a grant writer. And so it helps to have that person that is your community person to say “Hey, Phil, did you guys think about putting this in? And let’s see what the parents think.” And we’ll talk more about collecting data in a little bit.”


Michael McCormick:  I think maybe just a kind of final thougth to land the plane on this one here is that you really do want that diversity of thought. You want the ideas to abrade against one another. And I think that makes for a richer plan as people are sharing their individual, unique perspectives. Because we all come at this work separately. And so I think you really do wind up with a superior product when you do have diversity of thought going into the plan. And people are looking at it from multiple perspectives.


Tom Murray:              Very well said, gentlemen. And it’s interesting. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside probably about ten districts in developing that plan and using – for our  national audience if you’re not sure with the tool we’re discussing, it’s the Future Ready Dashboard, available at And again, it’s totally free.


But what’s interesting having done this with about ten districts, is that diversity in thought, what you’re talking about, I completely agree. Having the voices of teachers as part of the mix as well as folks like you all _____, you know, I can’t tell you the number of times you’ll hear a superintendent – Mike, I’m going to pick on superintendents for a moment. You’ll hear a superintendent say, you know, “Oh yeah, we’ve got that together. We did in-service day on that, we’re doing that.”


And then a principal jumps in. “Well, yeah, we’re doing that a bit, but we’ve got some needs.”


And then you’ll hear the teacher on the other side of the room be like, “I have no idea what that is. We don’t do that at all.”


Michael McCormick:  Yeah. [Laughter] That’s right.


Tom Murray:              And that’s not being negative towards the teachers. Please don’t misunderstand. But what I’m saying is the teacher is being real, being like, we’re not doing any of that. Like, what are you guys talking about?


Michael McCormick:  Right, yeah.


Tom Murray:              And that diversity and that teacher voice especially or that community voice especially as part of that process is so vital. If it’s just a handful of us in district office with quite often a very similar lens, losing sight of building level leadership _____ every day, we can easily get misguided in our plan. And so your note of having different lenses is so vital. And that’s something we outline five step community process. So for those of you that are checking out the website, check out the five step plan. That first step is developing that diverse team _____.


So I also understand about this great portrait of a graduate and a graphic that goes with it. So can you tell us a little bit about that?


Michael McCormick:  Yeah. We’ve kind of over the years been talking, and we had this idea of Powering Up Passion and Purpose. And the vehicle that I thougth was going to drive that initiative was really a focus on the Four Cs. And we’d done a lot of work with Partnership for 21st Century Learning and studied that framework of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. And then I was kind of feeling like we needed that north star. You know, like many other states, California has the new California State Standards and everything that the standards call for. But I kind of felt like we needed – I can’t think of a better way to say it right now, but a higher purpose. And for us, the higher purpose I think really developed around these four Cs. So we have those in our portrait of a graduate. Plus flexibility. And we’d also heard about what the business community, not only our local business community but certainly our national business community was calling for a skillset.


And one of the things that I like to share just for context is I think a lot about the year 2035. And I think about the year 3035 because this year’s kindergarteners in our school district, that’s when they will be graduating from college and moving into the workforce. And while we can’t always predict – one time I was having a conversation with Steve Wozniak. And he said one of the limiting factors of the human condition is you can only see so far into the future. And so we don’t exactly know what the future of jobs look like. We know that there is a reduction potentially in certain jobs and certain markets. But I think the idea is that if we focus on the four Cs, that’s a transferable skillset.


So it’s preparing students for jobs that potentially haven’t been created. But if they have those skills and they’re flexible and adaptable, we think that’s something that’s important. And so we’ve kind of developed this portrait of a graduate. We certainly didn’t do it alone. We’ve got a great partner that helped us with that work. In fact, if you go to, it will take you to a website. And there are some great tools there that are all free that can help communities. And it really is a galvanizing event in the same way that the Future Ready framework has helped us.


This concept of the portrait of a graduate, we had teachers involved, community members involved, administrators involved. And so we had thousands of people fill out surveys, attend meetings. And really kind of settled on hey, these are the five things that we all want our students to graduate with. Obviously they have to be able to read, write, and compute. We’re not taking anything away from that. But this idea of this transferrable skillset I think is something that will hopefully take our students to a brighter future.


Tom Murray:              Many times when we see things like that, the portrait of a graduate, it’s also where we show the value in some of the soft skills and some of those types of things that our kids need that may not be measured, those untestables, per se, but are probably some of the most important aspects of success moving forward. So kudos for you all with that, developing that.


What I personally love about _____ is number one, that involvement of all the lenses that are working towards it. But when we talk about leadership and Future Ready, one of the first aspects _____ institutes or one of our workshops, the notion is you’re helping to give that common vision without the kid _____. And it shows and _____ different aspect to show where they fit and different people, where they fit in that process with educating that child, that kindergarten teacher helping _____ may fit in that graduate _____. So kudos to you for that and thanks for sharing that great website with us.


So with that, Mike, one of the things you must mentioned is community. So we all know this type of thing doesn’t happen without the community that we serve. Tell us about the community outreach and additional community collaboration efforts with the framework?


Michael McCormick:  Well, with the community outreach we’ve been very lucky because we have a great vision for reaching our community, from our superintendent through all of our administrators and our leadership. A lot of us have lived in the area. We’ve worked in the area. We know the community very well. But more than that, we’ve got some fantastic people that are doing a lot to reach our community. So working with the Future Ready Dashboard we were able to leverage a lot of the parent groups that we’ve already developed over the years. We have a fantastic EL director named Carla Delatore, Dr. Carla Delatore. And she has helped the district to create this wonderful family engagement center where they bring in the ELAC parents. They work with the African-American Success Academy. They have all these parent groups that they bring in that we can leverage when we need to and get information from. So we have some major events that we put on where we specifically target the parents of our students and we bring in sometimes upwards of a thousand or more parents in some of these events. So when we need to work on the Future Ready Dashboard and we wanted to get their input, we were able to use our parents to gain data from, especially in conjunction with something else we have called BriteBytes, which helps us to get a lot of data quickly and we can take the responses. And we were able to see what their needs were and what their desires were for our district and put that right into our plan.


Tom Murray:              One of the things I continue to hear from you guys is the importance of community.


Michael McCormick:  Absolutely.


Tom Murray:              And as we think through those different pieces, it’s so easy as district leaders or school leaders to start running with things. We buzzword bingo the heck out of everything. [Laughter] And it’s so easy to leave our community behind in that regard. And so kudos to you guys to making sure they’re not just a nice little side aspect to have as part of it, but really a vital part of what you’re doing. And sometimes I think we can lose sight of that, why we do what we do. And we are there to serve them. So not having them a vital part of the process is really a disservice.


Michael McCormick:  Absolutely.


Tom Murray:              So I do want to remind our viewers that today’s hashtag is #FutureReady. Feel free to ask a question on Twitter _____ as well.


As a former IT director myself, I’ve seen firsthand how ID departments can either be a massive roadblock to change or an incredible accelerant for change. So how did the IT department of Val Verde adapt it to meet the needs of _____ teacher, to support them _____?


Phil Harding:             Well, Tom, first of all I want to give a shout out to my IT director, Matt Henner. Matt and I both together went through the CEPTA CTO program at the same time. And CEPTA usually only allows you to have one candidate to go through. But because they knew some people that I knew kind of thing, they let us both go through.


And Matt and I together developed a vision of an IT department that you’re going to love. Imagine that as a school district; you really want to love your IT department. And that doesn’t’ mean it happens overnight. But we had an end in mind. We talked to _____ and _____ both about why an IT department has to take a very different point of view. You can’t be stuck in the closet anymore. You’ve got to be out in the classroom figuring out how are we going to equip all these classrooms with Wi-Fi, how are we going to support all those devices? And when the students start taking them home in a one-to-one like we have, how do we sustain sustainability, right? And we have to think about where’s the floor at in the IT department. Well, we do like a triple layer attack. And one of the things we do that’s unheard of in a lot of school districts, believe it or not, we actually have a helpline where you can call our helpline as early as 7:00 in the morning and you actually get a live IT person that can help you. That is definitely unheard of. When I threw that out in meetings and so in at the county and state level people were going, “Really? You have a help desk?”


Tom Murray:              I assume we’re not going to throw that up nationally right now, right?


Phil Harding:             [Laughter] Right. Well, not only help desk, but the other thing too about it is we layered the support even further. About, gosh, now it’s been about 17 years ago I had some leftover grant money. And I decided to start a program where we would do what we called then the teacher techs. Now they’ve become our technology integration experts. At each site depending on the LCAP – when Garrick talks about it – we have like two or three skilled teachers that have good tech skills and good people skills, that they can help their fellow teachers with that quick help that maybe the help desk is jammed at the moment and they can’t get to it. Maybe the IT technician hasn’t got out there. And maybe sometimes we need that tie to not only do professional development for us, which they always do throughout the years, everything from digital citizenship to when we roll out the latest windows version. One of the great things about that though is it puts a human face on the department. And those ties are, there are 61 of them now. And we grew from eight to 61. And it’s kind of like having a bunch of disciples of the IT department out there taking part and being our evangelists and being our helpers.


But I’ll tell you what is even more important than just impacting the instruction, is we take it even further now. We’re looking at a program called GenYes. Because we think, why not get the students involved in tech support? The more you localize your tech support and the more you bring in even the average user, meaning we’ve got to reach out to that individual. We want the individual to know that we’re not a roadblock. We’re there to bring you along in the adventure and we’re part of the adventure, and we want to make sure that we deliver for our students and our teachers in the classroom.


I think that we need to keep rethinking how we do support in the IT structure. Also if you’ve got your IT department out in maintenance and operations or you have it over on the fiscal side of the house, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You need to move that IT department over to ed services.


Greg McWhorter:       I love how Phil mentions that what we do is we do a really great job of empowering – you know, we’ve empowered our teacher techs and in turn now we want to empower our students. And in doing that, it gets us a lot of buy-in with our technology initiatives in the district. And we treat everybody like ambassadors. Phil and I are kind of ambassadors between the IT department and ed services, and our teacher techs are ambassadors between IT and their sites.


Michael McCormick:  I think one of the things we’ve discovered is nothing kills an initiative faster than somebody having to stop, fill out a help ticket, and then wait a week or so before somebody gets back to them. And so I think it’s a balance, right? You’ve got to have some centralized It structures for support, like the helpline. And maybe some of those more traditional methods. But then I think we spend a lot of time about how do we decentralize IT support? And to use Phil’s words, how do we localize that? Because a lot of items what I’ve discovered as I’m walking in classrooms is people don’t have bit problems they’re trying to solve; they have the little tiny problem they’re trying to solve. And sometimes it’s literally a 20, 30 second thing where they can run next door or get in touch with their local support teacher and say hey, how do I do this? And 30 seconds they’re up and running and going. And I think it’s about momentum.


And the other thing for consideration on this is we’re trying to move people out of their comfort zone. And so when people are already approaching something and they’re a little out of their comfort zone, when they run into that little snag, oftentimes their perseverance is such that okay, well, I’m just going to stop for today and I’ll maybe come back to it next go round in the instructional cycle or wherever that is. And so what we’re trying to do is limit that little snag. Whereas if we’re just right there with them, 30 seconds later they can be off and running. And so it’s a little bit did maybe philosophy about how to support teachers in their classrooms, because it is still kind of a – as much as we try to build in collaborative structures, once they’re in their rooms, they are really kind of by themselves. And so to have that support more localized I think has been helpful for us.


Greg McWhorter:       And also, Tom, it’s important that – and Mike’s absolutely right on that. It also comes in to teaching digital citizenship to your students. We are a common sense media school district. But one of the things about teaching the digital citizenship is also we’ve got to work with our teachers and work with the IT department to say here you’ve got this million dollar freeway of information. But you’ve got to be able to use it. You’ve got to remove the roadblocks and let research take place.


Tom Murray:              Yeah. And Common Sense is one of our partners here as well here at Future Ready.


One of the things that I would give some advice on as well as a former tech director, it’s to never lose sight of why we do what we do. Going back to our purpose. And we need to agree as tech directors and tech departments that our main job is to serve kids and so serve those around us and to remove roadblocks and to empower them with tools that are needed and possible in today’s environment while also keeping _____. And so biggest picture, it’s how do we make sure as an IT department we are customer service to serve our teachers, remove roadblocks, empower them with access, and of course empower our students to what it is that they need in a safe and efficient and effective way.


One of the terms you guys have thrown out a couple of times is LCAP. And it’s unique to California, but it’s something that you’ve been working on. We have a lot of California Future Ready districts. I think almost 400 superintendents in California have signed the pledge. So for our national audience to give it some context, LCAP stands for Local Control and Accountability Plan. So for the rest of the other 49 states watching, they’ve been like, what is this LCAP thing?


So can you take a couple of moments and just share what LCAP is? But for those in California show that we’re not necessarily talking about separate things or just something to layer on top; they really all go hand-in-hand. So how does the budget and resources gear and the framework take part in that. And talk to us about LCAP for just a few moments.


Garrick Owen:            Yeah. So Local Control and Accountability Plan is basically the old LEA plan that the federal requirements made districts across the country do. But it’s more localized, it’s more personable, it’s more actionable. And it really takes the entire community to make it work. And so what it’s done for us and many districts who are making it successful across the state is really focusing on are you making those stakeholder engagement priority? Are you talking to the community? And in our district we found in the first year that we couldn’t say that we had. And so over the last four or five years we really have started to build that and have built that. And that’s made the biggest difference in what we’re doing here in Val Verde overall.


The other thing was that it made departments talk to each other. Fiscal and education services and IT and facilities, we all have to talk to each other now. Because some part of the LCAP is driven by your department and the actions that your department takes. And so all the plans start to come together. If you don’t have LCAP, that’s okay in your state. But what I would take away is that melding those plans, looking at every plan that you’re supposed to have and matching it up to one primary plan, whatever it is, for us in the State of California, it has now become the LCAP.


And so when we were looking at a Future Ready plan, we said, well, how does this fit to LCAP and what LCAP has said we need to do and what we’re going to do? And we found that in some ways it informed what the LCAP needed to do. In other ways the LCAP helped us guide what was going to happen in the Future Ready plan. The distribution of resources is finite. Our business service CBO likes to say that, “We can do anything; we just can’t do it all.” And so we’ve really taken that to heart. We prioritize our initiatives and what we need to do to best serve our students. And then we look at all of our resources and put those together in a way that every kid gets what they need and the community and parents get what they need in order to help support and guide the path of the district.


Greg McWhorter:       Yeah. It’s really about authentic engagement. I think gone are the days when we were working on those old local education agency plans and we would say, you know, we had our one community engagement meeting for the year, and we’d invite people and five people would show up and we’d share the plan and everybody would walk away feeling like okay, we did something good here.


Garrick Owen:            I wouldn’t have survived in those days.


Greg McWhorter:       Yeah. And so what I see true community engagement, authentic community engagement is – and the way that – you know, actually I think the state board of education in California was pretty smart. Because we actually have to report on the ways that we had a community engagement and report our survey numbers and our town hall meeting attendee numbers and record comments from community members. And that becomes a part of the living document. And so in a way there’s really – it would be really difficult to fake it I guess these days.


Garrick Owen:            Yeah. One of the best words that I keep coming back to every time we are working on anything like this is consultation. It’s really consulting with all the stakeholders, sharing with them but getting true information back from them and feedback.


Greg McWhorter:       And one of the things we like to say too is that when we look at parents and community members as true partners, it’s not that we’re just asking for their feedback; it’s actually that we’re seeking their expertise. And we come at this from kind of a value-added philosophy. The community and the parents actually have something really valuable to contribute to our system.


Garrick Owen:            Yeah, definitely.


Phil Harding:             And I love what Tom was saying earlier, that if we thinking about school systems as community serving, family serving institutions, my god, it’s about time we took it seriously.


Garrick Owen:            Yeah, definitely.


Tom Murray:              So as you guys developed your Val Verde framework and the Future Ready Plan, just like 13 other school districts around the country, you utilized our free Future Ready Dashboard. You’ve referenced that a few times through the webinar. Can you quickly tell us a little bit about your experience with the dashboard and how it helped develop a plan? For any districts that are listening that may just be looking at it today for the very first time, how is it a support? And of course it’s free and you own your own data. There’s no sales pitch here. How is it a support for the work that you’re doing and for your vision moving forward.


Phil Harding:             Well, Tom, if you’re going to make a road map, you’ve got to know where you’re going, period. You’ve got to know that this is our end to the means, right?


So one of the things about the dashboard is, like we were discussing earlier, you’ve definitely got to bring the whole team in. This can’t be a one or two person group in an office in the DO trying to figure out how to write this thing. You’ve got to involve all the stakeholders. And you’ve got to involve all the different departments, and you’ve got to get input and you’ve got to take surveys.


One of the powers of the LCAP Garrick was talking about is the power of the parent survey. And then we also use another product that Greg mentioned. Greed, do you want to talk about that, about BrightBytes a little bit?


Greg McWhorter:       Well, we’ve got this fantastic program we use called BrightBytes where twice a year we do a collection and we send it out to all our stakeholders. So we send it out to our teachers, our students, and our parents, and solicit information from them on how they view and how they perceive technology and the integration with that into their students’ education.


Phil Harding:             And Tom, you know what’s interesting? In our most recent survey we had 1,300 parents take the survey. And BrightBytes came back and said, what are you guys doing? How are you doing that?


Michael McCormick:  I think it was the most ever.


Phil Harding:             Yeah. But I think kind of to Tom’s point, the gears for us were like those touchpoints. You know? It’s difficult to be an expert in each area. And I think the value of the gears in the Future Ready plan was that, for example, I’m thinking about this planning process through my lens. But then we engage our business office and they’re looing at it through their lens. And so I think the power of the gears is it helps to bring some sort of focus to the entire planning team. And these gears I would say are very well-researched. When I ready through them, I thought, wow, this is really good advice. And there’s kind of some touchpoints, some questions for you to think about that are in those gears as you’re moving through the process. So to me, I found it to be extremely valuable and a great resource to help guide our thinking, right? It’s like you want to have – I would describe it like this. It’s like okay, we all know we’re committed to developing this future-ready plan for our students, our teachers, and our community that we serve. And we’re on that highway. Guardrails are kind of I would say the gears in a way that are kind of keeping us on the highway so we don’t veer off the path. And I say that because I think they are very well-researched and great resources. So you kind of want to have some guidance and then have some – obviously you can choose your own lane, right, when you’re on the highway. So maybe this lane is really good for Val Verde, and maybe there’s another lane over here that represents the best ideas of another school district. But I think again without kind of overemphasizing the point, I think they served as some really good guideposts for us to see as we were navigating to the next section of the roadmap.


Michael McCormick:  I think it kind of broke us a little bit from isolation too. I know sometimes in our different departments we seem like we’re vey focused on what we’re doing. But the dashboard seemed to make us come together and be more collaborative.


Phil Harding:             Yeah. Well, we kind of talk about that echo chamber effect. You know? If you two are talking to each other, your ideas sound really good to you. Right? [Laughter] [Crosstalk] But they may not necessarily resonate. So it’s kind of like get out of the echo chamber and be willing to hear a diversity of thought.


Tom Murray:              One of the cornerstones of Future Ready Schools is developing that comprehensive plan. And hearing your feedback on the Future Ready Dashboard as well as your due diligence in bringing in other tools and other resources to make sure you’ve got a really comprehensive plan shows you did intentionality. And that intention that you’re using for that vision is very reassuring for your district, to know this isn’t something you just did quickly on a whim. This is something that was deep planning to truly set that vision.


So we’re going to start wrapping up because we’re short on time. But hearing from you today has been truly encouraging and inspiring. And it’s really evident that you’ve put incredible amounts of time and energy to be intentional, as I said, with your plan. With hundreds of viewers on today’s webinar, I’d assume that today’s districts are all along a vast continuum of planning and implementation. So what advice do you have for other districts regardless of where they are on a planning or an implementation continuum? What advice, what would you say?


Phil Harding:             I think one of the things I think about is motivate, not mandate. You know? You’re going to get so much more through encouraging people to come together and keeping those conversations going. I think the worst thing you can do, especially as a superintendent, is kind of slam your fist down on the table and say, “We’re doing a Future Ready Plan, and I want it done by,” you know, I think that would be a mistake.


Michael McCormick:  It would be.


Phil Harding:             So I think that’s one piece.


Garrick Owen:            Bringing in the Four Cs at the district level.


Phil Harding:             There you go.


Michael McCormick:  Absolutely.


Garrick Owen:            We’ve asked teachers now to get out of their silos. Getting the different departments in the district out of their silos has been a huge change in –


Phil Harding:             So as adults we should be practicing the four Cs.


Garrick Owen:            Yes, yeah.


Phil Harding:             Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.


Greg McWhorter:       Right. And Tom, it should be pointed out, this is set up to be flexible for any size of a school district. I noticed on your website you have a whole section called the Rural District guide. And I said, boy, I said, that’s true. You could apply this no matter if you had only 500 students. It’s just a matter of figuring out where do you want to take those students.


Tom Murray:              Yeah. And in hearing your last set of comments there, you know, on the outside of the Future Ready Framework is Collaborative Leadership. And hearing you all speak today, it’s so evident that is core to the vision and to the mission of what you all do. And I truly say kudos to that.


So I do want to remind our viewers that information about Future Ready Schools can be found at We continue to challenge school district superintendents like Mike to be like Mike, right? To join the over _____ others that have signed the Future Ready Pledge. We encourage our school and district leaders to join us at one of this year’s Future Ready Institutes which – get ready for it – we just officially launched today. So for more on attending one of our Future Ready Institutes, check out at


I also want to encourage our viewers to get involved with one our growing strands. They’re all highlighted at _____ as well. The district leader, the IT, your principals, librarians, and instructional. Coaches. We’ve vastly expanded the reach of Future Ready Schools over the past year. Check out the _____ groups and ongoing activities to stay connected to _____ those like you throughout the nation as well.


As you heard with _____ Val Verde at this webinar, the Future Ready Dashboard is a dynamic planning tool to support your school or district’s transformation forward. I encourage you to check out and utilize this free – let me say that again – this free tool which has been used by over 1,300 school districts to date. Because sure to check that out.


I do want to thank the Val Verde team as well as thank all of you, our viewers, for joining us for this Future Ready webinar. Don’t forget to connect to Future Ready on Twitter, @FutureReady, and on Facebook at as well.


If you missed any of today’s conversation, _____ all four _____ webinars soon after this webinar. On that page you’ll also _____ coming webinar. You can also find the _____ hangouts on our YouTube channel on there. For those taking part in our Digital Academy Badging, the password for the webinar today is READERS.


Thank you again for joining us here at Future Ready Schools. Have a fabulous day. We will see you next time.


[End of Audio]

Categories: Future Ready

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