In March 2019, NJPSA launched the Leadership Connection as a new member benefit intended to provide NJPSA members with a private social network to share resources, collaborate with colleagues, continue conversations, and problem solve. One recent posting on the Leadership Connection led to an in-person collaboration session at the FEA Conference Center, in which more than 50 elementary school principals, supervisors, directors, and others shared ideas, information, and templates on how to build a master schedule.
It all started on May 30 when Dr. Joanne Pollara, principal of Kelly Elementary School, in West Orange, posted a question in the General Discussion Forum:
We are having discussions in our district about revamping our elementary master schedule and I would appreciate any feedback you might be able to provide. Currently we have a block schedule, but the times are all over the place … We are looking to try to make the periods more uniform. We also value common planning time, so that is another priority we have. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated (resources, sample schedules, etc.)*
This simple post led to numerous responses throughout the state from administrators looking for the same kind of help, as well as other responses offering solutions. One of the first posts on this thread came from Thomas Conroy, principal of Brookside Elementary School in Woodside, NJ:
I have an excellent scheduling template that I would be happy to share. I also wouldn’t mind sitting with you and explaining it either. Please let me know what you think.
This benevolent reply generated several more from principals experiencing the same issues, and Conroy explained how these posts generated an idea. “As other members began to read the posts, more dialogue and interest built as many elementary administrators were experiencing the same issues,” Conroy said. “I contacted Pat Wright and told her that I would be happy to ‘facilitate’ a discussion and share some of the scheduling work that I completed when I attended a workshop at PSA/FEA.” Following that conversation, Pat took to the Leadership Connection to offer the FEA Conference Center as the meeting place, and 58 NJPSA members who were following the thread signed up to join.
“Little did I know that my initial expectation, of a discussion with maybe 15 members, would turn into a mini-workshop with over 50 participants,” Conroy continued. “The Leadership Connection provided a forum for members to interact with each other and look to their colleagues from all over the state for help. It was amazing to see that the vision of the connection was coming to life and that members responded in such a positive way.”
The meeting took place on Tuesday, July 16th at the FEA Conference Center and was very well received. Conroy provided a few examples and some initial direction to participants, and then the conversation took its natural course with many members sharing their own experiences and posing questions and challenges for others to address.
“The true beauty of the day was watching the rich conversations members were having with each other and the collaboration that took place over the entire morning,” said Conroy, who plans to post his presentation onto the Leadership Connection for others to see and utilize.
Dr. Pollara commented that the session was extremely helpful to her and others who attended. “It was such a wonderful, helpful, and terrific way to form collegial bonds in a profession that can, at times, be very isolating,” Pollara said. “It was great to get ideas from people outside your own district, including some very simple tips on things I had never even thought of. This was like Christmas in July.” She continued by lauding the Leadership Connection as a tool for networking and collaborating. “I go on the Leadership Connection every day,” she said. “I found some great videos and inspirational ideas that will be useful for beginning of the year activities and faculty get togethers.”
Pat Wright was thrilled that NJPSA members are using the Leadership Connection to communicate with each other. “This kind of collaboration is exactly what we had in mind when we established this platform as a member benefit,” she said. “Member-to-member dialogue is such a great way to learn, share, and grow as professionals, and the Leadership Connection provides a safe, private environment to do just that without all of the extraneous noise that can be found on traditional social networks. This is for us.”
*These posts were reprinted with the permission of the author.
To log on to the Leadership Connection:
Go to www.njpsa.org.
Click the “login” button on the menu.
Click “NJPSA Leadership Connection” and continue to sign in.
Enter your e-mail address and password and you will be connected.