How to Build Your Master Schedule


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 98. 

Hey Builders, 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robin Jackson.
And today we are going to continue our series on the difference between bosses, leaders and builders. Except for today, I wanted to make this one really, really practical. A lot of what we've been talking about has been the difference in how bosses, leaders and builders kind of approach their work philosophically. And while those have practical implications, they were really more about thinking the mindset that that was involved in how we approach our work. Today, I want to talk about something very concrete, which is the master schedule. We are entering master scheduling season, a lot of you are starting to think about your master schedules for next year on top of everything else that you've been thinking about right now. And I wanted to do an episode that showed you on a really practical level, how bosses, leaders and builders approach something very concrete like a master schedule. The other reason I wanted to talk about master schedules today is because inside of builder ship University, this is what we're starting to kind of tackle together and I'm actually doing a masterclass inside of builder ship University. This week, if you're listening to this podcast in real time, that masterclass is going to be on March 19 2021, at 5:30pm, eastern time, and we are going to look at how builders build their master schedule. So I'm going to be going through what that process looks like, I'm going to be giving away a master scheduling calendar that you can use to kind of get yourself organized, and it's a year long calendar. So you can start where we are right now in March. But the calendar is going to show you what you should be doing every single month of the school year to really set up your master schedule so that it is a true reflection of your vision, your mission and your core values.

We're going to be doing a masterclass. 

Plus, I'm going to be showing you some examples of you know, the
way a boss might set up a master schedule, I'm going to show you what a leadership master schedule might look like. And then I'm going to show you the what a builders master schedule will look like so that you can see the difference between the three. So normally, that master class would be inside a builder ship University, and it's only for builders ship University members. But this is such an important topic that I want to make this available to anybody. So even if you are not currently a part of builder ship university, I want to invite you to join us. We're going to open up this master class for everybody. And again, the masterclass is going to be on Thursday, March 19 2021, at 5:30pm. Eastern, and you can go to mind steps there'll be a pop up on the homepage that will allow you to be able to register for the masterclass and get the link so that you can join us. You can also get the link inside of the school leadership reimagined Facebook group, or you can I'll try to put it out on my Facebook profile and on my LinkedIn profile if you and I are connected on either Facebook or LinkedIn, so that masterclass is happening. We're going to open it up free to everybody. If you are a member of builder ship University, you can always access the recordings of the masterclass.

Also if you're a member of Builders University, not only are we doing that masterclass in the 19th, but we're going to do another sprint right after that masterclass so that you can bring your master schedules and we'll go through them together and give you some feedback on it. And we're going to look at our master schedules to see if they truly reflect our vision, mission and core values. And we'll do all of that in the sprint. So if you're a member of builders University know that this is master scheduling week, starting on tomorrow, Thursday, March 18 2021, with a masterclass and like I said, if your member bill does ship University, you get the recording of the masterclass. We can't Make the recording available to everybody. But if you want to come live and get that training, then we're inviting everybody to come get the training live. Okay, so that's the first announcement. second announcement, builders lab Registration is open, we have our next builders lab June 28, through 30th 2021. And if you are listening to this sometime in the future, you can still go to mind steps slash builders dash lab, that's mine steps slash builders dash lab. And you can check out when the next builders lab is happening. But we have the next one coming up in June. And I'm really excited, we're going to do another builders lab 360.

I love Builders Lab 360

It's a, it's an ability to be able to be fully present, we provide what we call a 360 degree experience. It's not just three days of zoom meetings and me marching you through the slides. It's highly interactive, you have so much time to be working on your stuff. And one of the reasons I love builder lab in the summertime, is because it really allows you to set your vision for your school, and start mapping out a plan for that vision. If you have a leadership team, and you have to sit and create a CIP plan over the summer, then bring your leadership team to builders lab because we can help you as a process a part of going through builder's lab, develop that CIP plan, get your leadership team to really talk about what your school vision, your mission, your core values for your school, and how you're going to achieve that in the next three years. And how you're going to do that with the people and resources you already have. Those of you who have been to builders lab in the past, you know that every single time we upgraded, we just keep getting better and better and better. And every time I teach this, I learned something new I get I we create new resources, it's just it just becomes this iterative thing. And so once you become a part of our community, you become you join us on that journey towards builder ship.

The other thing about builders lab that we try to do is we try to create what we call implementation insurance. A lot of times you go to a conference, you get really excited and go back to your schooling and get distracted. And all those goals you set at the conference, you know, you put them aside and you look up a year later, when you find the binder collecting dust on your shelf and you say, Oh man, I went to that conference, I meant to do that. They'll just leave it like that. Because we follow up with you. For the 90 days after builders lab, we have monthly office hours where you can come and bring challenges that you face, we send you weekly emails with reminders about what you should be doing that week to work towards your goals. We do so much to support you after the conference is over to make sure that you implement what you learn. So we are having the next one June 28 through 30th. I really hope you join me it is it's such a cool experience, we send you a box, it's I mean, we really try to go all out to make sure that you have you get value from builder's lab, and I would so love it if you would join us. So go to mind step Slash builder's dash lab. Alright, let's dive in.

Let's talk about master schedules. 

I have to be honest with you, when I first became an administrator, I dreaded during the master schedule. In fact, in my district being the master scheduler was kind of a rite of passage, it was almost like hazing. And so it was usually usually given to the newest AP on the block. And they were in charge of the master schedule. And it was just a lot of headache and, you know, formulas and figuring things out. And so I thought, you know, I don't want to do the master schedule. I'd rather work with people I'd rather you know, work on, on being a quote unquote, instructional leader. I didn't realize back then the importance and the power of the master schedule. It wasn't until I actually did the master schedule that I started to see the importance because your master schedule really sets the tone, the tenor for your entire school, your master schedule determines whether or not you're going to achieve your vision, or whether you're going to stay stuck wishing that you could achieve your vision. it's that important. It's that powerful. And I don't think people realize that a lot of times and this is what bosses do, they treat the master schedule, like a necessary evil. I've been in schools where they don't even start thinking about the master schedule until May, June. And then they kind of cobble it together over the summer. Typically, they do what they did the year before. And they just kind of keep it going. You know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And they just, they don't really kind of think about the master schedule. That's what bosses do.

Bosses treat the master schedule, like a necessary evil like another piece of paperwork, they just get it done. A lot of times they delegate it to somebody else who may or may not have a role in the instructional leadership of the building. They it's about boxes and numbers and getting you know making everything line up and so they put it off to The last minute they it's an it's a yearly occurrence of the master schedule. That's kind of how bosses do it. And the problem with doing it that way is that you take one of the most important tools that you have to achieve your vision, and you relegate it to more paperwork. And you your master schedule often does not reflect your vision, your mission, your core values. Instead, your master schedule reflects your you know, the numbers or how many kids you have, or which teachers you have, or, you know, you're just kind of throwing people into slots, and it becomes a game of filling boxes and spots and, and making sure the numbers work out, rather than something that that can drive the work of your school.

Now, Leaders know the master schedule is important.

 We know that and so what leaders often do with a master schedule is what I did with the master schedule, okay, we want to get our master schedule, and we want to make sure that we get it in on time, we want to make sure that the right teachers are teaching the right things. A lot of times I made my master scheduling decisions based on the preferences of the adults in the building, rather than the needs of the kids. And I didn't do it overtly. I would often, you know, we had a master schedule, we tried to make sure that we included course courses that aligned with what we felt our kids needed. We tried to make sure that you know, I was a middle school administrator. So I tried to make sure that our kids were purely teamed, we thought that was really important. So we worked really hard to do that. I tried to make sure that that the students had access to rigorous coursework, because that was something that was really important to me that any child who wanted to be an honors classes or gifted classes, they have those opportunities. So I tried to make sure that those things happen. So I my master schedule was was driven by some of my own personal priorities for students. It was also driven by some of the requests for parents, some parents wanted opportunities for students to have different kinds of electives. And so we tried to include some of those based on whichever parent advocated most strongly for particular electives.

So we did things like that my master schedule was driven by the district, the district said, we had to have so many hours of this and so many hours of that, and we only had point five, you know, positions in this category. So I tried to make all those things fit. And then I tried to make sure that I accommodated my teacher. So if I had a teacher who needed first period off because their their childcare provider didn't open until late and so often they were getting to school right at the beginning of the first Val and I wanted to make sure that that teacher didn't have to come right in and teach right away, they could they could get settled, then I might give them first period off of I had a teacher who had to leave at the end of the day early, because they were in grad school, I tried to give them the last period off so that they could leave early. You know, if somebody bought me, you know, my big my kryptonite was gobstoppers. And those little baby Snickers. If they bought those to me and said, Hey, I'd really like to have a planning period, right about my lunch period.

Hey, I'll accommodate that I was a teacher once I know how important these things were. 

So I accommodated people. And then I tried to kind of put people together, make the master schedule, work with the personalities in my building, making sure that the people who were on teams together were people who could get along and could work together. So I really navigate it the master schedule, like I imagine many of you navigate the master schedule, which is we want to try to make the people happy, the students, the parents, the district, the teachers happy. And our master schedule is kind of driven by that. And I've had it's way better than just treating it like a paperwork exercise. That master schedule, when you when you that master scheduling process, when you approach your master schedule, that way where you're trying to deal with the people, then a lot of times you can accommodate the people at the expense of your bigger vision. Because sometimes what people want, especially if you're not focused on your vision, your mission or your core values, a lot of times what people want may be contradictory to the vision. They're not intentionally being contradictory to the vision. But if it's not in the forefront, we often forget about it, the vision gets set aside in place of people's preferences. So even though that is better than paperwork, you know, accommodating treating the master schedule like paperwork, letting the the preferences of the people in your building drive your master schedule, can take you off course.

Now here's how builders build their master schedule. builders. They don't ignore people, they don't ignore the needs of the people in their building. Certainly not. But those needs come second, your vision, your mission and your core values come first. And so what builders do is at the beginning of the year, they don't look at what the district is saying they don't look at What people need, they don't look at anything else, they start with what is our vision. And that's what drives the master schedule. The next step they take is okay, this is our vision, let's say your vision is that you want all kids on grade level for reading and math. And so that's their vision. That's the first thing the next day. Okay, what's our mission? Why do we want all kids on grade level for reading and math your mission explains the why of your vision. So we want our kids on grade level for reading and math because we want to help students have more opportunities and make better choices about the opportunities they have. Okay, so now I have two got guardrails around my master schedule, the first thing on master schedule has to do is it has to ensure that all kids get on grade level.

What does that mean? 

It might mean that we need to make sure that we're dedicating enough time to to reading a map, it might mean that we have a lot of kids who are below grade level, who are going to need extra time to get on grade level this school year, it might mean that we have some kids who are already on grade level, and it's too easy for them, so they need more challenge. And so we have to make sure that we include that in the master schedule. The second thing is that we have to Okay, so we're going to do that. The next step is okay, now we have to give students the choices, we have to give them options, because our mission says we have to ensure that our kids have more options and make better choices. So those options might be not around meeting and reading a map with their options may be around some of the other subjects that might be around giving them more elective opportunities, it might be around giving them options within their day two to pursue their own, you know, their their own interest, it might be that they're that students have different options for how they achieve on grade level status, that might be that the students have options to go for more challenge, I don't know.

That's what I have to decide with my master schedule. And then finally, I have to look at my core values and say, does this master schedule align with our core values, if one of my core values is that students wouldn't have that we want to one of the schools that I've been working with lately, if they have a great core value, I love it, I want to feel it their core, one of their core values is keep it simple. So I also have to do all of that in the way that keeps the master schedule simple enough that everybody understands it, and we follow it. Now, if I have a different vision, mission and core values, I'm going to approach my master schedule differently. But I always have the builder start there first. And my vision mission and core values are the criteria through which I am going to sift every decision I make about the master schedule. So if a parent comes in and says, Hey, I would really love it, my child is really interested in dance. And I would really love it if you offered, you know a dance elective next year instead of P. While that may be interesting. And while I do want to accommodate that parent and child if I can, if that is contradictory to my mat to my vision, mission and core values, then I have to go back to the parent and say I would love to accommodate this. But that is not aligned with our vision mission and core values. Let me find help you find some other opportunities for your child to pursue dance outside of the school day, perhaps we can create a dance club after school, perhaps we can hook up with the community center down the street and offer dance opportunities before school I don't know. But we can't do that in the master schedule. Or maybe you find a way you know what we can we want to give students opportunities. So you go find a dance program and you include it in the school because you're trying to expand students opportunities. The decision about whether or not you include dance in your master schedule is driven not by which parent is pushy asked not by your own interests, not by how much you like the kid, not by the the inherent value of a dance program.

It's driven by your vision, mission and core values. 

When you get that clear about your master schedule, then all of a sudden, especially if everybody understands what your vision mission and core values are, your they don't worry about what you're going to do with the master schedule, your master scheduling process becomes very transparent, even if you're not sharing every single decision that you're making. I remember when I first became the master scheduler, I would be my office, you know, I had a big board, you know, the big board the met the magnetic board that many people still use with a master schedule and people during master scheduling season would start coming in and sneaking in my office when I wasn't there and taking a look at the board. And if they saw something he didn't like they'd be, you know, I need to make an appointment with you. I want to talk about the schedule, I looked at the board, you know, so then you're trying to hide the board or you're trying to say stay home office or whatever, you know, the board becomes the issue. Once I shifted to a master schedule that was driven by our vision, mission and core values, all of that nonsense stopped. People stopped worrying about what I was going to do. People still came to me and said, You know, I really would like first period off and I would say okay, when we look at your team, let's look at what we're trying to do with the master schedule.

That doesn't work based on what if we did that, that would take our master schedule off mission or it would take our master schedule away from our vision or take our master schedule outside of our core values. And I could give that answer to people and people could see it. And even if they didn't like the answer they respected. So now I'm not in all these skirmishes, I'm not people aren't coming to me mad about their schedule and, and I'm also not keeping people waiting about their schedule because that's the other thing that happens when you treat the master schedule, like a paperwork exercise, then a lot of times people leave at the end of the year, they don't know what they're teaching next year, they don't know, because you haven't finished or retreat it like a preference thing, then you're so busy tweaking and adjusting your master schedule over the summer that people can't be assured about what they're going to be doing next year. When you're a builder, when your master schedule is driven by your vision, mission and core values. And when you are following a not a seasonal master schedule calendar like leaders do, or a, a, you know, like a last minute master scheduling calendar like builders do. And instead, you're following a yearly master scheduling calendar.

The master schedule is built into your year, it's built into the work that you are doing to achieve your vision in three years.

Unless the master schedule becomes an integral part of that, then you're not late. Once I started shifting the master scheduling this way, I was always the first or second person in my district to get their master schedule above 80%. Or to get we would end the school year with our master schedule at 90 95%. Complete, which is a few tweaks over the summer, the four kids that we had to hand schedule, we everybody left the year knowing what they were going to teach for the year. Our summers weren't scrambling. The other part about it is that when you have a master schedule that's driven by your vision, mission and core values, that naturally feeds into the work that you're doing for hiring season, right, if you know your master schedule, if you know what you're going to need next year, then you can be very deliberate about who you hire, you're not going to the hiring season thinking, Oh man, I might need a science teacher or you're not, you know, three weeks before school starts putting, you know, post on Facebook, does anybody know a good special educator, instead, you can be very deliberate and hire people early, you can recruit the kind of people that you need, because your master schedule is done. Because you know what your master schedule needs. And because your master schedule is a direct reflection of your vision, your mission and your core values, then the hiring process becomes uniquely aligned with your master scheduling process. It all becomes one thing it's not okay, now we've done this. Now we've got to do that. Everything works together.

The other thing that builders do with their master schedule is once they have figured out their vision, mission and core values, they sit down with people and they look at last year's master schedule, and they say, Okay, what worked and what didn't work. So you're not going to just grab last year's master schedule and say that that worked. I mean, for the most part, let's just do this again, every year, you're going to interrogate your master schedule, and say, is this moving us towards our vision, mission and core values. The other thing about that is that, you know, we always say here at mindsets, new level new devil, the master schedule you made last year may have worked for where you were last year. But if you're a builder, every 90 days, you are moving closer and closer to your vision, which means that you have a different school at the end of the year than you did at the beginning of the year. Your school is better.

So now you have to ask yourself, Is this master schedule still serving us for the school we are right now?

And the school we're becoming? And if the answer's no, then you have an opportunity to reconfigure to rethink your master schedule. I'll give you an example of a couple years ago, I was working with a school. And they had they were really focused on helping all of their students get ready for graduation. So their master schedule really focused on ninth grade academies as a way to do that. And they needed that because they hadn't yet aligned with the middle school. The kids were coming in a ninth grade, they have the ninth graders and houses. But then what they were doing is they were so focused on that ninth grade class who tried to build their school over the next three years starting with our ninth grade class that they they the ninth grade academies worked really well. But the problem was those ninth graders were becoming 10th graders. And we have to have another conversation to say, Okay, we have ninth grade academies, they're working really well. 10th grade looks very different than ninth grade, because in ninth grade, they were organized in the houses now in 10th grade, we're just dispersing them into the general population. Are the kids ready? Do we need to continue to provide that kind of structure for our 10th graders? It's a lot harder to do because now students are starting to pursue different pathways. Is it possible? If it's not possible, then what does what do they need in 10th grade? And what does that look like? We couldn't just blindly say Yay, ninth grade academies are working so let's keep that up and not think about those ninth graders who are going to 10th grade our master schedule every year.

We have to interrogate it. Because as we grow new level new devil so what what what got you here won't get you there and a Masters They may have served you in the past, that may not be the best schedule for the future. So once you re revisit your vision, mission and core values, the next thing you need to do is you need to interrogate your master schedule that you currently have, and look at it and see if it's serving the school that you are becoming. The third thing is that you need to get everybody on board, you need to help everybody understand, this is where we're headed. And so I always advocate having a master scheduling retreat, to be able to do that, to start out that retreat by talking about your vision, mission and core values, and then interrogating the master schedule that you have, who should be at that retreat? Well, it depends on your school, when I used to do it, as an administrator, I always had a half day retreat, where I would have all of my department heads and team leaders, all of my guidance counselors, the entire admin team, that's who I had on. So basically my, you know, kind of school leadership team.

You can do this with your school wide leadership team.

You can do this while you're including everybody who is making decisions in your school about what's happening instructionally, you want everybody around the table? And you always start out those meetings by saying, Hey, listen, what is our vision, mission and core values? Does that still apply? Where are we with regard to our vision, mission and core values? And what are the big hurdles that we're going to face next year? Now let's look at the master schedule we have, does that master schedule still serve us? And if it doesn't, why doesn't it serve us now why it may have worked in the past? What is not going to work for the school we are becoming? And what that does is it gets everybody on the same page philosophically, before you have figured out anything. So a lot of times I'll see schools debating, you know, should we go to a block schedule? Should we change and add more time for reading and math? Should we go to a seven period day? Should we go to an a day and a B day, and they work on the logistics of the schedule without thinking about? What are we trying to build, and so you can't decide those things until you go back to what you're trying to build? Once you know what you're trying to build, then then you can make those decisions. And so you want to have that that meeting at the very beginning so that you can start thinking about and getting everybody focused on what you're trying to build.

From there. The next step is okay, now how do we communicate that to everybody, and I believe in getting that word out early. This is where we're, we're headed for next year. I want parents and students to know that too, because the next step is you have to do the articulation process, you have to have kids meet with the guidance counselors and and talk about what they want to do next year, you need parents to start thinking about that. So I would go to your PTSA meeting and say we're in the process of getting ready to start with articulation. Here's what we're building for next year. And so even though the schedule isn't built yet, here's where we're headed with that, so that parents can be involved and know ahead of time, what their what next year is going to look like for their kids, I would also sit down with the admin teams of any of our feeder schools and have those same conversations. Now, you're going to get formulas from your district, you're going to get guidance from your district, you you're going to be assigned a a program for your district. But if I were you, I would not start with the program, I still believe and maybe I'm old school, I still believe in sitting down with pen and paper I still believe with and putting that board up so that you can see the whole thing. A lot of times I will tell when I'm working with schools, when I'm when I go into an individual school that I'm working with, one of the first things I'll ask for is like, let me see your master schedule, because I can tell what your priorities really are by looking at your master schedule.

Seeing it all together and how it all fits together paints, the bigger picture of who your school is, and what is really important.

So I still believe you should do that. But as you're doing that, as you're figuring that out, you want to think about individual kids and how they are going to go through that master schedule. So one of the things I like to do, especially when I'm interrogating my path master schedule, and thinking about the new master schedule, is I like to pull a random kids schedule, and then follow it for the day. Like let's say I have to be in classrooms Anyway, I'm doing walkthroughs instead of randomly doing walkthroughs or even doing walkthroughs like I would do with a builder, which is, you know, kind of driven by that teacher dashboard. What I would do is sometimes I might step away from that teacher dashboard and just pull a kid's schedule, and just see what a random child day looks like in the master schedule we have. And I'm going to tell you, it is so eye opening to just pull a random child's schedule and follow it for the day. It'll show you so much about what that master schedule actually feels like for our kid. And you want to think about that. You want to think about your vision, mission and core values and then actually experience what the what is the experience you are creating for kids to look like.

So once you've interrogated your master schedule, once you've kind of thought through now it's time to map out the new schedule and I've already talked about like kind of doing that visually seeing what that looks like visually, and then sit down and start thinking about how do you make the schedule you want work with the constraints you have. And that's when it gets really fun. That's the part of the master scheduling process I love the most, it's figuring out that puzzle piece, you're looking at everybody, are they in the right place? Are your teachers in the right place? What are they in the place where they can best live out your mission and your core values and move your school towards your vision. And you definitely doesn't mean that you don't consider their needs to, but you consider their needs in light of your vision, your mission and your core values. And if you have strong core values in your school, your teachers will support that process. So now you're looking at the the you're looking at the people involved the experience that it's going to be for the kids how to make it all work, and then you put it together, and then you start tweaking it, you share it with your leadership team, again, they look at it, they're not looking at it, you know it before I would be scared to share the schedule with the leadership team because I was scared, they're gonna pick it up apart. But now you don't have to worry about that. Because as a builder, you're sharing this with your your, your your building y team. And it's not that they're picking it apart. They are sifting your master schedule through your vision, mission and core values and helping you see things that you've missed helping you notice blind spots, Then, and only then do you start putting that in the computer and making that work.

Now, again, we have a whole schedule that I'll be sharing with on the masterclass tomorrow for how you can get this done.

 How you can make sure that your master schedule is done on time, really, what does that look like, on a month by month basis. So you know, we've got you covered there. The idea is simply this, as a builder, your master schedule is not something that is just paperwork that you do occasionally once a year, just to get it in usually late. That's what bosses do. Your master schedule, it's not something you do seasonally, it's not it's not something where you're trying to kind of, you know, corral all these different needs and, and figure and prioritize everybody's different needs. It's not driven by the people. Your master schedule, is driven by your purpose is driven by by what you are trying to accomplish. And that doesn't mean you ignore the people, it doesn't mean that you don't complete the paperwork. But all of that is superseded by your vision, your mission and your core values. What it is that you're building for your school, why that is so important, and how you as a, as a group of educators have determined, you're going to see that vision and mission out in the lives of your students. When you do your master schedule, that way, it starts becoming this annoying thing that you have to do every year, it starts becoming this thing that you relegate to one purpose and become person sorry, it becomes a thing that you that you get everybody involved in, it becomes a reflection of your purpose. And it becomes one of the biggest catalysts and tools for helping you actually achieve your purpose.

So I want to challenge you to join us on March 19 2021, at 5:30pm Eastern time. And again, to get the link to that you can either go to the school leadership reimagined Facebook group, or you can go to mind steps MINDFTPFI and there'll be a pop up on the homepage with a link to the masterclass. So, if you I challenge you to come to that master class, you can see what we're talking about. We're also going to give you a copy of the master schedule schedule so that you have that for the year. And if you're building ship University, not only do we have that masterclass, but we are going to be doing the sprint where we're going to be working on our master schedules inside of bu. But look at your master schedule. Does your current master schedule serve the school that you're becoming? And if not, then I want to challenge you this week to approach your master schedule #LikeABuilder.

I'll talk to you again next time. 

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join buildership University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll see you then!

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