The position of superintendent for the Jeffco Public Schools district can be harrowing. It is a that invite public scrutiny of your every action. It is a position that is often a lightning rod for …
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The position of superintendent for the Jeffco Public Schools district can be harrowing. It is a that invite public scrutiny of your every action. It is a position that is often a lightning rod for criticism from all sides — parents, teachers, the media and even from the very school board that chooses the person for the position.
Tracy Dorland is grateful for the opportunity.
Despite student attrition, a nearly billion-dollar, complicated capital improvement program and over a year of COVID disruption in schools, the newly selected district superintendent says she is ready to get started.
“I grew up in Jeffco, I raised my family in Jeffco and it’s my home,” she said. “I didn’t apply anywhere else. I wanted to be a superintendent someday, but it was really more about finding a district where I could have the opportunity to make a difference and really dig in.”
Dorland said she knows it’s a difficult job that some people would run away from, but for her, Jeffco, which she called near and dear to her heart, fit the bill.
“I have been passionate about public education since I was at CU Boulder as an undergrad and made the decision to become a teacher. I will always be passionate about public education,” she said. “One of the ways that I feel like I can give back in my life is to provide support and leadership for school districts.”
Dorland said one of the things she knows to be important based on her previous job as deputy superintendent in the Adams 12 District is making sure that on the front end of really important work and decisions, that the right systems and structures are in place to collaborate and make sure people understand their voice can be heard. She said it’s important when clear decisions are made for people to understand why they were made, and in some cases, why something wasn’t able to be done.
She describes herself as a collaborative leader who wants to bring voices to the table, while acknowledging it can be tough to get everyone on the same page for every decision.
“But I do believe that if you can process the work in the right way, you can get to decisions that while people might not all agree, most people can accept and understand it.”
Another thing Dorland brings to the table that could help her hit the ground running is experience with a large bond project.
“I worked establishing processes and procedures to manage the Adams 12 bond,” she said. “I’m so grateful to the Adams 12 community for approving that bond, and I’m so excited that I’m coming into a district where our community has approved a huge investment in capital for us. I can bring my experience from that work at Adams 12 to Jeffco, and I’m excited about that.”
Dorland says most of her background is in instructional leadership. She says she was able to help improve literacy rates and contribute to the improvement of graduation rates. She said she has focused on priority-improvement Title 1 schools and getting them out of that priority-improvement status. There are also important conversations to be had around equity in the district, she said.
As for learning loss or disruption due to COVID, Dorland says she’s interested in looking at the data.
“I believe the pandemic has changed the way we educate kids and changed the way they’ve learned for the last year and a half” she said. “And I know that there are impacts from that. But I believe for us to make really meaningful decisions about how to support students as we emerge from the pandemic, we really need to be taking a close look at the data.”
She said looking at data from end-of-year assessments for this year and beginning-of-year data from fall assessments will be a good start. She thinks district-level data will play a role. She also referenced an upcoming meeting about summer learning opportunities for students who need them.
“My No. 1 priority is to be visible and get to know our schools,” Dorland said when asked about her first priority after officially starting on April 19. “That’s the bottom line. Just getting to know people and beginning to build relationships will be No. 1 for me.”
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