Dr. Lisa Stanley is the Superintendent of North Texas Collegiate Academy, a public charter school district in Denton County, Texas. Dr. Stanley received her Certificate in School Management and Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education, was among the first 100 superintendents in the US to earn National Superintendent Certification and is a member of Southern Methodist University’s District Leadership Fellows 2021-2022 cohort. Her focus on improving teacher retention in high-poverty schools has created a sustainable teacher pipeline with 93% of staff returning every year and 45% staying with the district for at least five years.

Show Highlights

Creating a space of “Listen first and talk last” with your teachers as a powerful idea.I love your motto – “Over Serve the underserved” – what does that look like in the day to day?
Grow teacher retention from 65% to 97% with “stay interview” and “goal getters” to address pain points.
Teachers should never be secondary. Shift your focus and Invest in the heartbeat of your schools.
Tips to make sure your staff’s fingerprints are on every decision you make.
You cannot buy culture by putting donuts in the break room or letting teachers wear jeans.
A transformational recognize and reward idea that serves the moment.
Spend the finances in empowering and building the capacity of the staff you already know believe the vision of your school.
“You cannot over-serve a child. This child is a member of a bigger household and if we don’t address the barriers the whole household is facing, we’re not gonna get full achievement from the student. We feel very much like it is our duty and our responsibility to connect our families with as many resources as we can. If the parent needs access to ESL classes or GED support or job skills or helping them write their resumes or help borrow tax ins or anything like that, we offer all of that for free for our families. Number one, because they deserve it. They’re all valuable human beings who are unique and fearful and wonderfully made. They deserve the help. A school cannot just serve the kids that sit at its desk.”
- Dr Lisa Stanley

Dr Chris Jones

Dr Lisa Stanley’s Resources & Contact Info:

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Read the Transcript here.

How to retain staff and build a remarkable culture

Daniel (00:02):
If you care about culture at all, this episode is for you. And one thing that many schools are faced with and are challenged with. And even in the fall, you should be thinking right about retaining your staff and attracting new, awesome members aligned with your values and vision and mission. How do you do that? To be quite honest, today’s episode’s a masterclass on that topic. I took a ton of notes. I’m telling you right now what I learned from Dr. Lisa Stanley. I think you’ll learn a lot about culture as well. The last thing I’ll say, and this might be unpopular, but culture isn’t found in all the cute, candy bar type activities I see on social media. It’s not about donuts. Food is important. Food is a great thing to gather people around, but it’s not a sustainable way that you can show appreciation and build culture.

Daniel (01:01):
It’s really a transaction. It’s like, okay, you teach well and now you get food. Or you do this, and now we get food to celebrate you. Culture’s really found in consistency and culture that sees people and hears people and adjusts right in terms of service. That’s the best kind of culture to build. And you’re gonna learn a lot of practical things that you can do to make that happen. So get excited because I’m thrilled to bring you today’s main conversation. Hey, I’m Danny, chief Ruckus Maker over at Better Leaders, better Schools. I’m a principal of development and retention expert. I’m a bestselling author. I host two of the world’s most downloaded podcasts. And this show is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you’ve made three choices. You’ve committed to your continuous growth, you’ve committed to challenging the status quo, and you have committed to designing the future of school now. We’ll be right back after a few messages from our show sponsors. Develop your structures, system supports and culture for excellent teaching and learning in every classroom. For every student as a part of leading learning, a brand new certificate of school Management and Leadership course from Harvard, get started at BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/harvard. With Teach FX, teachers are creating classrooms that are alive with conversation. Their app gives teachers insights into high level practices like how much student talk happened, which questions got students talking. It’s eye opening for teachers and scales, the impact of coaches and principals and Ruckus Makers. Start your free pilot [email protected]/blbs.

Daniel (03:01):
If executive functioning skills are integral to student success, then why aren’t they taught explicitly and consistently in classrooms? I have no idea. I have no idea why that doesn’t happen. But what I do know is that our friends over at Organized Binder have created a new course that will teach your teachers how to set up students for success via executive functioning skills. Learn [email protected]/go.

Daniel (03:32):
Hey, Ruckus Makers here I am with Dr. Lisa Stanley, and I’m reading her bio in just a second. But I’ve always been really impressed about these, like really encouraging and thought provoking posts that I see we met on Facebook. Like a lot of us meet in these social networks. And something else that I just really admired, and we’re gonna get into this in the main topic of the conversation, I remember Dr. Stanley talking about interesting things they do within their system so that teachers are attracted to come and they stay, they don’t leave. And in today’s day and age, in terms of education, retaining staff, retaining leaders is so, so important. So it’s just like to get you excited for what we’re gonna talk about now for the bio. Dr. Lisa Stanley is the superintendent of North Texas Collegiate Academy, which is a public charter school district in Denton County, Texas. Dr. Stanley received her certificate in school management in leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education. One of our sponsors, by the way, was among the first 100 superintendents in the US to earn national superintendent certification, and is a member of Southern Methodist Universities District Leadership Fellows 2122 cohort. Her focus on improving teacher retention in high poverty schools has created a sustainable teacher pipeline with 93% of staff returning every year, and 45% staying with the district for at least five years. Dr. Stanley, welcome to this show.

Dr Lisa (05:10):
Thank you. It’s great to join me today. I look forward to our talk.

Daniel (05:14):
I’ve been looking forward to this show for quite a while, as you can see from the smile on my face. And I wanna start with a text message. You received, it was during the pandemic and it really was a paradigm shifter for you. And I don’t know that I’ve ever received a text that was like that for me, but can you bring us to that moment and tell us about the text?

Dr Lisa (05:39):
I’ve been with this district 22 years, so you kind of almost get complacent and you feel like I’ve seen and heard everything that could possibly be presented, but no, we haven’t, because then all of a sudden this global pandemic hits. Immediately, our leadership team and our administrators hit the ground running on creating a virtual platform. How can we keep our kids engaged in the midst of this pandemic, how can we make sure there are families with all the support they need through the school? Keep up all of the special education services and all, everything was focused on how we can serve our kids the best way in this pandemic. And we got a text message from a teacher who said, you’ve rolled out all of these devices and hotspots to every family. I can’t teach virtually because I don’t have internet at my house. And I thought, shame on me. The first thing should have been, the first question should have been, what do we need to do for our teachers during this time? Obviously there’s no school without the kids. It’s all about the kids. But if you don’t take care of the teachers first, they can’t take care of our kids. And it just literally was like this the lightning bolt moment in your life where you’re like, I’ve been focused, not that focusing on kids is the wrong thing. It’s absolutely the right thing. In tandem with that, we have to focus on those who are educating our kids a hundred percent. And for us to have spent hours and hours, literally 24 hours a day, creating an incredible plan to serve our kids during this pandemic.

Dr Lisa (07:13):
And we forgot about, do the teachers have all the tools they need, not just the device and the hotspot, but are they parenting three or four other younger children at home while they’re trying to also teach virtually because now their daycare is closed and their kids’ school work closed. Reasonable work schedule for them. We were able to address all those concerns, but they were secondary and they should have never been secondary. Your primary focus has to be the heartbeat of your schools, which is your teachers. So right there in the midst, pandemic was kind of an eye opening shift for me. Do everything you can for the kids, but do even more for the teachers. You have to do more for the teachers.

Daniel (07:51):
Yeah. I love that. And I’m aligned with it too. I think about football and they talk about players, coaches. And I think as a principal, you need to be like a teacher’s principal or a superintendent, be a teacher’s and a principal’s superintendent that’s not at the expense of the students. That’s why we do what we do. But by taking care of them there’s an overflow of energy abundance, like goodwill, positivity, and that then impacts the students. So you had the wake up call, you hit that text message, and I don’t know if you have a story, it’s okay if you don’t. But since then with other initiatives that you’ve introduced in your system, how has that been a helpful reminder. What have you done that’s been a teacher first since you had that experience?

Dr Lisa (08:41):
It’s kind of driven everything that we do since that day, because even before covid, we were experiencing some situations where we were literally begging we need interviews, we need applicants. Our resume pool was not very deep sometimes. But when Covid hit. Pools all across the globe, not just even here in Texas are just in the States. We’re scrambling for teachers. And now we’ve realized every single situation needs teacher fingerprints all over it. Every decision we make needs, ultimately decide, yes, this is a go for us or no, this is not a go for us with the help of our board, but our teachers have to have their fingerprints on every decision we make. So even like we just within the last two years, adopted the new social emotional learning platform.

Dr Lisa (09:31):
So we asked for volunteer teachers to serve on a committee to vet which SEL programs and the front-facing curriculum that we’re going to use. What did they want? And they spent six months of voluntary time not getting any extra stipends or anything really vetted in picking the VE program because they’re gonna have to lead it. So when we rolled the new SEL program out, their fingerprints were all over it. We spent a lot of time asking teachers, what is it that you need from us to do your job best? And you have to assume positive intent. Even if the teacher doesn’t have the best test scores or their data’s not moving the direction you want, assume positive intent that that teacher’s coming to work every day wanting to be successful. They come to work every day, see every child succeed. But have we given them the tools that they need?

Dr Lisa (10:16):
Have we given them the training and the professional development they need? So a lot of conversations with teachers, literally just one-on-one teachers with teachers. Because they don’t always do it in a group. People don’t always feel comfortable in a big group of a hundred other teachers raising their hands saying, I don’t understand the new ESL curriculum, or, I need more training on how to use a document camera. They don’t feel comfortable with that. So we do a lot of very informal conversations where we say, we’re here to serve you as a superintendent. I’m not a public supervisor, I’m a public servant. I’m here to serve you. So all of the decisions ultimately may be made at the district level, but the teacher should drive that and their fingerprints should be all over it. And then there’s more buy-in. They had a voice and a choice in everything that we did.

Dr Lisa (11:00):
So really that time during covid just changed all of our focus on, you still do what’s best for kids, but if you don’t do what’s best for teachers and they don’t feel like their voice or their choice mattered, they’re not going to buy in. And then when the next best offer comes up, they’re gonna be at the district down the road or at the corporate office or somewhere else. And we need to keep the best teachers in the class or kids deserve for us to do whatever we have to to keep the best teachers with them.

Daniel (11:29):
Let’s go to that topic of retention because it is hot on everybody’s mind, whether it’s a superintendent leading a whole system or a principal thinking about his or her staff. I’m just curious what are some of the things that you’ve done in your district to grow teacher retention and what I wrote down from 65 to 97%. But how did you increase it

Dr Lisa (11:52):
In the past, like most industries and most other districts, we always would send out an exit interview. After you’ve put in your resignation and say you’re gonna go to the next extra district, we would say, well what could we have done better? But it’s too late at that point because your resignation is submitted, you’re already committed somewhere else. So we started a few years ago conducting stay interviews. So what that looks like for us is they cost us nothing but a huge investment in time. So what it looks like for us is we go with every single staff member and we do these in December. It’s very intentionally planned in December because we’re almost finished with the first semester. By then everybody’s had about 15 to 18 weeks on. So myself and then our director of school improvement, we sit with everyone individually for about a 10 to 15 minute meeting.

Dr Lisa (12:43):
Now for us, we have a staff of about 115. So this is manageable, but it does take a couple weeks. We start with teachers’ aides, the administrators, the child nutrition workers, the teachers with everybody in December. And we just ask one question. We say, “What do we need to do over the next semester to get you to stay with us for the next school year? What do you need from us?” Just one question. At the beginning there wasn’t a whole, I don’t think they felt like there was a psychologically safe space for them to share. So a lot of people would say, oh, I’m fine. I’m definitely coming back. And then when contracts are right, don’t worry about me. I’m like, bring me a number, you’re five. So there’s every campus, no matter how large or elsewhere campus is, you have some staff members who carry a kind of more social credibility.

Dr Lisa (13:29):
So if they believe and buy into something, other staff are going to start believing because they carry that sense of they’re really by their peers. So we started strategically saying, let’s talk to the heavy hitters on the campus who carry that social credibility. Who other staff institute, let’s call them first and say, “Hey, what do we need to do for the next semester to make you wanna stay for the next school year with us?” And let them, because they are usually more transparent and they’ll take risks and really talk openly. Sometimes they tell us things you don’t wanna hear like you’re having too many faculty meetings. I need more support with my kiddos that have an I E P or things that are gonna require more budget. We gotta find some more room in the budget for this or we gotta change their master schedule for this.

Dr Lisa (14:13):
But when we are writing down and coming back and reporting to them we may not be able to do everything you’ve asked, but this is what we can do. They start telling their peers, you know what, they’re actually listening. Like when you go to the stay interview, tell the truth because they’re actually listening to you. Over the last couple years we’ve noticed that in the stay interviews, they come in with a list instead of sitting down and December saying, great, everybody’s great. They’ll say actually this is what I love about here. Don’t ever change these things. Promise me that if I come back, you’re never gonna change these certain things that we do. And then promise me that you’re gonna work on these other couple things because these are where my pain points are right now. And so we do that in December.

Dr Lisa (14:52):
I created a huge document. They kind of highlight all the common denominators that are mentioned. there’s some outliers, there’s some things that are like one-offs that we can’t give you seven planning periods a day things like that. But you find the common denominators. And then we go to our board in January to meet with them. And I say, this is the big heavy hitters, things that are being mentioned over and over in the stay interview. What can we do to move this needle for the next year? So then in February we come back and report back to the staff and it’s an optional meeting. They don’t have to sit through it, but about 95% of them choose to. So in February we say, these are the things we were mentioned in stay interviews. We don’t mention anyone’s name, we just say this is the thing noticed in child nutrition staff, and this is what the campus administrative assistants have said, this is what teachers have said this is what teachers need. And we say, these are the things that we can do for you in the next year. We’re gonna start working on it over this semester and then we promise you in the next school year, this is what we’re gonna do. And that has stopped a lot of the exit because we’re addressing the pain points and the concerns and changing the pathway within the areas that we can’t. Cause we can’t do it all. But they’re noticing that we really do want to meet their needs. And what’s really ironic to me is not one time in the three years that we’ve been doing meetings like this has someone said, I’m gonna need more money to stay. In our area, it’s more about culture and feeling valued and being trained well, having your time respected, having a voice in all of the curriculum or the scope and sequence or the scheduling and all of this. It’s never really about, I need more money. We are able to offer more money, we are able to do things like that. But it’s really about feeling like I’m honored and I’m valued and someone listened and I had a voice. And so fingerprints, again, letting everybody have fingerprints on the big decision. So the stay interviews help a lot. And then we have what I call our goal getters. Every staff member has a goal for themselves. So we ask all the staff, even if it’s a nutrition worker or an after school care part-time person, a teacher where, what are your personal goals five years from now, what can we help you with? And some of them will say, I would really like my GED or I would like to learn to speak English because we’re in Texas. We have staff members whose first language is English. Some of them say I would really love to earn my master’s degree. Or some of our paraprofessionals say I would love to actually become a certified teacher. So we have invested a lot of time and financial resources in helping our staff achieve those goals. So knowing those goals of the staff, what’s important to them, and helping them get those goals because and that does require an investment of finances. But I would rather spend the finances in empowering and building the capacity of the staff that I already know. They love the mission and vision of our schools. I already know their hearts for kids. Then spend that same money marketing and onboarding a whole new crew of teachers and staff every single year. So you’re gonna spend the money one way or the other, spend the money on building the capacity of the people who’ve proven that they believe the vision of your

Daniel (17:56):
A hundred percent. So that goal getter idea that really reminds me of a book I read called the Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. But the idea was like, you know your people so well and the hopes, aspirations and dreams that they have and where possible you help them accomplish it. Even so, maybe it’s a person who wants to move from paraprofessional to certified teacher. Maybe you don’t pay for their program, but you could write a letter of recommendation. You can put in a good word with the admissions team and there’s all, or you could just check in, Hey Lisa, how’s that going? Right, exactly. With that stuff. So you know that, that’s really cool.

Dr Lisa (18:34):
After school study groups, we’ll help you, we’ll tutor you. We’ve got a principal helping tutor different staff members, getting them prepared to go take their certification. Tell us any I’m bus flash cards if we have to, we’re going to help you meet this goal. And it’s setting them, it’s a role model for our students. Mm. Because a lot of our students are about 97% economically disadvantaged. 27% of our students are experiencing homelessness. So for them to see that our teachers and our staff are overcoming barriers such as time or money or language or maybe a learning difference or any cultural difference that they have, we’re helping them overcome any barriers that might stand in their way to achieve their goals. It’s directly impacting our kids as well.

Daniel (19:18):
A hundred percent. And then these stay interviews, this is a new idea. I’ve never heard of it before. We’ve all heard of exit interviews and so you’re being proactive. I heard you target the teachers or staff members that have the most influence, which makes a lot of sense. If you get them bought into continuing right, they’re gonna encourage their peers to do the same. And most importantly, you’re responsive, you actually do what they say where possible. Right? We’re gonna maintain these things are working well and here’s some areas for the system to grow. I might have missed it so I apologize if I did have an optional meeting that kind of goes over it all. Like here’s basically What people said and what I wanted clarification on during that meeting, do you say like, here’s the feedback we received, this is what we can’t commit to, here’s some things that unfortunately people want, but like it’s out of, it’s out of our reach for whatever reason.

Dr Lisa (20:16):
We do. I’m glad you asked it because it’s important. Some people wanna know why if you can’t do it, why not? And if they understand the why behind them they can accept the decision a lot more. So we’ve had just various things that teachers have asked over the years and we may not be able to do it, but we ask them why they don’t. And you wouldn’t expect a teacher to understand the overall budget of a school and where all of the money goes and how much goes for just maintenance and operations versus can be spent for salaries. So they’re seeing, well if you got these millions of dollars,can we all have a huge bonus? Well we also have to address these other things with indoor air quality and busing and so sometimes you sit down and talk about that and they just need to understand the why.

Dr Lisa (21:01):
And for us there’s some things that we’re not willing to negotiate on because we feel like they don’t have the return on investment for our students. Again, all of this is done because we want our students to grow and you have the experience they need, but you have to explain why. And we’ve never really had anybody call out and say, I don’t agree with that. I don’t believe they truly just want to, the communication and the transparency more than anything is what they want. We tell our staff all the time the power of the positive phone call. I mean how many principals or superintendents have said, make a positive phone call home to your kids’ parents and build those positive relationships. But what are we doing to build those positive relationships with our staff and make sure they feel connected and they know what’s going on as well.

Dr Lisa (21:47):
So that’s another thing. If I can just throw this in, we’ve done, it’s free, it just costs you your time. But if you’re ever in a classroom serving a teacher and they just did a great job with something, ask them to pull out their phone and call somebody that they love that they think will answer. That’s it. Like in front of their kids and they’ll pull out their, and I’m like, call your husband or your mom or your best friend. Get somebody that loves you on the phone right now I wanna talk to ’em. And they kind of look at you like, okay, but they do it. And then you just get ’em on the phone and you say, Hey, I’m their superhero. I just want to witness the most rockstar literacy lesson. English is not their first language, but your wife or your sister, your whoever this is just rock this and I know you’re just as proud of her as we are and I just wanted to take a second to say I’m so proud of her and I hope she works here a long, long time. And then the kids are cheering in the background because they want us to spot the teachers curling in. You cannot buy culture by putting donuts in the break room or letting teachers wear jeans. Those things are not gonna change the culture of your campus. But those deep relationships and really recognizing that somebody, it may not have the data you want yet, they may not be that master teacher yet, but assuming that positive intent, they are soaking up everything you’re pouring into them, your kids are getting that return on the investment. Make the phone call. Aviva would go, the principals will email me every month, a list of teachers or staff members who’ve gone just above and beyond. So then I pull out their emergency contact from their HR file and I call that person right at night and there’s no emergency. I’m not calling you for anything, but I just wanna let you know you’re listed in their files as somebody that’s important to them. And I just want you to know how proud I am of them and give a specific reason why I get so many thank you emails. Like, oh, only God, nobody ever, I’ve been in education 28 years and when calls, yes, both of my best friends say that I was doing a great job before, but it means so much for the kids. Why wouldn’t we make a phone call for the staff? It’s free. It just takes your time. But now the teachers are starting to do that to each other. And after a recent meeting we had with our full district, one of our sweetest teachers came to me and said, pull out your phone and call somebody that you love. And I’m like, blah, I’ll try that again. So I called the work,

Daniel (23:57):
You know what’s happening.

Dr Lisa (23:59):
I called the work friends and she’s like, Hey, I’m here with Dr. Stanley and she just told us blah blah blah. And I just want you to know we love her and we hope to keep her around for a long, a long time. I’m gonna, I’m like, so do I. Cause like Myron’s coming up in a couple point years, but it’s catching on. Cause the culture of noticing and recognizing it’s not even about money Recognize and reward right in the moment. Just right at the moment. Let ’em know they did great. Well

Daniel (24:26):
Last night I did a training on culture and what you’re illustrating and I said continue to do the food and like to absolutely celebrate. But understand that at scale, that’s not sustainable. And what really builds culture is consistency. What you’re talking about here, the stay interviews or these positive phone calls home that we do for students, do it for adults. It feels just as good. Its consistent culture building. And the last thing I forgot to highlight as well, that I really appreciate about your model. It isn’t always about the money and often it’s not. And with that got you on this show, because I remember you saying that teachers will drive past higher paying districts and further from their own home to work with you because to the culture that you’re building. And they’re aligned with the values and how you make ’em feel and through it all, it’s really just about seeing and hearing your people that they’re not invisible. That they’re not just a worker. There’s so much more and we’re not brilliant. Awesome. Well, now’s a great place to pause and get some messages in from our sponsors. When we get back, I’d love to ask you about your motto, which I love, overserving the underserved.

Daniel (25:50):
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Daniel (27:02):
And lastly, I wanna talk about Organized Binder. And they’re a really great company. And listen, if your students are struggling to stay focused and your teachers are showing signs of burnout, you need to really act now. The good news is that there’s a path forward. It is possible to lay the foundation for learning and re-energize teachers. And it’s found through executive functioning skills. When students get practice with these skills, they can better self-regulate and they are more successful academically. As a result, our friends over at Organized Binder have released a new self-paced course that will teach you how to teach these executive functioning skills and set your students up for success. The goal of the course is to help your students be more successful and get teachers back to the work they are called to do. Learn [email protected]/go. All right, and we’re back with the culture like Wizard is like just the best at culture. Dr. Lisa Stanley. I’ve learned a lot in this show already. This has been great and I’ve been taking notes, so thank you for that. But you have a really compelling motto. To over serve the underserved. And can you just tell me what that looks like in the day-to-day?

Dr Lisa (28:19):
Sure. Like I said before, with our district demographics, we are about 97% economically disadvantaged. And 98.5% of our students are considered at risk according to state indicators, 27% of our students experiencing homelessness. And then as far as our ethnicity, we have a beautiful student body. It’s about 90% students of color with Hispanic being first and then African-American second, then two or more races and then white. But just knowing some of the barriers students face if they’re experiencing homelessness or about a third of our students have a parent who is either currently incarcerated or was incarcerated within the last 24 months. So there are a lot of traditionally underserved students in this population, and we strongly believe that we should love first and teach second. And part of that love and overserving them means we connect them to every possible resource and service we can find for the families.

Dr Lisa (29:16):
So we offer free counseling not only for our students, but for our staff, which is very important to take care of. The teachers offer free counseling and crisis support and life coaching for every member of the household. So a lot of our families have never been either through lack of medical coverage, finances, maybe they just don’t know about different resources. So the school took that on ourselves and said, we will find a way to provide counseling to everybody in the household so that we can meet those needs. We over-serve them by making sure we even have grocery stores on our campuses where we provide free groceries, produce meat, baby supplies, diapers, hygiene products, things that they may not always have access to. We’re constantly finding ways we could over serve this. You will never, ever regret going above and beyond for a student. I have never heard a teacher say, gosh, we’re doing too much for these families.

Dr Lisa (30:08):
I mean, who else? Why are we providing counseling for everybody in the family? Why are we doing financial literacy classes for our parents so they can help build their credit and learn to buy their first home? Nobody’s ever questioned, why are we overserving them? Because it’s impossible. You cannot over-serve a child, but this child is a member of a bigger household and if we don’t address the barriers the whole household is facing, we’re not gonna get full achievement from the student. So we feel very much like it is our duty and our responsibility to connect our families with as many resources as we can. And so that includes it. If the parent needs access to ESL classes or g e d support or job skills, helping them write their resumes or help borrow tax ins or anything like that, we offer all of that for free for our families.

Dr Lisa (30:55):
Number one, because they deserve it. They’re all valuable human beings who are unique and fearfully and wonderfully made, and they deserve the help that a school cannot just serve the kids that sit at its desk. We can’t say we’re gonna serve them if they’re on our desk, but they’re not our responsibility otherwise. The whole community is our responsibility. So you will never, ever regret over serving and providing as much service as you can to a child because it’s going to impact their whole family. And for generations to, we know we’re planning deep, deep roots with our families because we want it to extend to the next generations as well.

Daniel (31:31):
Absolutely. I love that idea. You’ll never regret over serving a student. And you know what is so funny, what you’re talking about today, and maybe my mind is just in this space, but also in last night’s training was culture and systems level thinking. And what you’re talking about here is systems level thinking, because it would be great if all you had to do is teach the kid that’s in the classroom and just believe that they have all the resources, their life’s perfect or whatever. But that’s just not reality. And so you’re saying, okay, we live in this complex system, there’s a lot of moving parts, and so how do we provide resources to the family to the org the structure outside of just the classroom and the school. So that kid that we ultimately do care about succeeds. So it could look like life coaching, it could look like literacy, financial literacy and all the other great things. I guess my follow up question would just be, you know you don’t have to go into great, great detail, but I’m just curious, like how do you go about setting up something like we provide co like coaching or, you know these services. For all our families. Like how, like that just seems really hard to do. So make it seem easy For me,

Dr Lisa (32:46):
The benefit that I have is being 22 years with this district, having been the superintendent for 22 years, but as a principal and then an assistant superintendent, and now I’m in my 12th year as the superintendent. So the benefits that I have are strong, strong community connections and the power of social media has been so great. So there is no shame in my game. I will literally reach out to any organization, any nonprofit and just say, this is what the families I’m serving need. How can you help us? And then we wanna give back as well. So our students every grade, every class at every campus from pre-K and all do community service because we want to also give back. But it’s through deep connections with our community and maybe the person at the United Way office can’t help me with what I need, but she knows somebody at another agency that needs it.

Dr Lisa (33:36):
So it’s all really, to me, every relationship you have is either just a transaction or it’s a transformation. everybody you meet just having a trans, we’re just having a conversation, you’re gonna forget me tomorrow, but I want my conversations about our school to be transformational. Where you can’t forget North Texas Collegiate Academy, when I talked to you and I told you what our kids needed and what we’re willing to do for them, you’re gonna remember that it’s gonna transform you and you’re gonna hear about some other organization that offered something and you’re gonna go, you know what, call that girl over here because she wants this for her kids. So it’s all about relationships and connections with the community.

Daniel (34:10):
I just wanna highlight a Facebook comment here. You know the person said, I once worked in a school where there were students who had one or more parents incarcerated and sometimes it was difficult to get to help them also because of the biases. And so I just wanna acknowledge that that does exist, those biases and you know a way to be a champion for families and for students that need your support. Lisa, let’s get to the last three questions. I ask all my guests. And number one, I wanna hear about your school marquis. So if you could put a message on all school Marquis around the world for a single day, what would your message be?

Dr Lisa (34:49):
My message on all marquees around the world, I think would be, there’s a Zig Ziglar quote that says children are only hope for the future, but we are their only hope for their present. I think that’s a powerful reminder. We have to invest in our kids today because they are our hope for the future, but we are their hope for the present today. We are charged to do the best that we can for them every single day.

Daniel (35:15):
Awesome. And Lisa, how would you build your dream school? Right in this thought experiment. You’re not constrained by any resources. Your only limitation is your ability to imagine. So what would be the three guiding principles building this school?

Dr Lisa (35:31):
I’m not thinking so much about the physical structure of the school or what it would look like, but I think inside the school would be what’s important. I mean, number one, I would fill it with a staff full of educators who love first and teach second. Everybody on the campus, every adult that’s on that payroll would love the students and have deep relationships with them and teach. Second, they would believe in our mission that much. And number two, I would have a physical space for childcare for all of the staff. I think that sometimes a barrier teachers shouldn’t have to trade all of well. I wanna work with these others, the next generation to train them, but I also missed time with my own family and my own kids. What if they could bring their babies to work with and see them on their planning period? I know, I think my dream school would have a space for free childcare for all of the staff. And my third ideal school trait would be to have full family support where there’s space for adult education. If you are a reentering citizen just coming out of incarceration, how can we help you attain job skills? Get your e s l, your g e d, help with your resume and job interviewing skills that would be full family service for all the members of the household.

Daniel (36:39):
Awesome. And one more real quick Facebook comment. They said, has Dr. Lisa written any book on all the things that you’ve talked about today?

Dr Lisa (36:48):
Dr. Lisa has not written a book, but I do have a pretty significant word document of about five finger pages that I just type on over the years. So whenever I get a minute, I wanna write a book. We’ve learned so many things about doing things the wrong way, but the benefit of 22 years is I learned from my own mistakes so we don’t repeat them.

Daniel (37:07):
Awesome. Cool. We covered a lot of ground today, Lisa. So what of everything we talked about, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?

Dr Lisa (37:20):
The one thing that I’ve learned just over the last few months myself is if you as a Ruckus Maker, don’t take care of yourself. You can’t take care of the kids and the staff that are in your charge. So we’re always so focused on the goal and meeting what the kids need and what the staff need. That sometimes we put ourselves on the back burner and your family shouldn’t be a secondary priority. Your health shouldn’t be a secondary priority. You matter. And if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t continue to make a ruckus. So take care of yourself so that you can continue to take care of everybody else.

Daniel (37:53):
Thanks for listening to The Better Leaders, better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at@ Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at alien earbud, and using the hashtag #blbs. Level Up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”



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