Thursday, January 29, 2015

Values Top the List in SBISD

Staff, students and parents are sharing their feedback - and voice – as part of a district-led conversation to define core values within the larger Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) system.

This month, employees, students and parents have been encouraged to join an engagement campaign called The SBISD Values Jam: One Goal. One Family. One set of Core Values. The campaign, or ‘Jam’ at it is known, utilized a range of online feedback platforms, including crowd-sourcing, survey and social media to garner input from members of the Spring Branch family on proposed core values.

SBISD's Proposed Core Values:
  • Every Child
  • Collective Greatness
  • Collaborative Spirit 
  • Limitless Curiosity
  • Moral Compass
‘The Jam’ was born out of work begun over a year ago, by the SBISD Culture Team. The Culture Team is one of five SBISD Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) charged to design, implement, monitor and evaluate both urgent and foundational activities to align the system’s momentum toward Spring Branch T-2-4. Spring Branch T-2-4 is the district’s goal is to double the number of SBISD graduates who successfully complete a technical certificate or military training, or a two-year or four-year degree.

Leading the charge as Culture Team Facilitator is SBISD’s Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman. “We modeled this after IBM, who used a “jam” to develop their core values in the early 2000’s. It just kind of stuck with our team. We found that most out-performing organizations have a set of core values that are articulated and used in everything from hiring to performance practices. We know that we have values, and a pretty good culture, but we’ve never articulated that why and what, and who we are when we are at our best,” said Buchman at a recent Board of Trustees Meeting.

To get to where SBISD wants to be - a place where every student achieves more than he/she thinks possible, a great place to work, and an outperforming public school system requires teamwork and intentional focus. These aspirations won’t just happen on their own. Culture Team members felt the foundation of success, for students and the school system, is rooted in identifying, articulating and living a shared set of core values.

“Our students’ favorite experiences in school are usually centered around a caring adult in the system, and knowing that makes these conversations more important than ever,” said Westchester Academy Principal Jennifer Collier when asked about why this conversation is one critical to the student experience and larger organizational culture within SBISD.

Culture Team members took a deep dive into what it meant to be “the best of” in SBISD. They found one of the biggest gaps was the fact that while members of the SBISD family may have great values, we have never intentionally defined –and agreed as a system—what they are. After months of analysis, the team identified a first-draft set of core values.

Mini “Jams” last summer and into the fall helped the Team refine and distill them down to five proposed core values. Taking them to the entire SBISD family was the next logical step. Critical to the process was the inclusion of student participants. “Well, our first value (Every Child) is that we put students at the heart of everything we do. I believe getting student input on our proposed values is an obvious step. If our purpose is to serve students, we need to know how they feel,” said Randolph Adami, principal at Northbrook High School.


Adami encouraged students to participate in the ‘Jam’ during advisory hours on campus. “I strongly feel that we will all work better together if we concentrate on and celebrate values that we all have in common,” he noted. So far, employees, parents and students who’ve engaged in the campaign have expressed enthusiasm about the process and more importantly the opportunity to share in a dialogue on organizational culture and values.

“I was surprised to see how excited the adults were to watch the students go through the same process that they did for the Values Jam activity. We had a great response from the staff here at WAIS during the JAM for them, and I was encouraged to see how much fun they had watching the students provide feedback and how aligned the feedback was to their feelings!

The kids were excited to be asked to share their opinions and provide feedback that would be used to determine what we decide is important when we look for adults working with us in our school system. They love that they could share the information in such a fun way,” said Principal Collier.

Now, with the Jam wrapping up, members of the SBISD Culture Team will be back at work reviewing feedback and refining a final set of core values for Board of Trustee approval and adoption. One of the campaign’s key messages was the importance of encouraging and honoring participants’ voices in the process.

More than 600 staff members and 250 parents logged more than 3,000 online “votes” and hundreds of comments during the first Jam week alone! Others shared their voice through focus groups. Over the coming weeks Culture Team members will be doing just that as they review and discuss responses to the proposed values.

This unfolding process promises to inspire and shape what it means to be part of the SBISD Family.

When asked how they felt about adding their voice to the expanding conversation about core values within SBISD, students had the following to say:

Northbrook High Students:

“I feel like I could be impacting the direction of the district. That means that my little sister will have a better SBISD experience.”

“I feel the district is trying to do something about true community. The process can help us know how we can be better involved and interact with one another.”

“The limitless curiosity impressed me. I think they’re kind of trying to create a better studying environment.”

Westchester Academy Students: 

“We have a voice, and it’s important for us to be heard. My voice matters.”

“We feel important. I can do things for my sibling that I wouldn’t have been able to do without the JAM. It’s important to know the school district cares about what we think. ”

“We have control over the future and making sure that younger generations are taken care of and have a positive experience in school.”

For more information values in SBISD, click here.

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