Innovation in Large Districts

By Doug Eadie

“Great teaching! That’s the key -- the really critical path -- to student achievement. And I can’t imagine anything more important that our school board in Hillsborough County could do than make sure our teachers perform at the highest possible level in the classroom. I don’t mean to suggest that the board could possibly do the job alone. Of course not. One of the most important reasons we’ve been able to get so far along the educational innovation road is a tremendous passion for collaboration and partnership -- the board, superintendent, faculty, administrators, teachers union, and other stakeholders all working together as a cohesive team. That’s our innovation story in a nutshell.”

So says Carol Kurdell -- longtime member and former chair of the board of Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools. Kurdell recently spent the better part of an afternoon with Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia and me discussing one such exciting innovation: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Empowering Effective Teachers Initiative.

With 193,000 students, 25,000 employees, and a $2.8 billion budget, Hillsborough, the eighth largest district in the U.S., is proof that significant change is possible in even the largest, most complex organizations. The key is collaboration combined with meticulous leadership and management and the commitment of sufficient resources.

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