Working with Fulton County Schools, Alantria Harris served as Public Engagement Director during The Broad Residency.
I wake up excited to start another week, and it’s the final week before the Thanksgiving break. Today, I am serving as “principal for a day” at an elementary school. I attended this school when I was in fifth grade, so it’s a homecoming for me. I’m looking forward to the experience since it will be an opportunity for me to learn about the life of a principal and make connections in the district.
I watch the news and send a few emails. Since I will be out for the day, I want to get ahead and not miss anything. I’ve gotten back into juicing, so I spend a few minutes preparing my juices for the day.
I leave the house to head out to the school.
I arrive at the elementary school to meet the principal, who I will be shadowing. We sit down and talk about the plan for the day, which includes teacher observations and planning meetings.
The school day has started and I am on the public address system making the morning announcements. I welcome the students to another week, introduce myself, share that I’m a former Fulton County Schools student and give them the word for the week, which is “integrity.” This is a fun moment and makes me a bit nostalgic.
The principal and I meet with the other administrators in the office. With the assistant principal, we review the plan for this week’s teacher observations. We also discuss the calendar of events for the week. The school has a PTA meeting and fashion show tomorrow so there will be another meeting about those events later in the day.
There is a fire drill. The principal explains to me that this is the third drill this month. The school has made improvements in taking the drills more seriously. The students are well behaved and everyone is accounted for, which is great!
The principal and I take a tour around the school. He shows me the different classrooms and displays of student work on the halls. The school looks exactly the same as it did when I was a student.
We observe our first classroom, a first-grade math class, and the teacher is covering shapes. The students are given a few shapes and asked to make a figure out of the shapes. I am amazed at how engaged the students are.
We discuss what happened in the classroom and review the new teacher evaluation framework. Fulton County Schools moved to a new statewide evaluation system and we are in the second year of implementation. The principal explains to me how the new system links to our learning standards. There is a new expectation for teachers in the classroom, and the principal is working with the teachers to help them move to the next level of instruction.
We head to another classroom for observation. This time it is a PE class. The students are playing Newcomb volleyball, and I fight the temptation to jump in.
We move to our last class for the morning, which is my old classroom. It is a fourth-grade writing class. I like how the teacher integrates science by having the students write a weather forecast.
The principal and I grab lunch. We discuss his plan for the school and how my work can help him and his staff achieve his goal to reach out to the larger community.
We sit in a few planning meetings to discuss the 2014 testing schedule.
It’s dismissal, and the students are excited to leave for the day. I work to make sure that the students get on the bus and wish them well on their travels home.
I sit in a few meetings with teachers. One is with math teachers who are working on their lesson plans for integrating math with science. The principal coaches the teachers on the new learning standards for math.
The day comes to end. I realize that the life of a principal is intense and very similar to running a small business. I am grateful to have spent the day with such an outstanding leader. I know that he is going to do a great job at the school this year. I go to the gym for a spin class. My usual instructor is not here, but it is still a great class. I get home, cook dinner and drink the last of my juice.
I finally have time to relax. I call my mother to tell her about my experience. Since she is a former teacher, I am sure that she can understand everything I experienced today. I realize that I have a book club meeting this weekend and I have only read 50 pages of the 450-page book! I read until I fall asleep before starting another exciting day.
After a good night of rest, I force myself out of bed to head to the gym for a cycle class. One of my 2014 goals is to work out at least four times a week, so I have to be flexible with my workout schedule. Even though it is super early, I remind myself that it is for a good reason.
My workout is done, and now I am home. I spend a few minutes watching the news and checking email. Since I will be out for the day, I try to get a good start on emails.
I leave home and head north for a community advisory council meeting.
I arrive at my destination for the advisory council meeting, where community members meet with the superintendent to discuss issues in the district and review the overall strategic plan. Today, we discuss new initiatives coming up in the strategic plan and the superintendent reviews our progress on our three major goals.
The advisory council meeting is over. Since this is my first meeting, I spend a little bit of time talking with the various members. I start the drive to another meeting in the southern part of the district and grab something to eat on the way. During my drive, I think about how geographically long the district is, covering about 80 miles. This trip alone will take 22 miles to travel from one meeting to the next.
I am a part of the design team for the district’s strategic compensation efforts, which another Broad Resident is leading. The team consists of individuals from various central office departments, teachers and principals. We have a good discussion reviewing and analyzing compensation models in other school districts.
I head to a sorority meeting to discuss our annual fundraising event, which I am co-chairing.
I go home and cook dinner. I start reading “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” for the upcoming Broad session. It is a really good book and makes me think about my current and previous work teams. I am looking forward to being in Denver for the session, since it will be my first time visiting the city.
It is time to hit the sack! I am looking forward to tomorrow. I have no meetings scheduled, so I can spend time finalizing my public engagement plan, which I am excited to start implementing.
I had a good workout last night, and I slept very well. While I could sleep in a bit more, I get up. I do a quick workout at home since I have a long day and will be unable to head to the gym after work. I also spend some time watching the news while cooking breakfast.
I head to work.
We have a lot to discuss during our morning staff meeting, including two major community engagement events that are coming up in the next few weeks. One is our faith summit, where faith leaders are invited to discuss ways to partner with the district. The other is the first-ever volunteer appreciation luncheon, which I am leading.
I have a very good meeting with my manager to discuss my progress in year one and my goals for year two. I always get nervous about these types of discussions, because while I know that I am doing a good job, I never know if it is good enough (that is the perfectionist in me). It is reassuring to know that I am on track and there are ways I can make greater impact in my second year.
I spend a little time at my desk catching up on emails and planning some interviews that I have to complete for my next Broad assignment.
I attend a lunch to celebrate a team member’s birthday. It is a great time to talk about things outside of work.
I spend my time preparing for the volunteer luncheon and working on other tasks. I also start to prepare for my upcoming Broad Residency session in New York. Some of my cohort mates are planning to go to a Yankees game beforehand, so that will be another opportunity to bond.
I leave work to head north for a board member community meeting. It is pretty far from the office and, with the traffic, it will unfortunately take at least an hour and a half. I also have to stop by the house to get my cell phone. I forgot it this morning and feel completely lost without it.
I arrive at the meeting and spend time getting to know the board members and gathering information about the community. The meeting is pretty lively, as the conversation is about topics from the last board meeting that really interest the community.
I am finally home. I am going to read a few chapters of “Amerikanah” to prepare for my book club this weekend. It’s 470 pages, and I am only on page 100! It is typical of me to wait until the last minute to finish the monthly book. However, I’ve really enjoyed it. After that, it’s time for bed to get ready for another adventure-filled day in the world of K-12 education.
Today is my first day back in the office after being out last week for the Broad Residency session in New York. I slept in a little bit today because I am not feeling well and my body needs rest after the travel. However, the last week was really good and gave me a boost of energy to continue in the work and keep pressing toward my goals. I never imagined that this experience would have such an impact on me. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.
I head to work.
I attend the executive staff meeting. We discuss results of the last school year and review a few presentations for the upcoming board meetings.
I spend a little time at my desk to catch up on emails and figure out what’s planned for this week.
I have lunch with a former colleague. We discuss her new job, which she loves. She is a great mentor, so I receive some helpful advice on managing my career during the second year of my Residency. She also recommends a few resources and contacts to discuss community engagement strategies in Atlanta.
I am so happy that I have some time to get work done. I spend my afternoon ironing out the details of my public engagement plan for next school year. I am excited to implement the plan because a lot of the work I have done over the past year will finally come to life. I also work on my year-two goals that I discussed with my coach last week.
I run some errands that I didn’t get a chance to do over the weekend.
I am back on my workout plan and taking a boot camp class after taking a week off. It is a great class and gives me a bit of energy.
I shower, have dinner, catch up on some shows on my DVR and start reading a new book. I go to bed a little earlier than usual given that I need more rest. Today was a busy and productive day and I know that I will sleep well.
I get dressed for my morning workout. I am switching to morning workouts at least two days a week since it allows me time in the evening to handle more extracurricular activities.
I’ve been on a weight-loss plan for the past two months. While it gets tough at times, I am determined to reach my target weight by the end of the year. I am taking it slow and steady since this is a lifestyle change.
I get dressed and do a little work before I head out for the day.
I travel south to a meeting at a school. It still amazes me how large our school district is in terms of the geographical area it covers.
I meet with a representative from the American Cancer Society and the head athletic coach at the school. The district has entered into a partnership with ACS to support breast cancer through “Pink Games” at different high schools. Schools select the date for the Pink Game and raise funds to support ACS. I am excited about the partnership and happy that so many schools have joined the cause.
I travel back to my office.
I get a moment to catch up on emails and eat lunch before a conference call.
I participate in a conference call with the facilitators for an upcoming public engagement workshop for district leaders. This is a major part of my project and an opportunity to help district leaders understanding the importance of engagement. The workshop will also focus on specific ways district leaders can engage with the public, such as community board service. During the call, we review the workshop objectives, intended outcomes and potential training topics and activities.
I have one hour before I have to head out again. I look forward to my day tomorrow since I will be able to focus on my work.
I travel to the Junior Achievement Discovery Center for a meeting.
We discuss the opening of a new magnet program at a school. I am responsible for the communications efforts to inform parents, students and counselors about the program. While this is not 100-percent public engagement, the project is for the high school for which I provide the most communications support. I am excited about the program and think it will have a huge impact on the success of the entire school.
I spend a little bit of time getting some work done. I have a presentation due next week. I need to finish a good draft so that my manager can review it.
I head out for an early dinner with a friend. It’s a nice break from work and a good chance to catch up.
I take some time to unwind and call my parents. It was a long day, and I look forward to a free day tomorrow to focus.
I have no idea why I woke up so early this morning. However, I can’t fall back asleep, so I stay up, read the paper, watch the news and finish watching one of my favorite TV shows that I missed last week.
I am preparing for a 5K next month and my goal is to increase my pace during workouts. I run a bit longer this morning, based on my training plan.
I get dressed and have breakfast.
I head to the office and quickly check emails before a staff meeting.
We have a full agenda since we did not meet last week.
I have my quarterly one-on-one meeting with my boss. We discuss my work over the past few months. She is pleased with the results and discusses what will happen after the Broad Residency. She also gives me feedback on what work she wants to see done over the next quarter. Overall, it is a good meeting.
I meet a friend who is interested in the Broad Residency and getting an M.B.A. It was a good discussion to share my Residency experience, especially since I just saw my cohort last week.
I can finally look at my email and try to get some work done before our board meeting. Since I was out last week for Residency training, I am a bit behind. My calendar is pretty light during the later part of the week, so I will use that time to get caught up.
While it is not required for me to attend school board meetings, I usually do so because it is a great way to learn what is happening in the district and see how important decisions are made.
The board meeting is still going on, but I have to head down to Banneker High School.
I arrive at Banneker to set up for the open house for the Junior Achievement Magnet Business Academy. The magnet school is a new one for the district. This school is the second of its kind to be offered in the U.S., and I worked on the project team and led the communications efforts. I am really excited about the opening of this program, especially since it has a business focus.
The open house begins, and we have a great turnout of parents interested in the program.
During my drive home, I call my mom to catch up. Once home, I relax by doing a bit of reading and watching TV. It’s been a long day! I go to sleep hoping that I will wake up at my normal time.
June 12, 2015
Why did you join The Broad Residency?
I joined the Residency because I was at a point in my career and life where I wanted to make an impact. It was a turning point for me. Although I have always had a deep desire to spend my free time helping to improve educational outcomes for students, I wanted to make that my career focus. Learning about the experiences of people who were part of the Residency motivated me to consider the program.
What was the most important lesson you learned during the Residency?
I learned the importance of resilience. This work is tough. There will be challenges, and it takes patience to make an impact. Each day, I make the commitment that I am in it for the long run and for the good of students. I also believe that I have become a better leader. Through the Residency, I am able to set a vision, build a team and inspire others.
Briefly describe your capstone project: What were your goals, what did you achieve and how did that impacted or will impact the organization?
My capstone details my work to build a framework for public engagement at Fulton County Schools. As a district, we are moving from engaging the community as a unique activity to embracing it in everything that we do. I was able to lay out a systematic framework to help the district approach public engagement and implement several programs that will allow us to continuously engage with our stakeholders. It is only a matter of time for the results of the work and the full implementation to materialize.
What was your vision for your career trajectory before you joined the Residency? How has it shifted?
My vision for my career has always been to make an impact. The Residency experience deepened my commitment and confirmed that I am in the right space.
What will you miss most about being in the Residency?
I will miss the frequent gatherings of my cohort. We have promised to stay in touch after the Residency, so I look forward to that.
What advice do you have for someone contemplating applying for the Residency? What advice do you have for new Residents?
I absolutely enjoyed my Residency experience, and for anyone who is considering applying, I would recommend to go for it. I would also recommend that interested candidates do as much research as they can with current Residents and alumni to make sure that the program is right for them in terms of personal and professional goals. To new Residents, I would encourage them to focus on the experience and learn as much as they can, not only from others in the cohort, but also from the placement organization.