Working with Louisiana Department of Education, Elizabeth Laird served as Deputy Chief of Staff during The Broad Residency.
I wake up earlier than normal because I have an 8 a.m. meeting in Baton Rouge that I’d like to attend in person. I live in New Orleans, but the Louisiana Department of Education is based in Baton Rouge, which is about an hour and a half away. My work day usually begins at 8 a.m., but I am typically able to call into meetings during my commute, which gives me a little more time to snooze and makes my commute more productive.
I watch the sunrise as I drive and sip my iced coffee. I don’t have any calls during my commute this morning, so I mindlessly flip through radio stations, pausing briefly to listen to NPR, country music and anything else that catches my attention. I do not have an allegiance to any particular radio station yet, which is somewhat surprising given how much time I spend in my car.
I attend the meetings that compelled me to the office earlier than normal. I staff our analytics and data efforts, and these meetings focus on how we can further improve this work and respond to district requests and feedback. The meetings are productive and result in several next steps, including another series of meetings that I will help schedule.
I have a series of individual check-in meetings with members of the data and analytics staff to learn more about their current priorities and any challenges they’re facing as well as identify areas in which I could be helpful. These meetings are a great opportunity to reflect on what’s going well and what needs attention.
This is the only window of time today that I am not in a meeting. I take this opportunity to run downstairs to the cafeteria and pick up lunch: a chicken cobb salad. I take it back to my desk where I catch up on email.
I attend a series of 30-minute meetings about various topics. Most of these meetings are follow-up conversations to previous meetings and/or planning for future meetings. I spend a lot of time in meetings.
Although I primarily work on data and analytics, this work depends heavily on information technology. The Louisiana Department of Education believes in empowering those closest to children — parents and teachers — so these meetings are to discuss how we can orient our information technology and data efforts to better serve internal and external stakeholders. I am really excited about this work and think it has huge potential to transform IT and data into tools for improving student outcomes.
I start my journey back to New Orleans. I have a couple of conference calls that I am able to take from the road. By the time I hang up, I am almost home.
My evening consists of walking my dog, making a quick dinner, catching up on email and winding down with some yoga, which I do online from my home. It’s been a long day, so I plan to go to bed earlier than normal. I am looking forward to telecommuting tomorrow.
I am awakened by the sound of ducks coming from my iPad alarm. I roll out of bed to get ready for work. I stayed overnight in Baton Rouge so I could catch some extra sleep and get to the office early, but I could hardly sleep because I was so giddy about a 15-minute commute! I hop in the car and head to the office.
I join my first conference call of the day and am on the phone for the next hour and fifteen minutes, joining three calls that covered as many topics. We are finalizing preparation for the administration of several assessments in the spring, shifting roles within a couple of offices and planning for charter schools’ data submissions. Calls are productive and end on time or even a bit early.
I finally have an in-person meeting with my information technology colleagues. We’re meeting to discuss the strategic plan that we’ve been developing over the past few months. We are 75 percent finished, but the hardest work remains as we need to assign timelines, staff and budget. We develop a game plan that we feel good about.
I have my weekly check-in with my supervisor. I always send an agenda in advance, and today’s agenda includes a few updates, a couple of clarifying questions about some of our recent releases and initiatives and a debrief on a recent team project that hit a couple of snags. I relish our check-ins because they are a combination of tactical, strategic and reflective conversations that help me better understand my work and how it supports our mission of improving outcomes for all students
I’m in four meetings to talk about my favorite topic: data, data, data.
I head down to the cafeteria to grab lunch. It is pretty cool that our cafeteria offers authentic Louisiana cuisine. Today, I had sausage and chicken jambalaya with scalloped potatoes and lima beans. I remind myself that I need to cook more as I run back upstairs. I eat lunch at my desk while catching up on email.
I walk to our main conference room because we are hosting a district planning call to provide increased, intensive support in preparation for the 2014-2015 school year. These calls bring together cross-district functions to make sure that all planning decisions are made with one shared view
I have my weekly check-in with one of the leaders of the analytics team. A time-sensitive project is demanding more from this team, so we discuss how to redirect resources as well as how to better plan and execute this in the future. It’s a productive conversation.
I double-, triple- and quadruple-check my schedule, and my eyes aren’t deceiving me: I have an hour and a half of uninterrupted time in my office! This almost never happens, so I take advantage of this time by working on a planning document that has taken more time than I would like to complete. I make serious progress on it and hope to finalize it by the end of the week.
I hop in the car to drive back to NOLA. Although I loved my short commute, I miss my home. While I am in the car, I join two more conference calls to round out the day. As I hang up for good, I still have to drive another 30 minutes to get home. However, I don’t turn on the radio but instead enjoy the silence and take in the lapping waves of Lake Pontchartrain.
I catch up on emails that I didn’t get to during the day, check off my follow-up items from the day and schedule more meetings for the next few days. I can no longer fight off the low blood sugar, so I whip up some dinner. I’ve been buying vegetables every week from a market that sells local produce, which makes for an easy and healthy weeknight dinner.
I return to my computer to continue working for a bit. I eventually reach a stopping point and turn my attention to a television episode I saved on my DVR, which I quickly consume then head to bed.