Jorge Robles served as Director ELA Strategic Initiatives for Denver Public Schools during The Broad Residency.
It’s a beautiful and very cold day outside. It snowed all night and there must be four to six inches of snow on the ground. I wonder what traffic is going to be like. I hurry to get ready so that if traffic is bad, I am not late to my first meeting of the day at JFK High School.
I grab something to eat and head out to brave the slippery roads.
I arrive at the high school for my first meeting after a slow and messy drive. The school principal, her team and a couple of my team members from the English language acquisition department join me to discuss progress on the implementation of several initiatives to support English language learners at this school.
We take a short break. A couple of teachers who joined the discussion need to get back to class. The rest of us refill on coffee, check email and make phone calls.
The meeting starts again. The school is doing great work establishing professional development on-site that prepares teachers to support English language learners. We are figuring out how to replicate this at other high schools. We will gather some performance data and documentation to build a case study.
Our meeting goes over by 30 minutes. It is a great discussion and the extra 30 minutes are very much worth it. Unfortunately, I won’t make it back to the central office for my next meeting, particularly with the roads being icy. I join my next meeting via phone instead.
I join a call with teammates from the English language acquisition department to establish a process to coordinate work with the department of choice and enrollment. We need to ensure that the English language acquisition programs at each school are properly incorporated and communicated in the 2014-2015 choice process.
We wrap up the call with clear deliverables and assignments.
Since I stayed at the high school to join the meeting via phone, the principal invites me to join the traditional Thanksgiving lunch with the students… what a treat!
I return to the central office just in time for a meeting with the chief academic officer, my supervisor and a team of researchers from University of Colorado Boulder that has been investigating different tactics to enhance assessments for English learners.
Our meeting with the researchers ends on time. They have interesting preliminary findings, but nothing ready yet for use in the department. I go to another short meeting with people from the project management office to discuss progress on some reports that we have been working on for release in January.
After a good progress report meeting, everything is still on time. I go down to the first floor for my last meeting of the day, the department’s monthly financial review. Over the last three weeks, I worked with the finance department to overhaul our monthly process and this is the first meeting under the new process.
The financial review meeting under the new process is a success! We have robust discussions leveraging new reports and views developed for these sessions. I am now done with meetings for the day and head back to my office to answer some email, reflect on the day and plan for the rest of the week.
Today I have a parent-teacher conference that I need to attend. I can’t be late, so I end my day at the office. It will be interesting to go to my first parent-teacher conference since I started working in education.
I have dinner with the family, relax and do some reading. I have an early start tomorrow so I go to bed on the earlier side. Today was a busy, productive and fulfilling day. I know I will sleep well.
I had a great night of sleep after a busy and productive day yesterday. I get up and check email to make sure that my bi-weekly meeting with the chief academic officer is still on for this morning. I listen to some local news while getting ready. The city of Denver is still in shock after our Super Bowl defeat, myself included.
I leave for work. I will be working and attending meetings in the central office building for most of today. While I look forward to being out in schools next week, I need this time at my desk to advance on some key projects.
At my desk, I am ready to seize the day. I spend about an hour answering urgent emails, preparing materials for different meetings and catching up with my supervisor on a budget-related effort that I have been leading.
I hold my bi-weekly meeting with the CAO and my supervisor to discuss strategic initiatives for the English language acquisition department. We have a great conversation on an initiative to fund efforts that support English language learners at different schools. This is a very helpful meeting to get a high-level perspective from the CAO and align my efforts accordingly.
I run over to another conference room, thankfully on the same floor, to meet with the business intelligence and research teams. We review progress on a reporting tool that will help the department improve its ability to assign resources to schools and monitor their performance. I enjoy data discussions and this is a very cool tool that I look forward to having in production.
I meet with my supervisor to catch up on some critical deliverables due this week. With the budget process going on right now, I have been scrambling to ensure that we have all our ducks in a row for the next school year. This has been a big and exciting learning curve, as I have gotten deeply involved in the budgeting process and planning our resources and priorities for next year.
Finally, I have time at my desk! I look forward to advancing some projects, doing some analysis for budgeting and setting up meetings with other teams to work on project definition and prioritization initiatives. I brought lunch today, so I eat at my desk with headphones on to focus.
After a few solid hours of work with some minor interruptions, I head to a local coffee shop to meet with a Broad Residency alumnus and friend to coordinate some initiatives on which our respective departments are partnering. It is always great to connect with fellow Broadies to discuss projects and get some perspective and guidance. We come up with a couple of great ideas that we will pursue and decide to bring in subject-matter experts from our departments to put together a plan.
I am back at my desk energized by a great working session and a freshly brewed cup of Peruvian coffee. I join a conversation with team members about a presentation that we have to put together for the board of education next month. We have success stories and progress to share with the board, as well as a couple of initiatives that are not as advanced as we would like. It will be fun to put the presentation together. It generally becomes a good time to reflect on results and come up with ideas.
I committed to work out in the evening so I head out to avoid traffic. I really look forward to a good run-bike combo. Unfortunately, it will have to be indoors since we have had single-digit temperatures all week.
I arrive home, have dinner with my family and chill out. Tonight, I will do some more reading for my Broad Residency assignments leading up to the next session. The topics are very interesting and the session will be in Denver. It will be awesome to have the cohort here.
Lights out! Tomorrow should be another full and exciting day. I will start the day meeting with the innovation schools network. It’s always interesting to learn what the innovation schools are doing and how we might support their efforts.
I wake up to a nice day outside, perfect for biking to work. Since the district offices moved downtown, I have been driving half the distance and then biking to avoid parking downtown. It is a great ride and this town is super bike friendly, which also makes it safe.
After a cup of coffee, I check my calendar and email before heading out. Today is my supervisor’s first day back at the office after a week off, and I want to make sure we are still on for our one-on-one meeting at 9:00 a.m. There is a lot to share with her, including learnings and next steps from my Broad Residency session last week.
I get to the office a few minutes later than planned. I’m still getting used to the biking logistics. I spend a few minutes gathering information for the meeting with my supervisor and answering emails. I really enjoy our new office building. It has an open layout, great views of downtown and the Rockies and houses every department. It makes it a lot easier to interact with other people.
The CAO’s chief of staff calls. She needs my help putting together some information for a meeting the CAO has tomorrow regarding one of the key projects my department is working on. I will need to gather input and data during the day to get the presentation put together. It is going to be challenging since we are all scheduled to be at the universal school leaders meeting, which is a half-day meeting with all the school leaders from the district to close out the year and celebrate accomplishments. It’s a very cool event!
I meet with my supervisor. We have a great debrief on what happened while she was out of the office, and I share some of the highlights from my Broad session. The chance to listen to distinguished speakers and visit career and technical education schools were at the top of my list.
After a great conversation with my supervisor, I meet with a member of my team to finish preparing for the budget review with the Colorado Department of Education tomorrow. My team member has done a great job getting all the information ready and answering some of the questions I had during our last review. All should go well during the review to get the budget for the next school year approved.
The meeting-packed morning continues. I have my weekly one-on-one with our communication specialist. We review the status on key projects and discuss next year’s communications strategic plan. I am excited about some new ideas we will introduce that should help teachers and principals implement programs for English learners.
I send a few emails and talk to teammates to gather information for the presentation for the CAO. I then head out on my bike to pick up my car and drive to the high school where the universal school leader meeting will be held. During my drive, I hear the news about the ruling on Vergara vs. California, declaring the state’s tenure laws unconstitutional. It’s a ruling that will no doubt trigger movement in other states. There is never a dull day in the world of urban public education!
The universal school leaders meeting begins. There is fantastic energy and lots to celebrate. Our superintendent shares the highlights for the year and recognizes several people for amazing accomplishments. There is a lot to be proud of.
I join the after-meeting event to connect with folks and enjoy some snacks. Everyone is energized to get to the end of a great year.
I head to a coffee shop to work on the presentation for the CAO while waiting for a meeting with the coach of my son’s new soccer team. He has successfully moved to competitive-level soccer and the new team will meet this evening after the tryouts.
I finally get home. After dinner and some time with the family, I finish the presentation for the CAO to review first thing tomorrow morning. Thankfully, I have gotten the data I requested throughout the day, and now I just have to finish putting it all together. This is an important project for our department and an exciting one that should advance bilingual instruction for our Spanish-speaking students.
I finish the presentation and send it. Now it’s time for bed and rest for another exciting day.
I woke up this morning committed to fit in a workout before going to work. I will do this because I know that I am better off afterwards. I head downstairs ready to face the workout routine.
After a great workout and shower, I grab a quick breakfast so that I can catch the light rail. I have been trying light rail some days for my commute, and it has provided a great opportunity for me to check email, plan the day, etc. Today should be a very exciting day, as I will work on a variety of interesting initiatives, from budget revisions to provide additional resources to schools to a plan for implementing a personalized learning model for English learners.
I start my day at the office working on a summary document to share my department’s goals with our division leadership. I lead the planning and goal-setting efforts for our department, aligning the department’s plan with the district’s priorities and the Denver Plan. It has been a great opportunity to step back, reflect on the learnings from my first year of Residency and do some high-level strategic thinking to help the department and district succeed in our mission to help every child succeed.
I join a weekly project check-in meeting for a large technology system project. Our partner in this effort is the department of technology services. When the project is implemented, it should have a huge impact on the support our schools and my department provide to English learners. The project is on track and we spend time today building contingency plans for some potential obstacles down the road.
I meet with the student services department to work on a couple of initiatives to support English learners with disabilities. This is a fascinating area of work. The partnership across departments is great and I am optimistic that we will be able to enhance supports for this group of students.
I get back to my office to hold my weekly one-on-one with one of my team members. Today we focus on solving issues with some initiatives she leads and on identifying areas of focus for her development during this school year. Over the past three months, I have had the great opportunity to build a small team who reports to me. It is exciting to grow the scope of work and develop associates.
I go to my supervisor’s office for a quick last-minute meeting to go over some deliverables for the chief academic and information officers. Thankfully we worked on some of the requests previously so we are in good shape to meet the deadline.
I grab lunch in the break room while I catch up on email and chat with some team members. I really enjoy the new office building we moved to last summer. The open layout and the fact that all central office teams are in one building has been great for fostering interaction and collaboration. The icing on the cake is that we have one elementary school, one high school and one technical college on the campus. Seeing and interacting with students every day is priceless.
I meet with analysts and financial partners to evaluate funding initiatives to support English learners. We have a very productive working session and move forward with a couple of efforts.
I am invited to speak to a team of technology managers that will be working on a critical project for our department. It is a great conversation. I share information around the need for a technology solution and how it will have a direct positive impact on our students. It is incredibly powerful and refreshing to have a working session with people from different teams with different expertise, where everyone is focused and committed to doing the best for our students.
Finally, I am back at my desk. I catch up on email, work on initiatives that I need to move forward and grab a much-needed cup of coffee.
I head out to pick up my son and a couple of his friends from soccer practice. While I wait for their practice to end, I go over some budget numbers and send a couple of emails. It’s a gorgeous afternoon outside and it is nice to be out at a park.
I arrive home, ready for dinner and some quality time with the family.
After putting the kids in bed, I log in to prepare a couple of documents for my department’s leadership team meeting tomorrow. We have a very full agenda. I then spend some down time enjoying a great conversation with my wife.
I’m off to bed to do some reading and get a good night’s rest.
It is my first day at the office after a Broad Residency session, so I want to get an early start at the office to soften the landing after a week away. The session was incredible and a welcome breath of fresh air. I particularly enjoyed the discussions on blended learning, the school visits and the conversation about our own theories of action. It really helped me bring together many of the different improvement strategies that we have learned about over the past 18 months. I believe I have time to squeeze in a short workout, so I go for it!
Today I take the light rail to the office. It allows me to do some email during the ride and listen to the local news.
I make it to the office with enough time to brew some coffee and prepare for my 8:30 a.m. strategic planning meeting with the academic division. For the past three months, I have worked to define the academic and innovation offices’ strategies to achieve the Denver Plan 2020. The effort is a large one and the conversations have been great: We ask the tough questions and integrate leaders from the school teams to ensure we are on track to achieve the goals outlined in the Denver Plan.
Today’s work is particularly interesting as we discuss some of the draft strategies with teachers. The conversation is very insightful and we gain some valuable perspectives from the teachers.
I wrap up a 90-minute working session on the strategic plan. I have one hour to get some work done and catch up on email before I meet with our research department. I head to a quiet place to make the most of this time.
I meet with the assessment, research and evaluation department to discuss results from an analysis of reading plans for English learners in the district. The results are interesting and I am encouraged by the great collaboration and future work that we will trigger with the ARE department to improve the effectiveness of reading plans for English learners.
I head over to meet with another group of folks from the DPS research department and teammates from the English language acquisition department to review the progress on a longitudinal study to evaluate our ELA programs over the years. The meeting is very productive and we are on track to deliver on time. The output of the study will be extremely valuable to assess the department’s focus for the next year.
I only have 30 minutes to get something for lunch, so I go to the cafeteria that is run by the students in the culinary track at the technical high school. The kids do a great job and the food is good.
I meet with one of my team members to go over the 2015-16 budget planning process that we are launching this week. We developed a robust process last year, so we expect this year’s effort to go very smoothly. My team member did a great job at preparing all the information and we are in good shape for the work over the next two weeks.
My last afternoon meeting was cancelled so I have the rest of the day to work at my desk.
I head out to take my son to his first spring season soccer practice. They get to practice at the University of Denver turf soccer field, so he is pretty excited to play in that amazing facility. I look forward to watching practice.
We arrive home and have dinner. I put the kids to bed and have some down time. It was a great first day back at the office and I am very excited by the progress on our strategic planning process. It is a unique opportunity to help shape the work over the next five years in DPS.
I have an early start tomorrow, so I am in bed and ready for lights out. I hope to fit in another workout before work, so I will need to get up early.