EPISODE 14: Dr. Morcease Beasley on Lessons in Community Engagement from Clayton County

October 30, 2017

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Today, I’m talking with Dr. Morcease Beasley who has been the Clayton County Public School Superintendent since May 2017. Clayton County is the fifth largest district in Georgia with 65 schools and 54,000 students.  

Since taking office, Dr. Beasley has worked hard to reorganize the district administration and is focused on improving student achievement going forward. In this chat, you’ll learn exactly how he has done it.

Topics covered:

  • (00:34) – Background
      • (00:42) – Dr. Beasley discusses the path that has taken him to become Clayton County Superintendent.
      • (01:42) – The inspiration that led Dr. Beasley to pursue a career in education.
        • (02:12) – The financial crisis in the savings and loans institution.
      • (03:36) – The biggest problems that Dr. Beasley faced upon becoming superintendent.
        • (04:20) – Increased engagement with the local community.
          • (04:36) – Developing relationships and creating a common vision for students.
        • (05:18) – The ’90 Day Plan’.
          • (05:38) – Identifying five areas of focus.
            • (05:52) – Ensuring academically challenging environments, safe classrooms, and providing support for students.
            • (06:10) – Support and professional development for teachers.
            • (06:33) – Leadership capacity training.
            • (06:37) – Family and community engagement.
            • (06:37) – Marketing success and recruiting teachers.
        • (07:38) – How Clayton County made community engagement more tangible and more relevant in today’s world.
          • (08:16) – Engaging the various segments of the community with ‘Critical Conversations’.
          • (09:30) – Implemented ‘Superintendent Advisory Groups’.
          • (10:44) – Holding community meetings.
            • (11:15) – Provided a survey and live-stream option for those who could not attend.
          • (11:45) – Conversing with principals, teachers, and students.
          • (11:56) – Attending school events.
  • (14:46) – Priorities Going Forward
      • (14:59) – Dr. Beasley discusses the top priorities facing Clayton County School District.
        • (14:59) – Ensuring students are getting what they need in the classroom.
          • (15:21) – Reducing variability in the quality of instruction.
        • (16:19) – Addressing student skills deficits.
      • (19:06) – Potential obstacles moving forward.
        • (19:13) – Limitations of time when addressing student deficits.
        • (19:45) – Assuring the use of data to inform instruction.
  • (20:56) – Parting Advice for Administrators
    • (21:22) – Dr. Beasley offers practical advice regarding priorities.
      • (21:22) – Do what’s good for children.
      • (21:41) – Creating an environment and the opportunity for our students to experience success on a daily basis.
      • (22:15) – The importance of supporting your teachers and principals.
      • (23:05) – Modeling the expectation of excellence.
    • (24:29) – Advice Dr. Beasley wishes he had had when he first started as superintendent.
      • (24:40) – Understanding the critical role the superintendent plays in bringing the community together.
    • (26:26) – The most important takeaways Dr. Beasley offers from his time at Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Program.
      • (26:40) – To learn to think beyond your training.
    • (28:13) – What Dr. Beasley would do differently if he had to start all over from the beginning.
      • (28:58) – Dr. Beasley explains why he would have stayed at schools longer than he did.

Rapid-fire Questions:

  • (31:02) – What do you currently spend too much time doing?
  • (31:20) – What do you not spend enough time doing?
  • (31:45) – What did you learn from your time in education?
  • (32:04) – What are the emerging trends in education that you’re keeping an eye on?
  • (33:43) – What are your thoughts on the influence of technology on education as we move forward?

Where to learn more:

To learn more about the developments in Clayton County or to reach out to Dr. Beasley, visit  Clayton County Public School’s website at Clayton.K12.Ga.Us.  


Pat: 0:00:01.2 Hello everyone, today I’m talking with Dr. Morcease Beasley who has been Clayton County Public School Superintendent since May 2017. Clayton County is the fifth largest district in Georgia with 65 schools and 54,000 students.

Since taking office, Dr. Beasley has worked hard to reorganize the district administration and is focused on improving student achievement going forward.

0:00:28.4 In this chat, you’ll learn how they did that.

0:00:31.6 Welcome to the show, Dr. Beasley.

Dr. Beasley: 0:00:32.8 Thank you, glad to be here.

Pat: 0:00:34.9 Awesome, glad to have you on the show. What did the path to becoming Clayton County Superintendent look like for you?

Dr. Beasley: 0:00:42.7 Well, I was fortunate to have worked in the county since July of last year as the district’s Chief School Improvement Officer. In that role, I supervised all schools and worked with all principals to implement our improvement strategies.

0:00:58.9 Once the board announced that they were desirous of a new superintendent, clearly I decided to apply at some point, and through a series of interviews and conversations with the board, I was selected as the sole finalist.

0:01:13.6 The board appointed me, I believe it was May 8th of this year. And effective July 1, I began to serve as the superintendent. 0:01:22.9 The transition has been rather smooth in that being in the district since July of last year, somewhat gave me an advantage because I knew who the principals were, I had developed a relationship with many of the employees and many segments of the community. 0:01:38.8 So its been a pretty smooth transition.

Pat: 0:01:42.3 Great, glad to see you here. And so if I could go back a little bit. What led you to pursue a career in education in the first place?

Dr. Beasley: 0:01:52.1 Well, that’s a great question. I’ll tell you that when I went to undergraduate school, I was a math major, and honestly, I wanted to go into pre-med. And decided to – because I love math so much, I decided to pursue a degree, an undergraduate degree in mathematics and was going into banking.

0:02:12.3 As a matter of fact, I as working with a savings and loan institution and by the time I graduated, as you know, anything about the savings and loan institution, it didn’t do to well in the early ’90s.

0:02:23.3 So I decided to go into education. Became a substitute teacher and just absolutely loved it. Earned a masters degree and obtained my first high school math teaching position in Birmingham City public schools and since then, I have just loved being an educator.

0:02:41.4 I’ve matriculated from being a high school math teacher to an assistant teacher focused on instruction. 0:02:48.9 From there to the principal. I’ve served as principal of four high schools. I eventually went to the central office and became a deputy-superintendent. 0:02:56.7 for curriculum instruction and school leadership in Texas.

Came back to the State of Georgia to be a principal and eventually became a deputy-superintendent for teaching and learning in the Cab County schools. 0:03:09.9 And then last year in July, came to Clayton County to be Chief School Improvement Officer and well, as you can – we’re talking today, I’m now the superintendent.

And so within 24 years, I’ve been able to be a high school math teacher and now the superintendent of one of the largest districts in the nation and the fifth largest in the State of Georgia. 0:03:34.3 And I’m honored to serve in this capacity.

Pat: 0:03:36.6 Wow, you’ve had a long and illustrious career in education. Right from being a teacher and all the way up to the pinnacle which is a superintendent. Congratulations on your success thus far.

So what were the problems your district faced when you first started as a superintendent? I know it has just been a few months, but what were your main problems you wanted to address going in?

Dr. Beasley: 0:04:00.7 Well I think the main concerns we cemented and codified in our 90 day plan, which basically included insuring that we engaged our community.

This community has been very vocal that it wants to be more engaged in our schools. 0:04:20.3 And so we began to build relationships within the various segments within the community including our elected officials, our parents, the various governments or cities within the county.

0:04:36.4 And we’ve just began to develop those relationships and get everyone focused on a common vision and support of our students. Helping everyone understand the challenges that we’re having.

0:04:49.0 But the opportunities that we have relative to improving student achievement and improving the outcomes of all students in our school system.

0:04:56.7 So I would say that a challenge or an opportunity has been basically to re-ignite our community engagement to get more people involved in the work of improving this school system for the benefit of all of our children. Not just a few segments of the population, but all students.

Pat: 0:05:18.9 Great. And you mentioned that 90 day plan from the get go, you had that in place. So that is great to have that kind of goal oriented approach to community engagement. So 90 days later, if you can touch upon how it panned out and walk us through the process.

Dr. Beasley: 0:05:38.1 Well, clearly within the 90 day plan we identified areas of focus, and primarily relative to engaging the community. The various segments as I’ve mentioned. We identified ensuring that we had an instructional focus for the year.

0:05:52.9 So we identified five areas of focus as superintendent. One of those areas ensuring that we have academically challenging environments, safe classrooms, and providing support – wrap around support to our students. Academic and wrap around support.

0:06:10.8 We also identified that we wanted to ensure that our teachers were getting the support that they needed relative to their content and their pedagogy. 0:06:20.1 So professional development was identified as an area of focus.

0:06:22.9 Additionally, we understand how important it is for teacher leaders to lead at the school level and how important it is for school leaders to be supported in their work.

0:06:33.3 So we identified as a staff development priority leadership capacity training.

0:06:37.3 Additionally, as I’ve already mentioned, we wanted to ensure that we were expanding family and community engagement, and then of course, we recognize how as a community we’re always recruiting teachers.

And so working to communicate the good that’s occurring in our district, establishing a good image for the school system, and ensuring that we did our part in marketing the great things that our students, our employees are doing in our school district.

0:07:10.4 Those are things that became the areas of focus for this year. So, I would just say in summary: instruction; supporting students academically; professional development; family and community engagement – expanding our partnerships is included in that. And then marketing the good successes that we’re having in our school district. 0:07:34.3 Those are the five areas that we basically landed on as our focus for this year.

Pat: 0:07:38.7 Absolutely. That is great, and thanks for sharing that.

Now if you will allow me, I would like to dig a little deeper. I know community engagement is coming up over and over again, and I see the passion when you talk about community and how to have them engaged.

What I want to understand is, you know, a lot of superintendents out there, they’re going, “Gee, I also want to have community engagement”, but they don’t know how to start, what are the processes.

If you could walk us through what you did to improve – to make it different, to make community engagement more tangible and more relevant in today’s world.

Dr. Beasley: 0:08:16.8 Sure. I think the first thing to do is to just recognize that people want to have a conversation. We are privileged within our school district, 54,000 children. Individuals, parent, families, when they send their children to our schools, they want to be very much involved in that process.

0:08:41.5 Therefore, what I decided to do was to engage all segments of the community. We began what we call our ‘critical conversations’ where we identified conversations that we would have with parents, community leaders, business leaders, elected officials, and others around the county.

0:09:03.3 And we began basically a tour of critical conversations. Those were – some people would call them listening tours, but they were not just listening tours, because I had been in the district, again, since July of last year. I wanted to have a conversation as to what they thought were areas that we needed to work on in this district.

0:09:22.9 And being in the district, I was in a position to oftentimes hear and provide some type of response to some of the ideas or concerns that they may have. Just beginning a conversation with our community.

0:09:30.9 In addition to the critical conversations, we implemented ‘superintendent’s advisory groups’. So we have a student advisory, teacher advisory, auxiliary staff advisory, a faith-based advisory, we have advisory with elected officials, we have public safety advisory and we have, I want to say, I may have already mentioned, community leaders advisory, business leaders advisories.

We have scheduled those throughout the year to occur at different times. But it allows me to hear from everyone. What’s working, what’s not working. 0:10:21.1 Areas that we may need to consider, ideas that we may not have thought about that they have thought about that they would like us to consider for implementation. They give us feedback if we’re going in the right direction. 0:10:35.4 If they think that we need to reconsider the direction that we’re going in. It’s, again, an ongoing conversation.

And we go into the community. 0:10:44.0 We’ve done some community meetings where we’ve selected various communities within our county to go and basically just place ourselves in the middle of the community and say, “We’re here to talk, we’re here to listen, we’re here for you to share what’s on your mind, what your aspirations are for our children in this school system. Areas that you believe we need to work on.” And we availed ourselves.

0:11:15.3 We provided a survey link for those who cannot attend. They can provide feedback via survey and we live stream the meetings as well. So individuals who cannot attend face-to-face, they can participate using a device, iPad, iPhone, etc.

0:11:27.3 So we expand the opportunities for parents to be involved. We engage them using the technology that we currently have.

And I can tell you that the feedback has been very positive, very supportive of the efforts that we’ve implemented to engage at so many levels.

0:11:45.9 Additionally, we spend a lot of time going to our schools, conversing with our principals, our teachers, visiting classrooms, talking to students. I love visiting students and having a conversation with them.

0:11:56.9 We go to school events. All it takes sometimes is an email from – I had a student to email the other day to invite me to their homecoming parade. I didn’t realize that I was the grand marshal.

But events like that gives us an opportunity to have conversations with parents, with students. This weekend I went to one school, they had a homecoming event and it was just great to talk to the students, to hear from them, to acknowledge that we’re here to serve them and that we are creating the best school district for them.

0:12:31.4 So, I won’t say that we have all the answers relative to community and family engagement, but I do believe that we’ve had a good start and we’re working diligently to assure that if there are other opportunities – I know I’m doing a tour with the public library so we’ve worked – we’re working with them.

And so the families that would rather go to the public library and have a conversation, we’re going this month to the public library and we’ve scheduled so many conversations at the public libraries. 0:13:01.1 Just for those parents who may be more inclined and more comfortable in those settings.

We’re working to establish some other opportunities and I’m willing to go to home owner’s associations, I’m willing to go to apartment complexes, etc., just to have a conversation with our parents. One thing about it, you say, “What drives you?”

I have this in common with our parents. They love our children. I love our children. And I know that in order to make it better for our children, we as adults, we have to talk to one another. 0:13:41.6 And, we’ve got to engage our students. I’ll tell you this, we did the student advisory, and we were able to have students from the elementary, middle and high school level and I was just so impressed with the level of engagement.

0:13:54.5 Sharing concerns, ideas, giving feedback. What’s working well, what’s not working well. It was just, again, another opportunity that demonstrated to me that everybody wants to be a part of a successful school district.

0:14:08.6 And so we’re doing things like that and more to come, I think my challenge is figuring out when I’m tired and when I don’t need to necessarily accept an invitation, but it’s hard not to accept an invitation, because I know that our community really wants and longs for that engagement. 0:14:26.7

Pat: 0:14:26.8 Awesome, awesome. Those are such loaded statements, thank you Dr. Beasley for sharing that with us. And what I hear loud and clear is three words which are: engage, communicate, and converse. So these are I think the crux of what you’re trying to – and thank you so much for sharing that with us.

0:14:46.1 It is amazing how much you accomplish in such a short amount of time in Clayton County, but as we all know the work in education is never done. So, to that effect, what are your top priorities going forward in the next few months and years to come?

Dr. Beasley: 0:14:59.7 Thank you for that question. That’s a great question.

My top priority as I’ve been sharing with the various groups, the advisory groups, the critical conversations, we’ve been looking at our data and right now my top priority is ensuring that our students are getting what they need instructionally in the classroom, that we’re supporting teachers and principals to that end.

0:15:21.7 And that we are ensuring that we — flip the data is a term that I’m using. Currently right now we have a large numbers of our students performing on our state test in the two lowest categories. There are four performance levels and so our goal is to shift the large number of students performing in the two lowest categories to the two highest categories.

0:15:47.7 And so to that end, we’re working on ensuring that we reduce or eliminate the variability in the quality of instruction that may exist. We want every student to have access to high levels, rigorous instruction, in every school in every classroom.

0:16:02.3 And we also want to ensure that our students who may have prior grade level deficits, that they have every opportunity to get – to obtain academic support and to address those skill deficits that they may have.

0:16:19.3 And so one of my priorities is to identify, to support what teachers are doing in the classroom, to identify an online resource in reading and math that students can basically log in to be assessed and it provides tutorials – online tutorials, it adapts to their movement as they learn various skills, and they strengthen their skills to ensure that we get every student up to grade level, at least grade level in reading and in math.

And so we’re, again, working with teachers in the classroom to teach the grade level content, but we’re also working to ensure that we address all of those skill deficits and content deficits that students may have that they carry with them from the prior grade level.

0:17:05.2 And so, those are some areas of focus or priority if you will, that we’re working on. We believe that if we teach the students the grade level content, while simultaneously addressing any prior grade level content and skill deficits that we will fundamentally shift our data and have more students performing at the proficient and distinguished levels, which are the highest performance levels on our state assessments.

0:17:34.6 At the same time, while you know, people say, “You’re teaching to the test.” No, we’re not teaching to the test, we’re making sure that our students do well on the test.

But at the same time we’re addressing SAT, ACT scores, we’re working to ensure that our students in our advanced placement courses are getting the level of instruction that will lend to them performing at the highest level on our AP exams. And that would be scoring three, four and five.

0:18:04.7 And so we’ve got several things, but if you listen carefully, the focus is always on instruction. We’ve identified high impact instructional practices that we’re supporting in all content areas and we’re working with our teachers and our principals to assure that those practices are consistently utilized and observed in all classrooms.

0:18:27.4 Just a few areas that we are focusing on, but you will see, again, that they have a lot to do with the quality of instruction and ensuring that we help our students address any deficits that they have in content or skills that may impede their progress.

Pat: 0:18:45.6 Great. Those are such valuable takeaways. I just noted a couple of things. Support teachers to help flip the data. And if you can achieve that and you’re putting a tangible performance metric right in front of you. So kudos to that and actually holding yourself accountable for that.

0:19:06.3 As a follow up to that, what obstacles do you think you would need to overcome to get to that point of flipping that data?

Dr. Beasley: 0:19:13.5 That’s a great question. I think that two obstacles that come to mind that we are being very mindful of – if we, clearly if we know who the students are that have deficits, I think overcoming the limitation of time is an obstacle and that’s why it’s important that we get an online tool that students can use before school, after school, at home, etc., to help them eliminate those content and skill deficits.

0:19:45.8 But I think another obstacle related to that is assuring that we use that data to inform instruction. So as students are eliminating those deficits, or as we identify what those deficits are, it’s important that we use that data, that information, to inform what happens inside the classroom.

And so I always see a challenge in making sure that we take data from its collection to actually using it to inform our instructional decisions, our conversations, our additional, or academic support to students, or any other services that we believe we need to provide to students as we work diligently to eliminate all those content and skill deficits.

0:20:33.3 So I think the challenge, again, is making sure that we have a tool that allows us to maximize time, but at the same time, as we use a tool and we collect data on our students, making sure that we use that data to inform our instructional decisions. 0:20:54.0 And that’s always ongoing work.

Pat: 0:20:56.0 That’s great. So transitioning to your advice to other superintendents who are just starting out. What practical advice do you have for other administrators and superintendents who are in your shoes, managing small, large districts? What should be the priority and what should not be the priority? If you can split it into two buckets here.

Dr. Beasley: 0:21:22.6 Well, I think the main priority is to do what’s good for children. To understand that all of us are here to help our children be successful. To realize that children come to school every day. They wake up every day. Their parents send them to school everyday to be successful.

0:21:41.5 And so our responsibility is to create the environment and the opportunity for our students to experience success on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean that they won’t experience challenges. That’s ok to experience a challenge.

0:21:58.1 But we also want to provide them the support that they need to turn that challenge into a success, or if you will, a victory. 0:22:10.5 So I think focusing on opportunities that will help children be successful.

0:22:15.5 Supporting teachers. We have got to realize that teaching is probably the hardest job in America. 0:22:22.4 And that of being a principal. So supporting our principals and teachers. I don’t believe in a lot of district level mandated things.

0:22:32.4 I do believe that excellence, excellence has to occur authentically and it has to be modeled. 0:22:39.5 And so supporting principals and teachers to ensure that good instruction is taking place every day and that they have the resources needed in order to help students be successful. S

o I would say as a new superintendent, supporting principals, supporting teachers, ensuring that they have what they need to assure that that classroom experience is the very best for every one of our students.

0:23:05.2 And then, I think I would say to a new superintendent, modeling the expectation of excellence. If you want people to be positive, then you be positive. If you want people to be resilient, then you be resilient. 0:23:23.9 You demonstrate that, you reflect that. If you want principals and teachers to be organized, then you get organized. If you want your principals and teachers to communicate effectively, then you communicate effectively.

And so it’s important to me that everything that I expect of principals and teachers and employees that I model those things. I use technology because I expect them to use technology in the instructional process. 0:23:52.3 I read a lot. Because I expect us as educators to model reading a lot for our students. And so just remember as a superintendent, don’t expect anything of others that you’re not willing to demonstrate and model yourself.

Pat: 0:24:11.7 Great, and in summation, I think three points 0:24:12.8 [Inaudible] to that was: focus on children, support your teachers and principals, and finally, lead by example. Would you agree with that?

Dr. Beasley: Yes sir, I would agree totally.

Pat: 0:24:22.2 So, you’ve been around the block a few times now, would you agree?

Dr. Beasley: Yes sir.

Pat: 0:24:29.3 So what advice do you wish somebody gave you now that you know what you know that somebody gave you when you first started off as a young principal in the school district?

Dr. Beasley: 0:24:40.7 Oh that is a great question. I was fortunate to have very good mentors who are very comprehensive in providing me advice and experience and feedback and you know they would tell me when to calm down and when to get excited. I was very fortunate in that regard.

I would say that an area I didn’t realize or at least, if someone shared this with me, I don’t remember the conversation, I didn’t realize how critical – how everyone looked to the role of the superintendent to actually bring the entire community together.

And so that’s been to me a weight that I’m learning to deal with because so many people within the organization and out of the organization look to the role of the superintendent to basically – if the community has been divided, they expect the superintendent to bring the entire community back together.

0:25:42.0 And so I find myself trying to manage that. And be that individual that remains focused on children, that establishes a vision for the success of our children and then communicating that vision to all aspects of the community, trying to get them to basically join the team and be in support of that one vision of excellence for our students.

0:26:10.9 I just didn’t realize the weight and the role of the superintendent towards doing that. And so I’m – the gravity of that is hitting me every day.

Pat: 0:26:26.4 I’m sure it is. So just taking a little bit of a detour here, what would the most important takeaways from your time at Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Program? If you could jog back your memory and share something with us.

Dr. Beasley: 0:26:40.0 Oh I’ll tell you, I think the most important takeaway – I remember an activity where I was – the team that I was on, we had to basically figure out a solution, I think the activity – we were in a plane wreck, the plane that we were on crashed in the woods somewhere and we only had limited resources and we had to figure out what we were going to do to survive.

0:27:02.7 And do you know what hurt us the most? Our traditional thinking. 0:27:09.8 And so I think the most important thing and even as I interact with teachers and principals in my cabinet level and central office staff – helping as a leader, asking the right questions to help all of us think out of the box.

0:27:26.0 I think sometimes we are victims of our own thinking and our own structures. 0:27:31.8 And just because it’s a structure, the question is, who’s told us that the structure could not be changed. Fundamentally changed.

0:27:38.9 And so thinking out of the box, thinking creatively, and you know that’s a 21st century skill that we want of all of our students, collaborating, just thinking creatively.

0:27:51.6 And so I would say my experience at Harvard, thinking beyond my training, using my training and my experiences and expertise, but thinking beyond those things in order to figure out solutions to problems that clearly are very complex.

Pat: 0:28:13.8 That is great, thank you for sharing that. You spent almost three decades in education now, so if you look back and think about it, what would you have done differently if you had to start all over?

Dr. Beasley: 0:28:29.2 What would I have done differently, oh that’s a great question too. You have good questions. I need to email you a request for questions whenever I have an event.

Pat: 0:28:43.7 Trust me, these aren’t impromptu questions, I’m speaking to you and you throw me off in so many directions, it is difficult to contain myself and not really go down those rabbit holes. I mean I could have asked so many questions, and oh my god, I’ve got to stay focused here.

Dr. Beasley: 0:28:58.7 You know what I think I would have done differently? I was the principal of four high schools, I would have stayed at one high school longer.

Pat: 0:29:07.0 Ok. Why sir?

Dr. Beasley: 0:29:11.9 Because I was just – I had very good experiences, but I think that sometimes you need time to see the seeds that you’ve sown grow into a harvest or fruit. I think just spending time seeing the results of the work that we had done with the faculty and staff would have been very advantageous for me to do.

0:29:39.6 I think the longest I stayed at one high school, the longest one, was almost – I was going into – I was into my fifth year. I had done four years, I was into the fifth year.

0:29:51.0 And sometimes I think I had of just stayed a little longer to just see. 0:29:57.3 We were seeing success and the clearly the fruit of our labour, but I think I would have been able to even achieve higher levels of performance and outcomes if I had remained at those schools.

Because sometimes when schools go through a leadership transition, while we build capacity and as a leader we try to build and create other leaders in the event we have to leave the organization. I think sometimes we can leave prematurely, which basically means that you had to go but the organization wasn’t ready for you to leave.

0:30:37.9 There was more work to do. And I think in hindsight, I wish I had’ve stayed a little longer in at least one or two of those schools.

Pat: 0:30:49.5 Yeah, sure. Thank you for sharing that. So before we wrap up, we like to ask all our guests a few rapid-fire questions. So these questions will be quick, but your responses do not have to be, so you can take your time on the answers. 0:31:02.1 So here we go, the first one, what do you currently spend too much time doing?

Dr. Beasley: 0:31:06.3 Thinking. I spend a lot of time thinking. I really – my wife has to tell me to stop thinking so much.

Pat: 0:31:20.9 So what do you not spend enough time doing?

Dr. Beasley: 0:31:24.4 I want more time to read. While I like to read a lot, and – but I have – I carry books with me, you may not see this, I have books right now that I carry with me in the car, when I leave the car. Because I want to read. And so if I’m stopped at a light or something, I’ll try to pick up and read. I just want more time to read.

Pat: 0:31:45.7 Awesome. What did you learn from your time in education? If you can whittle it down to one sentence, what would that be?

Dr. Beasley: 0:31:53.5 That no one really cares what you know until you know how much you care.

Pat: 0:32:03.2 Wow, those are meaningful words. Thank you. 0:32:04.9 What are the emerging trends in education that you’re keeping an eye on?

Dr. Beasley: 0:32:08.9 I think that one trend is ensuring that we address equity. That we ensure that students are getting what they need, which may look different depending on the context, the student, the community, the school.

0:32:29.2 So I think that’s a trend. Addressing equity. And addressing it in very creative ways.

0:32:35.2 I think another trend would be more students are ready to finish up their K12 education and move on and so creating opportunities, innovative opportunities for students to learn the content, master the content, and then move on.

0:32:54.3 Creating opportunities for students to do dual enrollment, to take college level courses, to use online platforms to learn their content.

So I see more individuals, more students who are really ready to – they don’t want to spend, if you will, four years in high school. They want to earn those credits, and if they can earn them, they’re ready to move on.

0:33:18.0 So I think that’s a trend as well that we’ve got to adjust and create some innovative opportunities in our district for – to support our families. Some who really want that traditional experience, but then there are many who don’t want a very traditional experience.

And so I think we need to be very innovative as to how we support and provide opportunities for education for those families. Those are two that come to mind.

Pat: 0:33:43.7 What are your thoughts on the influence of technology on education as we move forward?
Dr. Beasley: 0:33:52.2 That’s a great question. I think technology, fundamentally, is a tool to help us in the educational process. And because the technology tools are changing so quickly, I think we have to – we have to work with teachers and students and school leaders and parents to understand how to best use those tools to secure or to achieve the level of master of the content.

0:34:22.8 Technology, again, is changing. There are so many apps out there, there are so many types of devices. If you purchase an iPhone this year, there’s another model next year. And so, I don’t believe it’s helpful for us to get in a habit of purchasing a whole bunch of tools, but I think helping our teachers and principals and students and parents figure out fundamentally, how do we use this tool to maximize learning. To think creatively, to think critically, to solve problems.

0:34:58.2 And so, I think using the technology to help us think creatively, to solve problems, is really our work. And so, technology is going to do what it’s going to do. It’s going to continue to change, because you’ve got individuals who are constantly thinking of new ways of approaching things and technology helps us to do that.

0:35:18.5 But how do we use a tool of technology to enhance the instructional experience and to help students navigate their instructional experience to their advantage. I think it’s really our work and should be our conversation.

Pat: 0:35:32.1 That was great Dr. Beasley. And so if listeners want to hear more from you and want to reach out to you, what is the best way for them to do that?

Dr. Beasley: 0:35:39.8 They can always go to our website, Clayton County Public Schools website, Clayton.K12.ga.us. That’s the best way to learn more about our school district and to – if they’d like to, to get in touch with us here in Clayton County Public Schools.

Pat: Thank you so much Dr. Beasley, I just want to say you’ve been great, thanks for sharing all that knowledge and wisdom that you’ve gathered over three decades in the education space. It was wonderful to learn from you and I’m sure the listeners, most of them may reach out to you and would agree when I say that we learned a lot and thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Dr. Beasley: Thank you for this opportunity and just know that in our district here in Clayton County, we are committed to high-performance and we love doing what we’re doing in support of our children. It’s all about our children and thank you for this opportunity.

Pat: Thank you so much and thank you for all you do. It was a great opportunity to talk to you today.

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