Career Story: Senior Director Helping Families Transition Into New Schools

Senior Director Helping Families Transition Into New Schools

Job Title: Senior Director

Type of Company: I work for a large city school district that educates nearly 60,000 children annually.

Education: BA in Public Administration, St. Joseph College; Graduate certificate in Women in Politics, Boston College

Previous Experience: I held a communications position with a political consultant, followed by a similar position with the Attorney General's office. Spent three years in the private sector doing marketing and communications for trade associations, which led to an executive director position with same. Returned to public sector to pursue work in the education field and was hired as the executive director for the non-profit "Countdown to Kindergarten" affiliated with the Boston Public Schools. I now run the Office of Welcome Services.

Job Tasks: I help families with the transitions into new schools, especially into kindergarten, middle and high school. My office ensures that correct information gets disseminated to families in time for them to make good choices about school selections (Our city does not have neighborhood schools), how, when and where to register, and then how to 'get ready' for school.

I also work with the schools to create and/or improve their welcoming efforts for families. My office works closely with the offices of communications, enrollment services, family and community engagement, professional development and many academic leaders. Together, our goal is to ensure that the schools have a family-friendly face and that we provide the type of information and atmosphere that helps families decide that the district is a good place to educate their children.

Examples of the work include hosting special transition events, including the annual citywide Kindergarten Kick-Off Celebration at the Childrens Museum and the citywide Middle School Orientation at Fenway Park. My office also creates guides that help families understand how to find schools that are good fits for their children and also how to get ready for the transition ahead.

Since other departments are responsible for some components of the transition, I run many cross-department workgroups where collaboration is key. For example, I run a school choice communications workgroup where we ensure that all the outreach materials being distributed to families have consistent language, are published on a schedule that makes sense for families, and that what we are creating is useful and relevant (meeting families' needs).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is working with the families. They are truly appreciative of the additional support. Boston has a complicated process for choosing and enrolling in school. It's easy to get frustrated and choose an independent school (private, charter, etc.). It feels great to make a difference one family at a time. It's also amazing to participate in policy decisions that impact how families perceive our schools. This part of the job allows me to be part of efforts that impact families on a larger scale.

The most challenging part is coordinating and collaborating with other departments. It's a critical part of our success, but it's very difficult to get everyone on the same page and not let individual agendas divert us from our goals.

Job Tips: Tip 1: Take lots of courses that involve oral and written communications. Your work needs to be well respected and work with typos will hold you back. Find a tough critic who can provide feedback to help you grow.

Tip 2: Always remember that there is more to learn. Collaborative work takes patience and open-mindedness. You have to believe that there is something you can learn from everyone.

Tip 3: Work hard and volunteer for things that allow you to learn more and/or meet new connections.

Tip 4: Stay current with your audience. If you work with schools, get out and visit them so that you know what you are talking about. If you work with parents, be in touch with them. Attend parent meetings, run focus groups, attend the same information sessions they are attending and listen to their issues, concerns and suggestions.

Additional Thoughts: You need to be very outgoing in a position like mine. You need to be open to others' feedback and suggestions, yet you need to know your topic well enough to have a set of your own convictions that guide you. Believe completely in the work that you do.

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