How Community Voice Can Drive Change in Schools with John Jungmann

How often have you thought of your school community as a driver for change? And if you have, how do you manage that?

How can we establish better connections between what happens inside our schools and the everyday experiences of people in the wider community?

In this episode, Will Richardson talks with John Jungmann, who is the superintendent of the largest school district in Missouri which you might be surprised to hear is Springfield not Saint Louis.

John and his team are as good as you’re going to find in bringing in the community to what he calls the courageous conversations that we need to be having right now.  But also in getting his students out in the community in the businesses and organizations where they can learn in real life settings around the things they have a passion for.

Dr. Jungmann received his Doctor of Education from the University of Arkansas. Prior to being named superintendent at SPS, Dr. Jungmann was the superintendent of Liberty Public Schools and Monett Public Schools.

Highlights from their conversation include:

  • How can we ensure we are providing the right environment and the right experiences that really shape our student’s path?  Are they ready for the next thing in life and are we contributing positively to that or negatively?
  • How can we help them discover their voice and are they ready for the next step?
  • How should we define student’s success, when its a moving target in our world today?
  • What does it take to provide and engaging, relevant and personal experience for every learner everyday,
  • How do you figure out what is relevant for kids today and how do you assess whether what is actually happening in the classroom is in fact relevant?
  • How can we help our students discover any meaning in the things they are learning?  What should know about the lens of relevance?
  • How can we extend the ways in which we want kids to engage with the world around them?
  • The importance of getting students out of buildings and into the community.
  • How you can re-design your curriculum from a focus on remediation to exploration.
  • Details of a summer externship program where teachers engage in business and industry and environment which include ways that they are never exposed to as a teacher.  This results in teachers coming back and telling stories about how they can change their class room and how they won’t teach the same way next year.
  • Details of capacity building that they’re doing with the aid of blended learning mentors; and how growing capacity requires teachers to be given room to breathe, and room to think differently.
  • Why the five traditional measures that are on the traditional accreditation structure may not necessarily priorities for your school community.
  • Why it’s important to instill a culture of risk taking and support iterative failure. How you can build that into your leadership culture as well as your instructional culture.
  • Why not just every student every day are learners but also our teachers our leaders, our administrative team and our board must be learners
  • What the focus should be with modern tool deployments
  • What it takes to develop the confidence for kids to begin to make their own schedule.The value of defining the must do’s and they’ve got may do’s.
  • The importance of shifting the focus with your community around the input side of education, and why when you do the inputs right, then the results take of themselves.
  • What matters most. Beyond test scores. The value walking out of school wanting to be a learner.
  • Defining the portrait of a graduate. Is it okay for them just to leave with a set of assessment scores, or do they need to leave with the products and demonstrations of the attributes that are really the things that our community values and that parents value?
  • How does a student captures their learning profile?
  • Why you should also be building a courageous culture. How the measures that we’ve created have corrupted the system. What then are the right measures for our kids and how do we make sure they’re actually getting the results we want.
  • Why professional learning is so important for school and District leaders
  • Why the best antidote to change resistance are parents rising up and saying, hey we want something different for our sons or daughters.
  • Why having a collaborative model where we have two teachers in one large space offers benefits to students. The impact of expanding a student’s audience using modern tools to give daily feedback to kids.
  • Why having every leader visiting both an internal and external site every year is so valuable.
  • How you keep up with what’s going on in the world, what types of things interest you in terms of your reading?  What topics, subjects you should think about ?
  • Why re-imagination of your school starts by defining your personal beliefs.  What do you think about learning? Then stepping outside of the system and getting exposure to people who are thinking differently and trying to execute their ideas differently.
  • The value of community voice. The importance of having ongoing conversations with your board if your superintendent, have conversations with your teachers if you’re a principal, and your parents, and your community about what they really desire for their kids, and also asking is there something more than we can do, and finally are the results that we’re getting what we desire.

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


Todd Rose The End of Average

Michael Fullan

Yong Zhao

John Kotter: Leading Change


Transcript for the show

How often have you thought of your school community as a driver for change? And if you have, how do you manage that?

How can we establish better connections between what happens inside our schools and the everyday experiences of people in the wider community?

Hey everyone I’m Will Richardson and I want to welcome you back to season one of the 2017 Modern Learners Podcast where this year we’re talking to people who are pushing the conversation around change and re-imagination in schools to a higher level, and looking for ways to make sustainable change happen for their students and their teachers.


In this episode I get a chance to talk with John Jungmann, who’s the superintendent of the largest school district in Missouri which you might be surprised to hear is Springfield not Saint Louis.  John and his team are as good as you’re going to find in bringing in the community to what he calls the courageous conversations that we need to be having right now.  But also in getting his students out in the community in the businesses and organizations where they can learn in real life settings around the things they have a passion for.

Like others in this series, John is trying to push more deeply into that change process than most and I really think you’re going to enjoy what he has to say during our talk.

And remember if you want to learn more about this Podcast series, about our white papers or master classes or a brand new eight week workshop on modern leadership that we’re launching in March.  Check out our private Modern Learner’s Facebook group or head on over to or you can sign up for our amazingly informative weekly newsletter that tracks all the opportunities and challenges of learning today.

But for now, I invite you to sit back and listen to my 40 minute conversation with John Jungmann about change in Springfield Missouri.


So I just want to start the same way that I’ve started all these interviews that I’m doing with educational leaders who are doing some interesting work this days and that is what’s the question that’s really driving your work right now?  Is there one thing that you’re trying to answer more than anything else that’s kind of guiding you in the change work that you’re in engage in?

John Jungmann:  I think that our team continually ask is, are we providing the right environment and the right experiences that really shape our kids path?  Are they ready for the next thing in life and are we contributing positively to that or negatively?  So that, that’s the heart of work and how do we think about their voice and their experiences differently?  Are they prepared to be successful and that’s a strange word that no one really has a great definition of that we just try to figure out what that means for each one of kids.  And a lot of it is bottom line, do they discover their voice and are they ready for the next step?

Will RichardsonSuccessful is kind of a moving target this day’s right?

John Jungmann:  Completely, yeah.  And it’s very different from one audience to the next.

Will Richardson:  Now, I think I read on your website or in some of the materials that you sent that you said your work is to provide and engaging, relevant and personal experience for every learner every day, I want to ask you about that word relevant because in a couple of the other interviews that I’ve done that seems to be another one of those moving targets, right?  So how do you figure out what is relevant for kids today and how do you assess whether or not relevance is actually happening in your classrooms?

John JungmannRelevance here is a huge moving target for I don’t know those three words are things we talked about on a regular basis.  Engaging, relevant, personal and what does that mean to our system.  As we think about relevance, we think about the experiences of kids.  Are they things that align to the world around them and the world that they’re going to discover in the future?  And if they don’t, then do they discover any meaning?  Is the engagement in the learning really impactful?  I think we most think about through the lens of does this relevance really provide an opportunity to engage with the world around them and the world that they’re going to experience in the future?

Will Richardson:  The first part is a little bit more concrete right?  So tell me a little bit about what that looks like if you want kids to engage with the world around them?  How does that play out?

John Jungmann:  We are really excited about some other things that we think are relevant in our community and that’s our effort to get our kids out of our buildings and into our community because we think that adds relevance every time they do that.  We’re really on this effort to increase partnerships with our businesses, our industries, our communities.  Different entities right from nonprofits to business and industry environments and get our kids into this cultures where they learn something beyond the walls for school; not just in Springfield but also how do we use technology to connect them with audiences outside of our school system that kind add a layer relevance by bringing in experts that they couldn’t access locally in different ways.

So that’s what I think you know where that’s the heart of our relevance support is how do we engage them environments that are outside the walls of our school.

Will Richardson:  One of the most powerful learning experiences from you, when I visited your district was when there was a young lady who took me around the kind of wild life school that situated within the Bass pro shop in Springfield which is the original Bass pro shop is that right?  Was that the first one?

John Jungmann:  I call it the granddaddy.

Will Richardson:  The granddaddy right?  It was just a fascinating right two or three different classrooms but then working with live animals with snake she was showing me all sorts of rodents, all sorts of others stuff.  So I mean how much of that can you do?  I mean it’s great to aspire to that but how many kids can you touch when in those types of outreach programs?

John Jungmann:  I think what we’ve discovered is more than we currently are and more than we have historically.  It’s hard to scale.  When I walk into the system wolf the classroom that you experienced was kind of that model program work but I wish my kid could experience it but it happens for 50 5th graders.

Will Richardson:  Right.

John Jungmann:  Annually out of our 25,000 students.  And I heard that over and over again as I went on this listening and learning to how do we scale experiences?  The system had already started to take that and do some additional work with it.  They had opened a classroom and in our hospital Mercy Hospital for eighth graders, they opened a classroom in the discovery center for all fifth graders also.  So starting the scale up but again we at 150 out of 25,000 kids so we had a realistic conversation about how do we move that work forward and I think we do it in a multitude of different ways.

I think we can go much deeper and much further into our community.  So one of the ways we did that was expand our summer program into really a completely re-design from focus on remediation to exploration and we actually call it explore.  So everyone of our grade level experiences in our summer, is at the elementary at the middle school level is design through getting our kids out for not just field trips but robust experiences that are continued, you know they maybe weekly so every kids getting this experience outside of their classroom on a regular basis.

We’ve got great community assets that allow us to do that, but others don’t so we’re trying to take advantage of that.  The other things we’re doing is trying to scale that at the high school level a little bit with our CAPS program, which also allows us to embed junior and seniors out into those same kind of business environments that align to work force needs in our region.  So we have classrooms like in engineering classroom at local manufacturing location as well as the technology solutions classroom.  We have two medicine and health care classrooms out at our health care sites.

We also have a entrepreneurship class that’s in our E-factory which is kind of the business development hub for the region.  So we’re really making an effort to go out and get as many kids out as we possibly can but even with all of those efforts you know the regular school your worse were getting, a few hundred kids.  And summer school we’re getting a few thousand kids.

So we’re starting to make a dent but scaling it for 25,000 kids is really tough.  So I think some of the other work is changing the classroom environment by engaging the teachers and new learning.  One of the things that we’re most excited about is actually a summer externship program where we push teachers out.  We pay them stipends to leave our schools in the summer.  Where they have a little bit of time off, and they go spend it in our business and our industries and our community partners.  And those experiences for our teachers are things that they for the most part have never been exposed to because you know for the most part if you look at their progression and on that teacher you know I went from a classroom to a classroom when I left high school I went to college.  I went to college to become a teacher.  I left the instructional classroom of college and went back to a classroom.

Will Richardson:  Right.

John Jungmann:  I’ve grown so much once I left the classroom as an administrator because I’ve been force to engage in business and industry and environment that I was never exposed to as a teacher.  So when we send our teachers out we hear them come back and tell stories about how they can change their class room and how they won’t teach the same way next year.  Those experiences happen for our kids and they help for our teachers and we think that’s how we start to scale.

Will Richardson:  You’re really talking about capacity building there right?  Because you’re giving people more of a, over-viewer or more of lens to see their own work through.

John Jungmann:  You got it.

Will RichardsonWhat are some other ways that you build capacity for teachers and for community as well because obviously they have to understand what the work is about as well in order to support it so what does it look like?

John Jungmann:  I think, the first thing you got to do is you think about growing capacity is to give them room to breathe and room to think differentlyAsk big questions that aren’t traditionally answered by you now the typical process of how we do education or assess education.  What you actually want for your child, what do you want for this system as I entry into the system I put out a survey to the community teachers, kids and parents and ask them a few critical questions about what are the products that you want and we ask them to rank order you know one to 10, one of the things that you value the most and that you want our education system to stand for.

The five traditional measures that are on our accreditation structure and that everybody looks at us through whether you’re on a school digger or whatever.  Those were on the bottom five, those were in the top five list.  They wanted the things that we value more which are the collaboration skills, the communication skills, they wanted their kids to enjoy the experience, they wanted them to have a real positive feedback, they wanted a high quality teacher with relationships, but ACT scores, attendance rates, proficiency rates you know those fell to the bottom.

So I think as we built capacity the first thing you got to do is start with big questions about what are we actually trying to achieve?  We can get people to start thinking differently about what that can look like then they are willing to take few risks.  So the second thing you give them a little bit of opportunity to breathe, and then you instill a culture of risk taking and support of you know failure.  Well it’s okay to stab your toe along the way and we’re going to help you forward, and actually that’s what our kids need to see you do.  And we’re trying to build that into our leadership culture as well as you know our instructional culture.  And then turnover that same ability to fail and struggle to our kids, instead of you know kind of mandating and monopolizing every moment of their time with structure.  Give them some room.

I think those are a few things that we do to try building capacity.  The other thing that I think that I’ve tried to instill on the system is get out.  Get outside of the walls of our systems so when we say that every learner every day we said that very strategically.  Not every student every day and not every kid but every learner because our teachers and our leaders, our administrative team and our board must be learners and the best way that we learn I think is kind of reflected to what we talked about is finding relevant experiences outside our school that stretch our thinking.

Will Richardson:  Did you teachers struggle with that?  Kind of changing that kind of perception of themselves away not away from teachers but to think of themselves really as learners too?

John Jungmann:  No, you know I think they want it to themselves as learners.  They got into it to be not just to deliver of content but because they’re passionate about learning.  I don’t think they’ve been the right tools or the right flexibility or the right environment to really be lead learners and that’s what I think you know we’re trying to figure out how we spur learning at our instructional level.

Everybody’s growing always we’re given feedback to the traditional evaluation processes but that’s only one component of growth and learning.  And what I’ve seen is as we’ve opened up these doors to learning and getting people out in different sites and that’s internal and external.  That really fuels teachers risk taking and it gives them support and encouragement and a colleague or someone to call on.  So once we do it, I feel like it really energizes them and they want more of it.

Will Richardson:  Now you guys I know were engage in a pretty impressive technology build up you guys called your Ignite plan, and I’m wondering if you could just give me a little sense of what that looks like but also then what the learning for teachers looks like in that context as well because I’m sure that’s a big part of it.

John Jungmann:  Ignite, when we got here levels one of the things that was kind of on the deficit list or the weaknesses was access to modern tools in our classrooms.  We heard that from the teachers, we heard that from kids and we said we have to address this soon.  But we can’t go in half hazardly I had the fortune of being in two previous school district where I was able to roll out kind of modern tool deployments and I would tell right now Springfield’s done it better than the previous too and it’s not because it’s me it’s because I’ve got a great team getting of some feedback from the field.

But really it’s about technology but it’s not about technology right?  I mean it about putting tools in the hands of the kids but it’s all about the learning, and that what it actually is you know it’s a three year roll out if you want to get logistical.  Three year roll out from third grade to 12th grade.  A chrome book in the hands of every student and personalize for them so they have access to modern tools as well the internet.  And not just is it the tool but for those students in need.  We provide mobile hot spots and I think we’re about 800 of those that we’ve deployed this year.  Where students can have their internet in their pocket if they don’t have access at home, we’re trying to support them to be connected to the information that exists.

But that tool is just that, is a tool and it’s only as good as the teacher that uses it.  And the things that we’re trying to get our teachers to use it for are multiple, and there’s been a lot of professional development that goes along the way in this process, but number one is personalization so there are tools out there that allows students to get individualized feedback on some the things that are teachers who’ve been trying to deliver for decades and there is of reading and math, but we really ask them to do the impossible.  How to personalize content and feedback for 24, 25 kids on daily basis and these tools are helping do that.

So that’s one thing and another thing is exposed them to an audience that is much broader than just the classroom that they sit in every day.  Other professionals, other educators, other students where they can get real time feedback and multitude of different ways as well as allow them some interest, right?  Some real agency in the process so when they’re doing discovery, it’s not just the route process of you know we go to the library, we look for a few books here they have access to information and they can really pursue those things and knew in different ways.

The last thing I would say is one of the things that I think is the most exciting about that deployment is when we see kids begin to make their own schedule.  We kind of been tinkering with this process and helping our teachers develop flexible scheduling for our kidsSo in elementary environment our kids have choice.  You know they’ve got must do’s and they’ve got may do’s and they’ve got time that they have to spend on certain things with their tool but then they also have time that they have flexibility in the environment.

And they can pursue their interest and their passions and when we see them do that you know that spurs more learning and I think we give them a little bit of identity of what they’ve look like as learner and what they’re interested in.

So Ignite is exactly that, we’d say it’s the technology deployment but it’s not at all about technology, it’s purely about the learning and this is a modern tool that provides our kids a relevant way to get connected.

Will Richardson:  In a lot of schools that I go to in a lot of districts that I visit that have technology roll outs, when I walk into classrooms and when I talk to teachers those laptops or iPad’s or whatever are still primarily being used as teaching tools right?  They’re a way of either delivering curriculum or of kind of class room management or whatever else.  And it takes a little bit of a leap on a part of many of those teachers to really begin to see this as a learning tool.

So how do you that?  How do you try to make the learning part of that maybe more transparent or more available for those teachers who may not see technology as more than a teaching tool when they first get it in their hands?

John Jungmann:  I think that goes back to that capacity building aspects so we find some of the best ways that we’re doing that is through our blended learning mentors.  We have a support structure where under the support of some of our administrators, a team of blended learning mentors that really get the vision, are going out and having conversations on a regular basis.

They spend four days a week in buildings with teachers, talking about what’s possible, helping them dream different and outside the context of just the traditional delivery and things that we might see you know the computer we use as a substitution for, instead of really taking it to the level of depths.

So those blended leaning mentors help fuel the change I think and the individual building level, we try to get teachers out of their classrooms again.  And they first shift to substitution often right and just say alright I’m just going to use the technology to do exactly what I did before maybe it a little more efficient, maybe it’s a little more personalize but if it just stops there it’s still been a good investment but it’s not worthy of what were actually trying to accomplish; so really getting them exposed to other educators that are stretching their thinking and then showing how kids take ownership, and run with the technology and do really cool things that around their passions and interest and much beyond just that those some of those personalization tools.  It really happens mainly through exposure to other educators that are stretching us.

Will Richardson:  How does that happen?  Is that happened online?  Does that happen by giving teachers this professional development around that, all those things, other things, what?

John Jungmann:  Yeah, I think it’s a multitude so there is some where we go out and model, some of those things from our blended learning specialist.  We have deployment teams that we on this at the site level, every week to talk about what’s going well and how can support teachers in their growth.  They work with the building principals and the blended learning mentors to kind of put a professional development plan and place for the system in that building.

We set as one of our domain district targets on the evaluation tool; one of the things is that we want teachers to grow deployment of modern tools in their classrooms so we’re asking our building leaders to go in and check on how they’re doing that.  Give feedback the hold people accountable for using those tools and productive ways.  There’s multitude in different feedback processes, we have some online training that teachers have access to.  There’s a multitude of different ways that they can find room for growth in that area.

Will Richardson:  Now you’ve been in Springfield for how long?

John Jungmann:  This is the middle of my third year.

Will Richardson:  How big is the change that you’re trying to effect in that district?  I mean you want to rate it on a scale or just talk about it a little bit but I mean is it really different, is it the vision that you have in classrooms significantly different from the way that classrooms look maybe five years ago in that district or 10 years ago in that district?

John Jungmann:  I would say that’s a definite yes, Springfield I’ve know this community for a long time and when I walked they’re doing great things to serve kids.  I grew up an hour in half down road.  I was a superintendent in a district an hour down the road before I spent a little time in Kansas City and I would say when I came back here there were some things going on in class room to class room that are exactly what we’re trying to accomplish but as a system, I’d say this is significantly different than where were two and half years ago.

Will Richardson:  What do you think the biggest differences?  What would be the biggest tangible difference that I would see if I walk into a classroom within the district?

John Jungmann:  Yeah, I think the heart is our mission right.  Before, I think the verbage was we exist for the academic excellence of all students.

Will Richardson:  Right.

John Jungmann:  That’s a great mission.  I hope we exist for more.

Will Richardson:  Right.

John Jungmann:  When I heard from the community and I heard from the board and we have real conversations through our imagine process that kind of spurred this work when I first got here.  I hear the communities say we want more than that?  We want more than test scores and we want more than kids that are prepared to do well on ACT.  We want kids that will be successful, and that looks a little different than just as you know like a measurement structure of test scores.

We shifted to focus when we have that conversation with our community around the input side of education, and we think if we do the inputs right then the results take of themselves.  We shifted all of our conversations systemically from the results to the process that lead to great results and that’s what engagement look like and how do we get it.

What is rare elements look like and how do we get it and what does it mean for every kid to have a personal experience and that main relationships with the teachers, flexible goals that they’re monitoring.  They have pace, place and path flexibility.  Now those words prior to me coming, I think and this whole conversation in please don’t see me as the impetus for this.  It was a community conversation that we just ask questions.  It said, “What do you want?”  They came back with the language that said, “We want engaging, relevant and personal.

Now everything that we do as a leadership team reflects around those words.  It’s how we really shift the environment to create engagement, create relevance, create personalization and let the results take care of themselves.  Some of those will be test scores, some of those will be things much difference in test scores.

Will Richardson:  Like what?

John JungmannI think walking out of here wanting to be a learner.

Will Richardson:  How do you measure that?  How do you know that that you’ve accomplished that?

John Jungmann:  Welcome to the million dollar question.  In just a little bit and if you got the answer let me know.

Will Richardson:  How are you trying to answer that question?

John Jungmann:  How we’re trying to do it is really to have that robust conversation of what’s the portrait of a graduate and I know that you’ve had conversations with some of our leaders regarding this and what does it look when a student leaves here?  Is it okay for them just to leave with a set of assessment scores or do they need to leave with the products and demonstrations of the attributes that are really the things that our community values and that our parents value?

We’re having a real conversation about what are those attributes.  They leave here with resiliency.  Do they leave here with an element of contribution?  Have they been contributors to our community along the way or have they just been takers?  Are they prepared to be contributors in the future?  We’re really having this conversation about what are the attributes that not just beyond content knowledge because that’s the foundational piece and we know we’re responsible for it but we have to stretch it beyond that to these attributes that our community values and then figure out how to successfully measure that and likely, it’s not going to be on a standardized test score that we can write and sort, and compare to our neighboring districts.  But it is going to be on something that are our parents can say, man, like you just made a contribution, and they can see proof of it they can see in their profile.

Kids capture this and they tell the story of who they are and how they’ve grown through the years.  If we can do that and have kids living here with this understanding of what they were trying to become and what they did become around areas of their passion and interest I’ll take that as a overwhelming success, and I think our community will too.

Will Richardson:  Is that a portfolio do you think?

John Jungmann:  I think it’s an aspect to that, I think it’s an online or we’re going to use the word profile right now that we use to say.  How does a student captures their learning profile?.  Todd Rose talks about and I’m sure you’ve hit some of myth of average work.  They talk about this jagged learner profile.  The profile of every learner that lives here is going to be different, and it’s not about all having the same ingredient, all be in proficient in the same areas.


But if they’ve left here with proof, along the way that they’ve hit some of these really important attributes, and I hope some of them are more important to them than others because that’s what makes us unique and different, and that’s what makes our community what it needs to be.  Then we’ve really prepare them for the next step, would help them identify some of their strengths, some of their passions, they’ve shown that to us and now they’re ready to move on.


Will Richardson:  I’m sitting here thinking as I listen to you that most places that I go, I don’t think that they want to take on the depths of the work that you’re taking on in Springfield.

I think most people want to engage in these types of questions, but at the end of the day it kind of defaults back to the stuff that’s easy to measure.  If we have some stuff, the immeasurable foot say that stuff is more difficult to measure then we’re kind of be okay with that.

But they’re not putting it at the forefront of their work, so I’m just curious what is it about you particular, specifically, that is able to go to that depth especially you’re in the biggest district in Missouri.  You’re not just dealing with a small district of a couple thousand kids or I think that work would be probably easier, what is it about you that makes you lead that work or makes you want to live that work?

John Jungmann:  Yeah like all of us, I’m a person shaped by my experiences.  I think if you think by reflect on myself and why I’m passionate about this work it’s because I have educators leave this work for me and I fear, and I tell people this often that if I was actually going to school in the NCLB era I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Because I wouldn’t have been provided an experience and on I reflect back to this teacher often, my junior year or actually sophomore year.

My English II teacher, Mary Cune, who I love dearly, a talent in me gave me encouragement and said, you know what English II has been great for you but instead of going on just the tradition English III next year, I think I’m going to set up this internship experience for you and this opportunity to work at local newspaper.

So at the age of 16 and 17, I got this opportunity to engage with adults became the sports reporter and the sports editor for a down to 4,000 right?  Circulation of four or 5,000 people but my audience expanded and my passion expanded, and I think my performance went through the roof, because she allowed to find a voice, follow a passion, follow an interest and put me in places where I could have never imagine being to the traditional high school experience.  Unfortunately, she won’t able to do that for every kid, and I want to create a system that does do that for every kid.

NCLB, why tell people that if I was five years later I’m afraid when the culture of, hey you got to get the ACT score that kid up, or you got to get that kid to an advanced levels, so we’re going to multiplying factor on the accreditation culture.  I’m afraid I don’t get that experience and I don’t think it’s because people don’t want that experience, I think it’s because the measures that we’ve created have corrupted the system. 

We’ve got to have a more courageous conversation about what are the right measures for our kids and how do we make sure they’re actually getting the results we want, and they’re just not easy to get.

Will Richardson:  That’s an interesting word courageous right.  Is that a part of it, you have to have courage to do this?

John Jungmann:  I tell people often that that’s the foundation of leadership work that we’re doing, it’s courageous.  Its being you like to step out and do things that are people aren’t doing, and have people critique and criticize and not follow along because that’s what happens in a change process.

If I think about the characteristics of change culture, and the things that I try to ask my leaders to do as we think about the team, the number one thing is be courageous.

Will Richardson:  I guess I’m wondering what allows them to be courageous because again, a lot of places that I go, there really isn’t that license to innovate, to explore new ideas, to try different things.  Is it courageous culture maybe that you’re trying to create as well?

John Jungmann:  I think so, and I think that license is out there.  We just have to ask for it.  I think when we showed up, it started to have a conversations with our community.  They granted the license to say, go imagine.  We went through this whole imagine process with board members and kids, and teachers.  They told us imagine, right?  Imagine what the future looks like, imagine what education needs to look like in order to prepare our kids for the future and go.

It doesn’t mean that we scaled the change tomorrow, but we pilot the heck out of a lot of things because we’re trying to learn and takes small risk so that they can inform big decisions.  I think that exist in a lot of our systems if we’re willing to ask the question and engage the community in a conversation about what they really desire.

Will Richardson:  What’s your sense in terms of the Meta conversation around schools and education in the context of change, do you think it’s growing if so how quickly?  Do you think it’s kind of stagnant or what?

John Jungmann:  I think it’s growing, I’m a part of a lot of professional learning that goes on across the nation and a few different groups that I’m encourage when I go, and learn of what other people are doing and how they’re trying to move the mission forward of more relevance in education, more engaging environments and more comprehensive look of what a student’s success might look like; than what we did with NCLB, so as compared to the last decade or so when we we’re purely focused on state assessments for accreditation and those things that drove us to a place of lack in engagement and lack of learning.

I think we’re in a better place, and I think the conversation around SSA and giving more freedom back to the states is the right conversation.  I think the states have to have the courage to provide more freedom back to the local districts and allow, and expect our leaders in local districts who engage with our community.  To create this conversation about what they want, and when the community can own that process and actually has buy in to this strategic work you can move it.

We see that happening with our community, with our business partners.  They see that strategic work with explore, they come out on the woodwork to work with us right now.  They’re more invested in our schools and more invested in our kids.  I think it can move forward, I think it is moving forward, but I think a lot of the time we just struggle because the system that is created right now by no mean spurs innovation, by no mean spurs districts to think differently.  I think it ties our hands and we’re trying to work as a district.

I think its Springfield public schools, we take great pride and be on a district of innovation and a culture where we’re willing to do things that we think will make a difference for kids.  We think it doesn’t only impact on SPS, but it impacts our state, we think it impacts others so we collaborate it with across the country.

Will Richardson:  Have you heard anything from policy makers, or do you engage with policy makers around maybe setting different expectations for what kids are able to do and how they’re measured in doing it?

John Jungmann:  Yeah actually I’ve been part of a year long process co-chaired a accreditation and assessment task force for our superintendent’s association, and have the opportunity to sit in front of the state board last May, and make the case that our accreditation structure right now is not cutting, it is not giving ownership to the local school districts.

It’s around the limited set of measures that are important and significant but insufficient in the real culture of what we’re trying to accomplish.  I get a lot of head nods and yeah that make sense. But it’s hard to move it forward, write systemically at the state level, but we’re having robust conversations.  I think there are people that are willing to think differently, and maybe allows some districts to pilot different projects but it doesn’t come with our significant resistance.

Will RichardsonDo you think that maybe the best antidote to that resistance is parents rising up and saying, hey we something different, or is it just advocacy coming from schools, again a mix of all that or what?

John Jungmann:  Yeah I think it’s going to be voices from everywhere.  I think the best way to get over that is provide examples.  I use Kotter as my basis for change processes and he talks a lot about providing people examples.  You got to show them these things and show them what’s possible, show them what that measurement can look like. 

When you do that they say, that’s what I want for my kid.  We’re trying to build up models and pilots and projects internally so that our district can see that as well as inviting people from across our state to visit our schools, to see what we’re doing too.

To encourage them to start to scale this and go back to their buildings and have these conversations with their community.  When do that, I think we see progress, this is not something that’s scalable short term, this is a large structure and it’s going to take a lot of time.  But I think the way we do it best is from the inside out of providing examples, of how it’s possible.  Then people are courageous enough to take the next step.

Will Richardson:  When you are in Liberty, you started a school called EPIC.  I think last time I spoke with you, you’re thinking about trying to do a similar thing in Springfield.  That’s going be along the lines of what you’ve just talk about in terms of showing people what it looks like.  Can you talk a little bit about what made EPIC such a different place for kids?

John Jungmann:  Again, it came through a process of community engagement.  At early we were forced to get creative, we’re out of space.  That district was growing in significant ways, we needed use every square inch of our schools and creative in new ways as we thought about the future facilities as well as this gave us the opportunity to challenge our thoughts about learning. 

We started this little task force of parents and teachers and kids again, and just said, if you got to start over and re-imagine what school could look like for an elementary school how would you build it, and what would it look like?

The result was EPIC and it was really driven by, what does engagement look like for kids and what is creativity, we think that’s a foundational aspect of learning.  EPIC that stands for Every Person Inspired to Create, so we wanted kids when they came to our schools, passionate about learning, inspired to do something cool and big, and we’re still going to deliver great Missouri learning standards and content but we’re going to do it in new ways.

Some of the things that came out of it, I think are fueling a lot of our work from co-teaching and we really refer to have more of collaborative model where we have two teachers in one large space.  It’s not just the open classroom effort before, this is all about collaborative teaching in partnership and project based cultures, expanding student’s audience using modern tools to give daily feedback to kids.

We’ve really seen both in EPIC and we have started our version of that here in Springfield opened up this year.  We see teachers excited and energized and often say, I would never go back to teaching alone and isolation again because I’ve grown so much and I have a partner in the work, and we hear kids and see their conversations on what they’re creating and what they’re doing.  I think it can be a model that is scalable and that is affordable.  EPIC’s the one in Liberty and now we have Fremont here in Springfield and we’re excited about what we see playing out in that space.

Will Richardson:  How do you share the stuff that happens in those schools with the rest of your district?

John Jungmann:  Couple of things that we do is just very strategically is an expectation of leadership team called our senior leadership team, is every leader has to go an internal and external site visit every year.  We schedule it and we set expectations, you got to choose where you going to go and what you want to learn about base on your needs that your building but every district leader has to do an internal site visit and an external site visit.

When that happens, we see a lot of our educators or administrators going to some of our innovative sites where new things are happening.  That allows that image of what’s playing out to be replicated in other sites that are just traditional schools, and you don’t have to have a new building and a new administrator and new staff to do it.  We’ve got administrators taking it back and saying, how can we do this and teachers now have a model to say, we can do that right here on our building, we can do that right here on our classroom.  It’s cool to see when that plays out.  One of the expectations is that they don’t just go alone, that’s when administrators walk out into those internal and external locations, they take someone with them.  They take a teacher with them so that they can have conversations about, is this the right thing for kids?   Is this what we need to be doing on our schools?  Is this something that we can develop?

It’s not just about the EPIC model, it’s about all the innovation that goes on in our system and we have it in multitudes of sites.  Now we have a systemic way for people to experience it and when they have those experiences, we see their minds change and their behaviors change.

Will Richardson:  After three years I think working in that district, what percentage of classrooms do you think have embraced that kind of changes you’re talking about and are really beginning to look like different learning environments for kids or act like different learning environments?

John Jungmann:  That’s really tough, you know I’m in buildings.  Every week, just visit one today and I would say in that building, that numbers probably 80 percent.  In another building it might be five, right?  So it’s a lot about the building leadership and where they are.  A lot of our work is developing the capacity of our building leaders.

Holistic system wide, I’d say it’s in 10 to 15% maybe.  That’s not a bad move I would say for three years, considering what I know about change processes.  But I think there’s a tipping point where if we can get to 25, 30, 40%.  There’s different levels that we’re much further down the road than others.  But I think there’s a tipping point where then everybody says, this is just the right way to do learning and this is what our kids need.

Will RichardsonHow do you keep up with what’s going on in the world, what types of things interest you in terms of your reading?  What topics, subjects do you think?  If you were helping other school leaders who are interested in beginning change process kind of wrap their brains around, what types of information or what types of changes out there are most relevant to your work?  What would they be, what would you suggest?

John Jungmann:  I think I mentioned that few of them.  But I think the heart is knowing who you are as a leader.  If you don’t spend some time just identifying who you are as a leader, you’ll have no idea how to make change play out.  One of the things that I expect all of our leaders to go through is strengths finder, just really get at the heart of what their strengths are and how do we use their strengths.  I think when they’re exposed to that, they also start to think about their teacher strengths, and their kid’s strengths and how we’re not all the same.

When we use our strengths we get much further down the road to accomplishing our results, I don’t know if strengths finder is the magic bullet or the silver bullet kind of thing, but I’ve used it in everyone of our systems and the systems I’ve served in and it’s great or robust conversation about who we are as leaders.  Then I asked them to collaborate with each other about that.  That’s one of things that I think is foundational.  In that same space is really some work on reading around change.

I still use John Kotter Leading Change as a foundational book.  Just about everything Michael Fullan puts out, I try to digest because I think he’s got some sound ideas about how to help systems moves, systems change and how to support people along the way.  Things that challenge me I think are people like Yong Zhao and he’s measuring some success and most kind of things trying to keep up with his thoughts on what it means to be.  His book Catching up or Leading the Way, and some of the things that I have come out since then.

Ken Robinson is always on my list of things, I’ve got his newest book in my bag ready to dive into that, to try to have him push my thinking on what it means to be a learner and what it means to have experiences.  That last one, the Myth of Average from Todd Rose, I think it’s one that.  I use that Youtube with that Ted talk multiple times to have people really reflect on what we do in the schools.  Students when we say, one size fits all and that’s kind of our culture historically.  Those are few that I personally been exposed to that I think have changed my thinking and provide me some growth.

Will Richardson:  Do you think it’s important to be connected and networked, in online spaces as well?

John Jungmann:  Yeah that’s one of the other places that I try to stay connected, obviously it’s Twitter.  I’m not a most robust user but I try to model that it’s a great place to capture learning from others.

One of the places that I always try to stay and tuned with is Mind Shift and their postings and the things that come out because I think those are little small tidbits of examples that helped teachers and systems in schools, on pushing themselves to think differently and sharing those.  That’s one, there’s a multitude of different ways that you can engage online.

But I try to use twitter as a professional learning tool, and then you surround yourself with professional organizations.  I’m part of EdLeader21 which is a group of districts that really think about the Cs, and whether be 3Cs, 4Cs, 7Cs, there’s a lot of Cs out there.  We can go through all of them.

What’s the right list, nobody knows but a really conversations about content knowledge is foundational and it matters a lot.  But there are a lot of other things that are out there, we got to figure out ways to show our community how to measure those things.  EdLeader’s been a good place for me to be surrounded by people that will stretch thinking a bit.

Will Richardson:  Let me just finish with this one, what would be your advice to people who are seriously thinking about a re-imagination of their own school or their own district?  Where would you suggest they start?

John Jungmann:  Again, foundational I think it’s your personal beliefs.  What do you think about learning and then the second thing is I would them to step outside of their system, go get expose to people that are thinking differently and trying to execute it differently, and don’t just go by yourself.  Just like we do, we ask our leaders to take someone with them, take someone with you.  Whether be a board member or community member.

Then reflect on what you’ve learn outside of your system because sometimes we’re just clouded, we get in the routines of our daily operations so you got to step out and grow.  Those are the first two steps and then bring that back in and have conversations with your board if your superintendent, have conversations with your teachers if you’re a principal, and your parents, and your community about, is this what we desire or is there something more than we can do, and are the results that we’re getting what we desire.

I think when you ask the right questions, you typically get the right answers.  Be courageous, ask probing questions that you don’t know the answer to, and don’t have a set of answer going in, but let the conversation create based on what your community and your teachers, and everybody tells you.  I’ll tell you, I’ve been through this process multiple times in multiple districts, and the results never the same because there’s individual ownership and that’s the way you want it.

But I think the result every time has been better than the last time, because I’ve got better in asking questions and I think we’ve created a real robust group that stretches our thinking.

Will Richardson:  Listen John, thanks so much for your time.  Really appreciate it and I really appreciate the work you guys are doing in Springfield.  I think that there’s a lot of really cool interesting innovative ideas that I know a lot of people are learning from.  Hopefully we’ll get a few more people to learn about what you guys are doing there, continued success with your work moving forward.

John Jungmann:  It’s an awesome team, and you’ve met some of the greatest leaders and I see my work on a daily basis.  Get permission, get out of the way and let them go because they’re doing really cool and great things for kids.  I think it’s going pay you huge dividends, not just for Springfield but I really think we can impact real large audience.

I appreciate all you’re doing to spread that word, I know it’s really, really tough to sit there and walk into schools and say, are they really still just having that conversation?  That’s the wrong conversation they’re asking the wrong questions.

But your publications and what you’re sharing online, and I really love the fact that you’re trying to go inside public schools and talk about change from the inside out like we’ve talk about.

I think it’s one thing to go out and start your own charter, and I appreciate it; as far as our innovation because I learned things from there but it’s a whole different ball game to walk into our schools and say, okay we can do this reform thing in a different way.

To be honest, that’s the only way we impact all of the kids because those other models aren’t scalable.

Will Richardson:  Yeah I agree.  I have to conclusion that you really want to change education it’s a heck of a lot easier to just go start a school than it is try to change one.  It’s been around for…

John Jungmann:  Guarantee it doesn’t work but we all think the same…

Will Richardson:  I know.

John Jungmann:  But we’ve got a lot of kids counting on us.

Will Richardson:  That’s right.  Absolutely.

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Bruce Dixon

Modern Learners and Change School co-founder Bruce Dixon has spent the bulk of his career developing programs that assist governments to make effective use of technology across their education sector. His strategic work has enabled governments to better manage large scale personal technology deployments, and ensure outcomes that drive both school improvement and ultimately transformation.

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