CEO’s Open Letter to Our School District Partners

Dear School District Partners,

Like you, I am receiving a lot of messages in this tough time, and they range from inspirational stories of solidarity to thinly-veiled efforts to monetize the crisis. At the risk of contributing to the e-clutter, I want to offer a brief message during this unprecedented challenge to keep us focused on what matters most and assure you that Partners is here to support you. 

One of the truths of crises like this one is that they impact low-income communities of color much harder than others, and because of this, our most vulnerable students need us all to remain committed to their success now more than ever. As we observe social-distancing recommendations and connect with students and families only through technology, we must find ways to bridge any remaining digital divides to ensure that our most vulnerable students get the support they need.  

We at Partners are here to support you in that effort. We are continuing our coaching and support for school and district leaders, albeit over various virtual platforms. Our support is anchored in a core set of values that reverberate in these times as even more important than in the days when things are more predictable:

  • Optimism: Not only will this challenging period eventually end, but with all of us pulling our oars in the same cadence, keeping our focus on those in greatest need, we can ensure that the communities typically least well-served emerge from this period of strife BETTER positioned to be successful than before.  
  • Commitment: One of our partner superintendents told me this week that he was glad to see that, “unlike other contractors, the Partners team did not suddenly disappear when COVID-19 cropped up.” I responded that this is because we are not contractors, but partners, and as such we are committed to his success and ready to lean in to accomplish it. A fair-weather partner is not a partner at all. 
  • Integrity: When just about everything is uncertain, as is the case for our teachers, leaders, students, and families right now, it’s more important than ever that we do what we say we will do, and deliver on what we promise.  
  • Mutual Respect: In these times, respect means connecting with people as people and not just as workers, colleagues, and direct reports. Often in a crisis we revert to behaviors that do not acknowledge and respect the fact that people can solve their own problems. In our effort to be responsive and “do something,” we end up imposing what is easy rather than what would work best for those we serve.   Our connecting with others has to embed the understanding that all of us are living through this crisis together, and that this time requires a greater dose of listening and taking responsibility to ask what folks need before providing what we think will help.

I offer these values in the hope that they can help you too in your efforts to support those furthest from success and the educators charged with serving them.

Offered with love, appreciation and the sincere hope that we will be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder again soon,

Derek Mitchell, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer

Partners In School Innovation