A supe’s 6 back-to-school tips for virtual district leaders

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Over 30 years ago, I took my first job in public education as a biology high school teacher, and instantly knew this was the career path for me. What solidified my passion for education were the “ah-ha” moments, or those moments when at first a student struggled, and then, after teaching them in a way they could relate to, seeing their eyes light up from the excitement of learning.

I worked in a variety of roles in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, from dean of students to principal to now overseeing the strategy and vision of one of the largest online public school districts in the nation. No matter my position, my priority has and will always be making sure we are doing what is best for students.

I have prepared for the first day of school in many roles throughout my career, and while the planning may seem overwhelming at times, I found that if you have a list of tasks to check off, the entire process runs smoother.

If you are a school administrator or education leader who oversees the vision, strategy and implementation of an online school, I have put together six steps that will help you start the year off strong and ensure that you are always doing what is best for your students and staff.

1. Establish and share online learning guidelines
First, I recommend asking yourself these key questions: Do you have safeguards in
place to ensure academic integrity? How will your staff communicate with students who aren’t submitting assignments? What is your grading policy?

If you don’t have answers to these questions yet, then it is critical that you set and
establish guidelines to ensure that you and your staff are on the same page when it
comes to these topics.

Other questions you should consider are: What is the ideal teacher response time? Do you want to mix synchronous and asynchronous lessons throughout the week? How often and when will students take exams? Do you want to create a website or resource center that helps families find counselor office hours, pace charts, and more?

Once you have the answers to all these questions, create written guidelines and
communicate them to your staff. Then, be available to answer any questions that may
arise.

2. Discuss communication guidelines
One of the great benefits of online learning is that engaging digital curriculum and tools allow for teachers to have more one-on-one interaction with students, providing teachers with better insights on how their students are doing. As such, the connection and rapport your teachers create with students and families can go a long way toward their success, which is why my second step includes developing and discussing communication guidelines.

Dr. Louis Algaze, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida Virtual School & FlexPoint Education Cloud

Dr. Louis Algaze is a former principal and now is President & CEO of Florida Virtual School and FlexPoint Education Cloud.

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