The Best of Us S2/E6: Superintendents’ Role in Teacher Support, with Kevin McGowan

In this episode of The Best of Us, we sit down with Dr. Kevin McGowan, Superintendent of Brighton Central School District and longest-tenured school leader in the country.

Our conversation covers the length and breadth of Kevin’s leadership, from addressing graduation rate disparities to tailored teacher PD and beyond.

We also dig in to the ins and outs of establishing collaborative teacher culture, the nitty-gritty of Brighton’s blueprint planning process, and aligning professional development with district priorities. Kevin also provides practical context and advice for district leaders looking to replicate Brighton’s success and develop collaborative cultures of their own.

Listen now:


Closing the Gap for All Kids [00:02:23] Framing Kevin’s start at the district and beginning efforts in closing the achievement gap for all students.

Identifying the Graduation Rate Disparity [00:04:35] Kevin explains how his team discovered the gap in graduation rates between different student groups.

Achieving Equity in Graduation Rates [00:06:49] Successful efforts made to close the graduation rate gap, resulting in a 98% overall graduation rate and a minimal gap between different student groups.

Graduation rate task force [00:09:46] Exploring the reasons behind students' difficulties and identifying predictive data elements for early intervention.

Addressing barriers to success [00:12:43] Example of a rigorous economics course becoming a barrier and the need to support students without lowering standards.

Enhancing Collaboration between Teachers [00:16:37] The importance of collaboration between teachers working with the same cohort of students, and efforts made at the superintendent level to facilitate this collaboration.

Strategic Planning Process [00:19:05] The speaker explains the strategic planning process undertaken in the district, involving various stakeholders, to maximize opportunities and resources and ensure the implementation of initiatives.

The Blueprint Planning Process [00:20:34] The speaker introduces the blueprint planning process, which aims to drive the work happening in the district, allocate resources, and create a comprehensive approach to planning for the whole district.

The offsite planning process [00:23:26] Discussion about the annual offsite retreat where community members help determine the district's priorities and goals.

Culturally responsive teaching and pedagogy [00:26:53] Exploration of the district's efforts to become more culturally responsive in curriculum, pedagogy, and professional development.

Connecting the strategic plan to professional learning [00:29:03] Explanation of how the blueprint process directly influences the district's professional development plans and faculty meetings throughout the year.

Shifting the Definition of Success [00:30:24] Discussion on redefining success beyond graduation rates and focusing on achieving mastery in chosen paths.

Advice for District Leaders [00:32:22] Advice on embracing change, sticking with it, and prioritizing what is right for students, as well as the importance of strategy, culture, and accountability in achieving success.

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