A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Ashley McGrath

Ashley McGrath
The Broad Residency Class of 2016-2018

Placement Organization:
Camden City School District

Senior Manager, Strategic Initiatives

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  • Dec


    8:15 a.m.        

    While driving to the office, I get a call that one of our schools has no power in the cafeteria or hallways. Classrooms still have power, so they are going to serve breakfast in the classrooms and do a staggered morning transition to make sure all students are safe.

    I hang up and call our chief operating officer so she can deploy folks from the district maintenance team. After chatting briefly with her, I pull my car over to send a quick group text letting our leadership team know what’s going on in case parents start calling the family support center.

    8:30 a.m.        

    I get to my desk and try to clean out my email. There are about 35 emails waiting for me. I check my calendar for the day, make sure that I’m ready for all of my meetings and jot down a quick to-do list of items that MUST be completed before I leave for the day.

    9:00 a.m.        

    I join a planning meeting for an upcoming staff meeting at one of our high schools. Together, we decide on an agenda for the meeting. We brainstorm a list of items we can celebrate and areas where there is work to be done. I leave with a few more things on my to-do list.

    9:45 a.m.        

    I run to a check-in with our chief of staff. We compare past cabinet meeting agendas to organizational goals and discuss upcoming agenda items. We quickly touch on projects I’m working through — including a few upcoming central office events — complete a function mapping analysis and discuss how I will approach my direct report’s mid-year review.

    10:30 a.m.      

    I attend the school support leadership team meeting. The team currently has no chief of staff, and I’ve been asked to play a supporting role. I help our deputy chief of staff manage follow-ups and play a connective role between her, members of her team and cabinet members.

    12:00 p.m.     

    I run to a weekly check-in with our chief engagement officer. We agree to do a walking meeting and head to the cafeteria to grab lunch while we talk. There are several family meetings, a few community meetings, a board meeting and a central office town hall for which we need materials. We divide and conquer next steps and quickly create an agenda for a meeting we are co-facilitating later.

    12:30 p.m.     

    The chief engagement officer and I head to a meeting with our school-focused operations team. In advance of winter weather, we need to align on emergency communication protocols. I agree to take notes and turn them into a process map that our team and schools can use.

    1:00 p.m.       

    I head back to my desk for the first time all day. I have about 50 emails waiting for me and my lunch is cold. I quickly run through emails and start digging into my to-do list while I eat.

    • Confirm a student performance for the upcoming end-of-year staff party
    • Create a PowerPoint and talking points for the upcoming board meeting
    • Email cabinet members to share next week’s meeting agenda
    • Send two open public records requests
    • Call the union to give them a heads-up about upcoming staff meetings

    2:30 p.m.       

    I co-lead a board meeting planning group. We quickly debrief on the notes from the last meeting, assign roles for the evening and run through the meeting agenda.

    3:15 p.m.       

    I run downstairs to see a colleague who just returned from maternity leave. We catch up on what’s been going on since we last saw each other, then quickly pivot to talking about work. 

    3:30 p.m.       

    I run upstairs for a quick check-in with the superintendent’s special assistant. We confirm that the superintendent’s calendar is good to go for the rest of the week, discuss what’s she’s working on and set a date for her mid-year review.

    4:00 p.m.       

    I join the superintendent and members of the cabinet for an external affairs check-in. I provide an update on our engagement calendar and review a proposal for a teacher appreciation event.

    5:00 p.m.       

    I’m back at my desk. I push through email, create a to-do list for the next day and send out follow-up emails to my colleagues. I also prepare for tomorrow’s meetings.

    5:45 p.m.       

    It’s already super dark outside, so I decide to head home. On the walk to my car, I order take-out and pick it up on the way home.

    6:30 p.m.       

    I eat on my couch while I watch a few sitcoms on my DVR.

    7:30 p.m.       

    I log into my computer to work on the mid-year evaluation, but I spend most of the time sifting through emails and flagging items that require a follow-up. I log into the mid-year review system, get about halfway through and realize that I have more desk time than usual tomorrow. So I decide to finish it then!

    8:30 p.m.       

    I spend some time catching up on my own to-do list. I pay a few bills, clean out the refrigerator, order Christmas presents and cross my fingers that they’ll make it in time, load the dishwasher and throw a load of laundry into the washing machine — all while on a phone call with a college friend.

    9:30 p.m.       

    I squeeze in one more sitcom and end up falling asleep in the middle of it. I wake up on the couch and head to bed. Tomorrow, I have fewer meetings, and I’m jazzed to power through my to-do list, clean out my email and eat my lunch while it’s still warm.

  • Feb


    8:00 a.m.

    I drive into the office. On the way I join a conference call with our chief of staff, chief talent officer and chief engagement officer about a temporary space plan for a school reconstruction project. We recently received some input that may shift the plan in a different direction. During the call, we discuss our options, draft a list of questions for our superintendent and agree on next steps.

    8:30 a.m.

    I run into the office to set up for my presentation during our district update meeting. Our district is in the middle of a state compliance audit. I’m coordinating the audit, so I will share our progress.  

    9:00 a.m.

    I join our cabinet for the district meeting. During my presentation, our team is peppered with questions about district finances, instruction, personnel, governance and operations.

    11:00 a.m.

    I head back to my desk to finalize the audit sessions for the next day. 

    I’m working with principals, school staff and our school support team to set up a series of teacher focus groups. I finalize RSVPs, coordinate with our host principal and send out last-minute reminders to attendees.

    12:00 p.m.

    I head across the street to grab a quick lunch. While I walk, I call one of our high school leaders to plan a visit to his building.

    12:30 p.m.

    I get a call from our board president, who wants a full summary of our self-evaluation from the audit. I share the information I have and then send a flurry of emails to my colleagues to get answers to her other questions.

    1:00 p.m.

    I head downstairs for a two-hour training session on our new online attendance system. Our district currently uses a paper-based attendance system.

    3:00 p.m.

    I finally get a chance to dig into my email. I have nearly 70 emails waiting for me! I make a pretty decent dent over the course of an hour. 

    4:00 p.m.

    I head to my weekly check-in with our chief innovation officer. I’m managing spring engagement and school actions, so we work together to create a stakeholder map, lists of required materials and outstanding questions as well as an owners document to share tomorrow with the team.

    5:00 p.m.

    I’m back at my desk, digging through the rest of my email and ticking through items on my to-do list. I take a quick break to check the news and realize that our region is expecting a significant amount of snow. I initiate our weather protocol and let the team know that we’ll have a series of conference calls over the next several hours to determine if we need to change tomorrow’s schedule.

    6:00 p.m.

    As I drive home, I call our new senior director of facilities to make sure he’s prepared for the possibility of our first snow day of the year. We talk through the district’s notification process and he assures me that his team will be good to go!

    6:30 p.m.

    I head out for a quick run. If it’s really going to snow, I need to get outside before I can’t!

    7:30 p.m.

    I make dinner and catch up on television while monitoring the weather and local closures.

    9:00 p.m.

    I facilitate a conference call with district leadership, and we decide to call a snow day. I hang up and initiate our communication protocol. I monitor execution while Facebook posts, Twitter posts, news alerts and all-district emails and texts trickle out.

    9:45 p.m.

    I clean up my calendar for the next day. I was supposed to have a number of meetings, so I quickly align with our team and we decide what we can cancel and what should be done via conference call.

    10:30 p.m.

    I get in bed and spend a little bit of time reading before I fall asleep.

  • May


    4:30 a.m.

    I wake up to a call from our chief operating officer letting me know that there was an emergency in one of our buildings that requires the school to close for the day. I quickly get the word out to our broader team and the school community via phone, text and email.

    6:30 a.m.

    After I confirm that word is out, I get ready for the day and head to the office a bit earlier than normal. Because the day started with a surprise and I’m not sure what the rest of the day will bring, I want to have some desk time before people start to arrive.

    8:15 a.m.

    I clear out my inbox and confirm my to-do list and priorities for the day. I go through my calendar and prepare the materials I need for the day.

    9:30 a.m.

    Two of my colleagues and I are leading the hiring process for a new role in our district: climate and culture coordinator. We quickly discuss candidates who we’ll meet that day, pull resumes and prep for interviews. We run three back-to-back interviews that include general interview questions, a role-play exercise and an opportunity for candidates to ask us questions. Between interviews, we debrief, prepare for the next candidate and quickly eat our (cold) lunches.

    1:00 p.m.

    I meet with two of my colleagues to review responses to a recently closed request for proposals. We use a rubric to determine which proposal best meets our needs and share our selection with the business office.

    1:30 p.m.

    Our chief of staff and I meet with our school support leadership team to discuss a recent round of conversations with school leaders. As a district, we’ve been planning for upcoming staffing notifications and have been gathering feedback on proposed allocations. Our school support team flags a few areas of concern, and we discuss how to staff our schools adequately while monitoring spending.

    2:15 p.m.

    I check my email for anything time sensitive, send a round of text messages to get updates on the morning’s school closure and call our facilities manager to determine if the building can open tomorrow. I run to the last interview of the day for the climate and culture coordinator role.

    3:30 p.m.

    I join a planning meeting about pre-kinddergarten allocations to discuss classrooms moving to new locations in the 2017-18 school year. In addition to a few staffing shifts, we need to think through food service options, moving materials, furniture, etc.

    4:00 p.m.

    Although our facilities director has said that the building is cleared for school the next day, parts of the building must be closed off for a few additional days. To ensure we can accommodate all students and programs in the smaller space, I head to the building with our facilities team. As we walk the building, I’m on the phone with our chief operating officer, my colleague who manages high schools and my colleague who manages the school-based operations managers. We decide that the building can accommodate all students and staff in the morning, so I head back to my office to draft and send a comprehensive updates-and-next-steps email for colleagues.

    7:00 p.m.

    I missed my check-in with my manager in the afternoon because I was at the building walk. So I call her while I drive home and we debrief the day.

    7:30 p.m.

    When I get home, I create updates for meetings the superintendent is hosting tomorrow, clear out my inbox, eat dinner and watch some mindless television before I go to bed.