A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Luis Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez
The Broad Residency Class of 2011-2013

Placement Organization:
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Director Office of Digital Learning

Click here

  • Dec


    7:30 – 8:15 am

    Morning commute. Most days, my wife and I carpool and I drop her off in downtown Boston on my way to work, but occasionally I take the train. In contrast to my previous commute, which included waking up at the crack of dawn on Mondays to catch a plane, mornings are much more enjoyable. I typically enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to the news on my drive in. If I do take the train, I bring a book to read during my commute.

    8:30 – 9:00 am

    Check and respond to email at my desk, take a look at my calendar, and review my to do list to ensure I have a solid plan for the day and remainder of the week. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) staff rarely schedule meetings before 9:00 am, so this gives me ample time to get organized in the morning.

    9:00 – 10:30 am

    Head to my first meeting of the day to discuss our progress on developing the state’s model system for educator evaluation based on regulations that were passed in 2011. The focus of the meeting is to review the work plan, get updates on deliverable progress, discuss challenges, and ensure we are on target for the big upcoming release date. We have a webinar in a few weeks where we will be launching this model system to our Race to the Top districts. We stumble upon a dilemma: one portion of the system may not be ready in time. After assessing options, we decide on a contingency plan.

    10:30 – 11:00 am

    After the morning meeting, I have an informal debrief with an executive in Educator Policy, Preparation & Leadership department discussing what additional guidance we want to include in our state’s model system based on research-based best practices. We have a thorough discussion on what the regulations spell out and areas where the state can provide more guidance on best practices. We also highlight the must haves and nice to haves so that we can ensure the team is focused on what is most impactful to assist district implementation efforts.

    11:00 – 11:30 am

    Meeting to review the budget for the Educator Evaluation program I am a bit surprised at the tools and processes used to manage program budgets; I am accustomed to a more robust system. As we work to identify under-run from the previous year and any additional under-run from the first half of this year, we start to calculate where we stand financially. This meeting went at least 30 minutes over as I discussed some strategies to getting a better understanding of where we stand. I left feeling hesitant to make key program. decisions without an understanding of our financial position.

    12:00 – 12:30 pm

    Check email and take the time to review the latest draft of our educator evaluation overview materials. The materials have been reviewed by internal and external stakeholders multiple times and I am working diligently to ensure they are finalized and posted on our website as soon as possible so we can help streamline messaging. Striking a balance between everyone providing feedback and getting materials out the door is challenging. I take out my copy of the regulations and ensure each slide is in alignment with the regulations before sending an email to our website team to post the materials.
    12:30 – 1:00 pm

    Grab my lunch and review a presentation I put together to review with the Commissioner (i.e. the CEO) later this week. I have a meeting with him every 6 to 8 weeks to provide an update on my key activities and overall induction into the organization. We discuss topics around my current responsibilities and overall strategic topics such as: human capital, customer service orientation, next generation delivery, and educator evaluation tidbits.  The discussions often lead to opportunities to attend interesting meetings or provide advisory assistance to other initiatives.

    1:00 – 2:00 pm 

    I send an email to the assistant principal at one of our pilot schools. During a visit last week, she mentioned they created a new and improved hiring questionnaire using ESE’s model. I cc our ESE turnaround school coordinator to ensure we incorporate the additions to our online questionnaire so all schools have access to it.  I reply to another email from one of our large urban district strategic data fellows concerning performance measures in our Race to the Top grant. The email chain gave me a better understanding of the various reporting requirements for the same educator evaluation program across four different initiatives/grants. These requirements sound burdensome, so I add this tidbit to my list of Commissioner discussion topics.  I answer a few more emails, open a few new articles about virtual schools, and tweak my every-other-week status report before printing it and heading to my supervisor’s office, the Deputy Commissioner.

    2:00 – 3:00 pm 

    I arrive at the Deputy Commissioner’s office with my status report and self created goals to measure my progress and address areas of concern. We discuss the development of the educator evaluation program, virtual school policy, ESE delivery goals, technology, and other various activities. He invites me to a few upcoming meetings including a collaborative site visit to discuss a policy proposal, a meeting with the state’s union presidents to discuss select topics, and a meeting with Education Resource Strategies to discuss insights into district level planning best practices. I share some concerns around our resource constraints. We have a good discussion around ensuring time is spent on high value initiatives and we discuss some opportunities to help positively influence this in certain areas.

    3:00 – 3:30 pm

    Answer a few emails; assist some co-workers with project management related questions.

    3:30 – 4:00 pm

    Informal visit with staff from Office of Planning and Research to discuss the evaluation vendor for our three Human Capital initiatives. We discuss concerns with the proposal and other topics and decide a path forward to consolidate feedback and share it with the vendor.

    4:00 – 4:30 pm

    On my way back to my desk I see an email requesting clarification from my team. Our team, the attribution sub-team, is responsible for determining attribution rules for our Impact on Student Learning guidance ESE will be producing as part of the educator effectiveness program. I conceptualize a response and vet it with my teammates, a policy research analyst, special education educator evaluator, and Strategic Data Fellow. I enjoy the discussion and different points of view we all bring to the table and get back to my desk to send an email with the clarifications.

    4:30 – 5:00 pm

    Emails and voicemails. 

    5:00 – 5:30 pm

    I read the Commissioner’s Update. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has the best NAEP scores. I think about how the other states must think we do everything right… but how much we are working to improve on so many levels. Also, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is holding a public comment meeting next week. They will be assessing whether the state should exercise our right to take over a school district with a graduation rate below 50%. The public meeting is next Monday followed by a Board vote on Tuesday, this will be the first time ESE has ever taken over a school district due to student performance issues. I update my calendar to attend the public hearing and hope to find time to attend the Board meeting as well.

    5:30 – 6:15 pm

    Finally some time to think.  I double check the to do list and send out a few calendar initiations for meetings. I pull up ESE’s waiver application but decide to read that tomorrow. I jot down a few ideas to improve some recurring challenges. I realize I forgot to read any virtual school articles today so I am behind on my at least 3-a-week commitment, so I print two articles off and send one final email to the executive sponsor of the educator evaluation program on my way out the door.

    On my drive home I think about how what I am doing is impacting the lives of a million students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

  • Mar


    7:30 – 8:15 am

    Morning commute. I enjoy the early start to spring with unseasonably warm weather for Boston. With a cup of coffee in hand I am ready to take on the day.

    8:30 – 9:00 am

    Check and respond to email at my desk, take a look at my calendar, and review my to do list. I am juggling time between four initiatives, so planning time is key to staying on top of my work load.

    9:00 – 10:00 am 

    Spend some time working with our Strategic Data Fellow, looking at statewide educator data to help determine which educator profiles are most prevalent throughout the Commonwealth. This information will be used to prioritize the development of impact on student learning measures ESE will include in a Request for Response (RFR). Our evaluation regulations require using multiple measures of impact on student learning for each educator profile, so each district will need to identify which measures they want to use across their unique educator landscape. The goal is identify the measures that get the most bang for the buck across our districts.

    10:00 – 12:00 pm

    Two hour meetings are tough; this meeting is our monthly Leadership Steering Committee for Educator Evaluation. Topics vary month to month but we always cover updates on key activities. I update the team on my deliverables including, the RFR mentioned above, needs assessment to drive technology investment, tool for collecting district evaluation systems, and guidance we are creating for districts to develop rigorous student performance measures. I also learn about the evaluator training we are looking into subsidizing for districts across the state.

    I leave the meeting with some good feedback on how to restructure my technology investment recommendation and a clearer understanding of how other work streams are progressing and potential dependencies I need to monitor.  

    12:00 – 1:00 pm 

    Informal lunch meeting with our CFO. We discuss various topics including organizational opportunities for improvement and an initiative to streamline the grant process. We share some concerns with capacity issues and discuss how to better assess our ability to meet commitments. I jot down some ideas to share with my supervisor as to how I can help with assessing some of these concerns.

    1:00 – 2:00 pm 

    Check email and take the time to review a virtual school article my supervisor sent me earlier in the week. Spend the next hour working on a virtual school update I am providing to the Education Technology Advisory Council on the pending legislation giving ESE the authority to approve and oversee statewide virtual schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The update will eventually roll into an update for the Board of Elementary in Secondary education next month. The update also includes current policy trends and some key decisions we will need to make around state vs. local education agency policies. I am looking forward to my first presentation to the Board.

    2:00 – 3:00 pm 

    Spend some time working with a small management team finalizing an agenda and divvying up responsibilities for an upcoming Urban Superintendents Network meeting. We convene the superintendents of our largest urban districts approximately once a month to dive into topics they have expressed interest in. The two areas I will be covering are the guidance on district-determined measures and gathering their input on statewide technology investment. The meeting is two weeks away, but having a structured agenda and clarity on whom is working on what makes it easier to squeeze into my schedule. We finish up the meeting with 80% of the agenda worked out and clarity on what we can draft before we sync up to review next week.

    3:00 – 3:30 pm 

    Spend some time completing my weekly time sheet, updating travel forms, and other administrative tasks. Sometimes the paperwork required to complete a simple task is a bit daunting. Working for an organization that wants to be innovative but is burdened with being under the state’s policies and other bureaucracies has challenges. But, in the end, if I have to spend an extra hour doing paperwork to make a difference, it is worth it!

    3:30 – 4:30 pm 

    Meeting with the Strategic Learning Collaborative (SLC) to discuss progress on deliverables. MA is a pilot state partnering with the SLC on the initiative, which is basically rolling out an open source app store model for education software. The goal of SLC is to make personalized learning a reality for every U.S. student by improving the usefulness, variety and affordability of education technology. What this means for us is standardizing education data across the United States, providing an open source platform to spawn innovation, building key applications based on the needs of teachers and students, and launching these tools in a cloud environment so many education institutions can access them at an affordable cost. We provide an update on our progress to date, charter, and other various deliverables. I enjoy this initiative due to the overlap of my old career and new career in education.

    4:30 – 5:00 pm 

    Answer a few emails, stop by a few desks to answer questions and informally get updates on key deliverables.

    5:00 – 5:30 p.m.

    Finally some time to think.  I double check the to do list to make sure I did not miss anything and double check to ensure I am prepared for tomorrow’s meetings.

    5:30 – 6:00 p.m.

    I incorporate some changes into my technology assessment presentation and send an invite to the resource I am collaborating with on the initiative to discuss how the changes impact our approach and timeline. I confirm my participation in an upcoming Education Technology Advisory Council and answer a few other quick emails … then off to the gym for my class.

    On my drive home I think about what topics I will want to discuss with my executive coach next week, and what areas I need to focus on to become a better leader in educational reform.


  • Jun


    7:30 – 8:15 am

    Morning commute. Summer is in full effect, Boston summers are fantastic.

    8:30 – 9:00 am

    Check and respond to email at my desk, take a look at my calendar, and review my to do list. I am currently transitioning from supporting five separate initiatives to a leadership role, so planning time to prepare and balance commitments is key to staying on top of my workload.

    9:00 – 10:00 am

    First meeting of the day is around how we will collect educator evaluation data in the 2012/13 School Year. We implemented a simple excel workbook approach for the 32 pilot schools this year; we will need a much more robust approach for the entire Race to the Top districts to report evaluation data next year. We spend 45 minutes on the current and proposed next year approach, and 15 minutes on how this data needs to connect with other data to provide both districts and ESE with good insight.

    10:00 – 11:00 am

    Work on my memo to the ESE Board. I will be presenting to the Board later in the month regarding pending virtual school legislation. As part of my new role, I will be responsible for virtual school policy and accountability. The Board memo process takes a few iterations because this is my first Board memo for a public meeting and because of the multiple reviews required.

    11:00 – 11:30 am

    A quick discussion with a representative from the Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative. I will be presenting on ESE’s vision for building statewide digital learning capacity to a large group of educator leaders later in the month. We will also share an update on the work-in-progress statewide teaching and learning system (optional for districts) we have been working on as part of Race to the Top.

    11:30 – 12:00 pm

    Check email and take the time to think about a State Education Agency’s (SEA) role in building digital learning capacity in the classroom. Should an SEA be building tools, subsidizing existing tools, funding innovation, or some combination of the various approaches? In my new leadership role, I will need to establish a point of view on the SEAs approach to expanding digital learning capacity in the commonwealth.

    12:00 – 1:00 pm

    Grab lunch with my wife. We do not get to meet up for lunch very often, but we try to at least once a month if our schedules permit. It is a fun treat to have a lunch date.

    1:00 – 2:00 pm

    Meeting with an entrepreneur that developed a very interesting Content Management tool for curriculum development. I enjoy having discussions with education visionaries on what tools educators really need in the classroom and what role a SEA can play to help improve/facilitate this. As a growing leader in education, you are exposed to a lot of articles and tools, and it is sometimes challenging to keep you arms around everything. I refer the entrepreneur to our Request for Proposal process and some other interesting local and national technology trends. I try to keep building a good cadre of innovative thinkers to occasionally bounce ideas off of.

    2:00 – 4:00 pm

    Attend a meeting with our vendors supporting our 32 pilot schools implementing educator evaluation this year. ESE has subsidized our 11 districts that make up the 32 pilot schools with external vendor support. The vendors are helping the 32 schools complete the first phase and start to build capacity for district wide implementation during the 2012/13 school year. We are constantly looking to leverage feedback to improve the delivery of the ESE model system and identify other capacity building tools and activities. The vendors provide us quarterly detailed updates on the pilot implementation and we meet monthly in an all hands meeting to discuss best practices and issues amongst all of the pilot implementers.

    On a separate note, there is a pending ballot initiative that will impact our current educator evaluation regulations. We discuss the potential impacts to this pending ballot initiative as more of an awareness effort.

    4:00 – 4:30 pm

    Back at my desk, catch up on email and answer a voicemail from HR.

    4:30 – 5:30 pm 

    Meeting with the Commissioner and leadership from Strategic Grant Partners to discuss various topics including the recent Lawrence school district receivership, the School of One approach, innovative ideas being piloted in education, building out technology infrastructure, and digital learning tools. The Commissioner readily exposes me to trusted thought partners that often expose me to valuable information and insights.

    5:30 – 6:30 pm

    Spend some time finalizing my new role description based on discussions with my current and future supervisor. I update the ESE and Broad Residency form to ensure they are in sync. I stop by my supervisor’s office to get clarification on a few items and send the form into HR to start the approval process. We have a few different approval levels, which includes a signature from the governor’s office, so I am interested to see how long this takes.

    One lest email check, line up some activities for the rest of the week, send out a few invites, and don my Red Sox hat.

    6:30 pm  

    Off to the train to go to the Red Sox game.


  • Sep


    7:30 – 8:15 am
    Morning commute. Fall is perfect in New England, leaves are starting to turn, and a new school year has begun … welcome back students!
    8:30 – 9:00 am
    Check and respond to email at my desk, take a look at my calendar, finish my coffee and fresh muffin from the café next door, and review my to do list. I have recently started a new office in the department, the Office of Digital Learning (ODL). While I am extremely excited the leadership is in support of the new vision and goals of my unit, managing an office comes with a whole new set of challenges.
    9:00 10:00 am 
    Split the next hour working on a couple of deliverables: preparing for a one on one meeting with an ODL staff member, drafting a welcome back to school technology newsletter to send out at the beginning of the fall semester, and reviewing data from a recent technology readiness survey. The newsletter will be my first introduction to district education technology leadership, so I am focusing on ensuring the content is engaging and useful. From a technology readiness survey, ESE is working with districts to understand their current connectivity and device capabilities to assess readiness for the move to an online state assessment test during the 2014/15 school year. I finish up the next iterations of the two deliverables and feel prepared for my one on one. I spend the last few minutes of the hour looking through articles on trends in virtual school licensing. The virtual school bill is still in the legislature, but it may pass any time now. I need to ensure the ESE leadership is informed on key decisions and have an understanding of our department’s point of view on key issues.
    10:00 11:00 am
    One on one meeting with a staff member. I have been working with the team to set goals and develop templates to better structure our every other week status meeting. My management style is quite different in comparison to my staff’s previous director, so I am working to ensure my staff feels more empowered to make decisions and more accountable for goals we jointly identified. I enjoy the discussions where we review how ESE traditionally operated and how ESE can improve our practices to better serve districts. My experienced staff continues to teach me a lot of historical context and insight into their areas of expertise.
    11:00 11:30 am 
    Spend time reviewing an agenda for an upcoming cross state convening meeting for the Shared Learning Collaborative initiative. Prep my feedback on the agenda, proposed communications plan, and a memorandum of understanding in preparation for an 11:30am meeting with the commissioner and CIO. 
    11:30 – 12:00 pm
    Discuss progress on the Shared Learning Collaborative initiative, how it integrates with our current statewide learning management procurement, the pros and cons of being a pilot SEA, and how this initiative fits into our overall portfolio. I leave the meeting with the leadership team in alignment on our current involvement, participation in the upcoming cross state convening and how to address some of the legal issues with the memorandum of understanding. I am excited ESE continues to be involved in forward looking initiatives.
    12:00 – 1:00 pm
    Grab lunch with the project coordinator from the educator evaluation initiative (one of my previous projects) and the manager of ESE’s delivery unit (similar to a program management office).  We discuss updates on our current initiatives, issues we are currently facing, and casually collaborate on ideas. It is great to bounce ideas off of peers that know enough about the initiative but not enough about the challenges and boundaries to foster some good out of the box thinking. I leave the meeting with some ideas on how to better prepare communications for our leadership team and think through how to avoid some of the pitfalls my peers identified. 
    1:00 – 1:15 pm
    The director of the Office of Planning and Research stops by to discuss some challenges with a current vendor contract. I share some best practices from my consulting days and we settle on an approach to try during the next sync up with the vendor. I enjoy bringing experiences from my past into this new position. I hope the approach works!
    1:15 – 2:00 pm
    Work on my virtual school key questions worksheet. I have created a policy workbook with several issues ESE will need to have a point of view on before we can finalize new virtual school policy language, develop a strong application process, and piece together a forward looking accountability approach. I work to categorize and prioritize the key policy questions, highlight the common trends, and send the document to my supervisor for review in prep for a meeting next week. I have a meeting with key influencers around ESE to discuss key questions and propose a point of view on key policy areas to the commissioner and ESE board. 
    2:00 – 3:00 pm 
    Attend a meeting to discuss the RETELL initiative, which stemmed from a department of justice action requiring educators that teach English language learners (ELL) to have more targeted training to improve their ability to identify and support ELLs in the classroom. My unit owns the facilitation of courses in Moodle, our open source statewide professional development tool. The additional training will be conducted in a blended environment (some face to face units and some online units in the course) via Moodle. We walk through the business process flow and identify areas where automation would help streamline implementation. I work with our Executive Office of Education IT counterparts to whiteboard a process flow map to help facilitate the discussion. We leave the meeting with a list of issues and a few decisions, but more work to do. ESE is currently piloting the course and planning to roll it out to over 3,000 educators in the spring of 2013. 
    3:00 – 4:00 pm 
    Back at my desk, catch up on email and answer a few voicemails. Spend some time working on my burning platform presentation. I have been working with a Harvard Fellow to put together some materials to really push the story of why we need to invest in technology for our students, how it is key to developing 21st century skills, necessary for deep data for personalized learning, enables anytime learning, and required for online state assessments. Building political will for major investments is a challenge, but ESE did get the treasurer’s preliminary interest in helping to drive a program to improve enablement across the Commonwealth.  Through federal funds, some public/private partnerships are focused on getting fiber to all cities in the state. ESE needs to focus on getting infrastructure in schools, devices that are up to date, and proper training for the staff and support personnel.  I find this work very exciting and very challenging.
    4:00 – 4:30 pm 
    Spend some time with grants management finalizing a grant my unit released to pilot the use of our new statewide learning management system on tablets. I continually try to find opportunities for ESE to help districts bring technology in the classroom to improve students’ learning experience. I sign the necessary forms, make copies, and put them into the commissioner’s inbox for final approval to release the funds to districts. The process is quite paper intensive and requires a lot of steps, but we are moving to an online grants management system that will help streamline this in the future.
    4:30 – 6:00 pm 
    Leave the office for a 5:00pm meeting with a distinguished Harvard professor. We grab a coffee in Harvard Square and discuss some key policy trends in technology enablement, blended learning, and other various areas. The professor shares a policy framework and some research with me that helps inform my point of view on what other states have done successfully and some lessons learned. I thank the professor for spending time with me and head home to incorporate the feedback into my burning platform communication. The professor also puts me in touch with a leader form another state that has gone through the process of enabling a statewide network all education agencies can use. I see this as a valuable opportunity to explore in Massachusetts; thought I am not sure the Commonwealth has the appetite for such an initiative. 
    6:00 – 6:45 pm
    Commuting home. Traffic is less then ideal at this time of the day. But NPR keeps me company in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  I get home, update some of my slides, check email and answer a few easy questions, and draft an agenda for a meeting with our new deputy commissioner, the former superintendent of Springfield MA, one of our large urban school districts.
    Now it is time to check my fantasy football roster for the week.
  • Dec


    7:30 – 8:15 am

    Morning commute. The New England winter is fast approaching. I bundle up and hope we get enough snow to hit the mountains in the near future.

    8:30 – 9:00 am

    Check and respond to email at my desk, take a look at my calendar, and review my to do list. I officially started my new role as the Director of the Office of Digital Learning a few months back. The role comes with new staff and a new focus, determining how an SEA can help LEAs in the transition to the digital classroom. In my new role, I tend to spend a lot more time in the field giving presentations on the shift to digital and getting feedback from district leaders on areas of need. But, today I am in the office.

    9:00 – 10:00 am 

    First meeting of the day is focused on addressing how we will vet vendors for an upcoming RFP. The team is looking for a qualified vendor to develop a survey tool that can be used in educator evaluation. The tool will be optional to districts, but more and more research is revealing some strong correlations between survey results and student outcomes. While I was previously part of the educator evaluation team, my focus on this initiative is more on the technology side. But I do enjoy the opportunity to catch up with my old teammates. We leave the meeting with an established scoring methodology, target next steps, and a few questions that can be addressed at a future date. 

    10:00  11:00 am

    Review the updated version of the commonwealth virtual school (CVS) regulations that the senate recently signed. It is sitting on the governor’s desk and will likely be signed into law in the near future.  The bill gives Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) more regulatory oversight on the virtual schools in the Commonwealth. We currently only have one full time providers in the k-8 space, this bill will help us establish a more robust application and accountability model for future virtual schools in the Commonwealth. I begin working on a few deliverables impacted by the new bill: high level application plan, status update for an upcoming check in with the deputy commissioner, HR job description for a new staff member, and review our charter application process to assess how it can be leveraged for the CVS application process. This will be a significant addition to my team’s work load and I need to ensure we balance competing priorities. I also jot down some talking points for competency based models and funding following the student to the course level, two trends in the move to digital I would like to discuss with ESE leadership in more detail.

    11:00 – 11:30 am 

    Jump on the subway to meet a few Broad Resident alumni for lunch. Check emails while in route and respond to a few easy ones to keep the inbox under control.

    11:30 – 12:30 pm

    During lunch, we catch up and discuss our individual initiatives (SEAs Role in Digital Learning, Grant Investments, Curriculum and Technology).  We discuss our path into the Residency program and how we are currently impacting education reform. We chat about national and local policy trends and ask each other the hard questions to encourage a focused approach. I appreciate the helpful insight and sharing of lessons learned as I have a big meeting with my leadership later in the afternoon.

    12:30 – 1:00 pm

    Commute back to the office. Noticed my 2pm meeting is cancelled so that will give me more time to prepare for my 4pm.

    1:00 – 2:00 pm

    Have an impromptu meeting with a staff member working on Digital Learning Month. As we work to build more awareness around digital learning in the Commonwealth, ESE has signed up to celebrate Digital Learning Month in February 2013. I am excited our leadership is on board and look forward to building awareness across the state leveraging classroom/school level examples, hosting a statewide event, and encouraging schools and educators to share how they will celebrate Digital Learning Month. I anticipate the more student driven examples we have, the more impactful the awareness campaign will be.

    I spend some time working on a presentation for a meeting later in the week. I am presenting ESE’s point of view on professional development to the Massachusetts Educational Technology Administrators Association (METAA). I use some of the content from a previous presentation to the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) and add some more ed-tech related content. I am working to shift the focus from a new state online assessment (PARCC readiness) to an opportunity to integrate digital learning tools into the classroom.

    2:00 – 3:00 pm

    With a cancelled meeting on the calendar, I enjoy the extra time. I do a dress rehearsal for my 4pm with the Commissioner. I will be presenting on the digital learning landscape in the Commonwealth and introduce the Digital Learning Initiative - a program, in collaboration with other state organizations, that will help infuse technology into the classroom. The presentation is a bit long and I am trying to figure out what to cut versus what to breeze through quickly. I want to ensure I have time to get to my last slides that highlight risks and identify areas where I can use some help from leadership. I finish up the hour printing out materials and finalizing my delivery approach.

    3:00 – 3:30 pm 

    Brief meeting to update progress on RETELL (a new endorsement required for educators that teach English Language Learner students). A few months ago, the Department of Justice cited that ESE is not doing a good job providing educators with the tools they need to integrate ELLs into the classroom. Since then, we have developed a training curriculum that will be rolled out to about 30,000 educators across the Commonwealth over the next 3 years. While the scope is a bit daunting, the exciting part is that ESE will deploy the training using a blended learning model - some work in the classroom and some online. This is the first time ESE has deployed a course that models blended learning, and I am passionate about ensuring it represents good blended pedagogical practice. This initiative provides a unique opportunity to expose many educators to next generation learning delivery.

    3:30 – 4:00 pm

    Final prep for the Digital Learning meeting with the Commissioner.

    4:00 – 5:00 pm

    Show time. The meeting starts at least ten minutes late, so I am happy I did a dress rehearsal and had the key slides identified. We got through the content just in time and have a clear path forward. I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with ESE leadership on key initiatives. Most importantly, I have leadership buy in to move forward with some key components to the Office of Digital Learning strategy.

    5:00 – 5:30 pm

    Back at the desk answering some emails and summarizing the previous meeting to a few key stakeholders. I am engaging the leadership of other state organizations to help in the awareness campaign, and I anticipate they would all appreciate a brief update on where the initiative stands and key next steps. I reach out to the co-chairpersons of the Education Technology Advisory Committee to confirm our meeting later in the week. I am working to determine how that group (along with other state organization) can also help with building awareness.

    5:30 – 6:30 pm

    Spend some time reviewing my internal plan to ensure my prioritization of activities aligns with the focus from the discussion. My staff is working on some key elements, but we may need to shuffle some things around in the short term to ensure we are all focused on high priority items. With the Digital Learning Initiative and commonwealth virtual school bill on the horizon, we will need to get creative. We also have a big online assessment (PARCC) readiness survey closing at the end of the week, and we need to turn that data around in time to have a gap analysis discussion with the state treasurer in early January. I finish up a few emails … and finish up my Broad Journal for December.

    6:30 pm

    Off to the car to get home in time for some MNF 


  • Mar


    7:30 8:15 am

    Morning commute. Why is it still snowing in spring! At least March Madness is in full swing.

    8:30 – 9:00 am

    Check my calendar, review my to do list, and address a few emails. It has been about seven months since I started my new role as the Director of the Office of Digital Learning (ODL). The office now has some clear short term goals and longer term opportunities to pursue. I continue to spend a lot of time in the field to get a pulse for key issues and recalibrate priorities to ensure we are serving districts based on their current needs. 

    9:00 10:00 am

    First meeting of the day with the Commonwealth virtual school team, a mixture of ODL staff and staff from other offices. The governor signed the Commonwealth virtual school bill into law on January 2nd and the Department launched a request for proposals to open a Commonwealth virtual school for the 2013-2014 school year. The team is currently focused on finalizing the review process while in parallel drafting regulations and a new accountability model. The various virtual school models provide some interesting challenges in balancing innovation and accountability. Several existing statutes and regulations need to be assessed. Two items we are currently researching are 1) competency based models that are not tied to traditional seat time requirements and 2) effective support for online learners.

    10:00 11:00 am

    Spend the next hour reviewing existing charter school and collaborative regulations to identify potential regulatory overlaps for Commonwealth virtual schools. The application cycle is similar to our existing charter application cycle, so that is a good starting point. I highlight some areas with clear overlap and document several additional areas that need to be addressed that are not currently addressed in any regulations (that I am aware of). Managing all of the various statues and regulations is a bit complex. I often collaborate with our legal staff to ensure I am not misinterpreting anything.

    I make a few phone calls and send out emails to a few national leaders in the virtual school space to setup time to discuss some ideas with them.

    11:00 11:30 am

    I spend the next 30 minutes finalizing an interview protocol. The Department has a very structured interview process. I have a new staff position that will focus on digital learning tools and professional development to improve digital literacy for educators and students. Having the right person in this role will be key to effectively expand the Department’s ability to deploy tools and support to districts. I developed a protocol by levering something from my previous employer in an attempt to achieve the desired result in a shorter time span.

    11:30 12:30 pm

    Grab lunch with our new associate commissioner of educator preparation, policy, and licensure. I worked in that unit during my first year in the residency, and I find it valuable to chat with new leadership. What new perspectives do they bring to the Department, perceived challenges, opportunities for quick wins, etc. I briefly reflect on my experience in that unit and offer to help out in any way I can. We identify a few areas where we would like to collaborate with local business colleges to get help in a few areas. 

    12:30 1:00 pm

    Put the finishing touches on a presentation I am creating, “What is Digital Learning?” I am meeting with senior staff next week to give them an overview of ODL. More importantly, I plan to showcase a model district embracing digital learning and offer support to help our Department leverage tools to model good digital learning in the work we do. I brought in a model district to “show don’t tell”, the district has a one to one program in the high school and middle school and they are working to migrate to a fully online curriculum. I find the “show don’t tell” model effective in education.

    1:00 – 1:30 pm

    Pack up and head to the state house for a meeting with the State Treasurer.

    1:30 – 2:30 pm

    Over the last few months, I have been leveraging data from multiple sources to develop a high level analysis of the bandwidth, infrastructure, and device capacity of our schools. The Commonwealth is assessing the migration from our current paper based state assessment test to an online assessment test in 2015. While several other states have already moved to that format, it will be a new endeavor for Massachusetts. The meeting consists of leadership from various state departments and I am admittedly a bit overwhelmed to be in a meeting of this caliber … but that is why I took this job, to work with state leadership to move education in a direction I passionately believe is valuable to our students. I share the results and rough figures on what it will take to not only be prepared for online assessment, but to truly equip our 1,800 schools with an environment to support next generation learning.

    2:30 – 3:00 pm

    Take the train back to the office. Think through things that went well and review areas I could have better articulated my concerns.

    3:00 – 3:30 pm

    Put the final touches on a presentation I put together for Breakout Princeton. Some students are visiting the Boston area to learn more about Education Entrepreneurship and Innovative Learning.

    3:30 – 4:30 pm

    I meet with 15 students from Princeton. I share a bit about the Department’s current achievements and challenges. I share some high level data on student’s access to technology during the school day, and compare a local have/have-not district. We have a great follow-up discussion around the importance of digital literacy as a critical 21st century skill. I secretly hope I have encouraged some talented students to contribute to education in some capacity, regardless of the career they choose to pursue. 

    4:30 – 5:30 pm

    I meet with a vendor representative. We discuss the current landscape and challenges. I worked with our procurement department to piggy back on the Maine Learning Technology Initiate, so we discuss what that would look like in Massachusetts. While I do not have a ton of “free time”, I do like to meet with vendors to understand the current marketplace, what is out there, and what the market is lacking. This helps me inform our leadership as we assess opportunities. I also collaborate with the leadership of a group focused on expanding the education innovation ecosystem. 

    5:30 – 6:30 pm

    Answer a few emails. Put together an outline for a presentation next week to discuss planning for the online assessment and other select topics with a group of ed tech directors in Western Massachusetts. Ensure I am prepared for any meeting tomorrow a.m. … and pack up.

    6:30 pm

    Off to the car to get home in time to catch the second half of a basketball game (unfortunately my team lost).

  • Jul



    What motivated you to join TBR?

    I was approaching a milestone in my previous career and toying with trying out something different before committing to a longer-term consulting career. I have always been passionate about the impact of a good education. When I got tired of consulting, my game plan was to go back to school to get a PhD so I could teach at the collegiate level. As I assessed my options, my awesome wife mentioned The Broad Residency as something she saw at a University of Texas McCombs recruiting fair. I had a few chats with some close friends, attended a few TBR webinars, scheduled a chat with a current resident, and ultimately decided to give it a shot.

    TBR provided me with a pathway into the public education sector without “starting over”, a cohort of dedicated classmates to collaborate with over the two year adventure, and a proven network of TBR graduates to support me.

    How is your work improving educational opportunities for the students in your system?

    My work in the Office of Digital Learning at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has helped provide student choice, bring light to the digital divide, and improve educator effectiveness in turnaround schools. I led the authorization of the first full-time statewide virtual school, providing all students in the state with a full-time online public school option. In 2015, Massachusetts is shifting to an online state assessment; I have been collecting and analyzing data on which schools do/do not have adequate access to connectivity and devices in the classroom. This data and supporting research has provided insight into the digital divide in Massachusetts and sparked some conversation around equity in access and how it impacts the student experience of growing up in a digital world. In addition to summarizing statewide data, I have been working with many state organizations to build awareness around the benefits of digital learning as well as helping with the roll out of an optional instructional improvement system for classroom teachers. Finally, I assisted districts with implementing the new statewide educator evaluation framework in turnaround schools across the state. Over time, this system will help ensure all students have effective teachers.

    Reflecting on your Residency experience, what was the most important lesson you learned?

    Navigating change in public education is much more complex in comparison to navigating change in corporate America. Public education has so many stakeholders and competing agendas. What is best for our students is not always at the front and center of the conversation. While this challenge clearly exists at the district and potentially CMO level, I anticipate it is much greater at the state level. Additionally, many of the commonplace change/project management tools and techniques used in corporate America and not widely used in public education. This realization forced me to consistently reassess my approach and challenged me to grow professionally in many ways. In summary, be flexible in your approach and realize what is common to you may be completely new to others.

    Briefly describe your capstone project: your goals, what you were able to achieve and how that impacted or will impact the organization.

    My capstone project involved authorizing the first statewide K-12 full-time virtual school option for Commonwealth students. From the passing of the statute in January 2013 to the granting of the first certificate in June 2013, the team was full throttle. The authorization consisted of creating an application, developing review protocols, leading a team through a review, hosting a public hearing, and preparing board materials and a recommendation for a vote. The first school can enroll up to 1,250 students over the next three years. The team is leveraging the first authorization experience to improve our next application cycle (started July 2013) and incorporating some key areas into regulations. More importantly, the first authorization process opened up conversations around allowing more innovative learning models into district schools, including waivers for traditional seat time requirements.

    What did your vision for your personal career trajectory look like before you joined TBR? How has that shifted as a result of your participation in the Residency?

    I alluded to this in the question above, but my career-trajectory before joining TBR was focused on becoming a partner at a global consulting company. I started working at the company right out of undergraduate studies, did graduate school part-time, and had a clear vision for becoming a partner. While I spent time volunteering at non-profits and serving on some boards, the overall trajectory remained clear. My exit strategy was to get a PhD and contribute to education at the collegiate level.

    The shift … at heart, I am and always will be a human capital guy. I believe that, with the right folks, you can make anything happen. My residency experience helped me weigh the value of what I can contribute in a global consulting company vs. a public education institution. While I cannot lay out a clear trajectory, I do know contributing to public education is definitely part of it.

    What challenge are you most excited to tackle? How has the Residency prepared you to meet that challenge?

    Three challenges stick out to me: building a high performing team in a challenging culture with limited resources, balancing the social emotion components of education with digital learning, and finding a career trajectory and/or opportunity that maximizes the use of my strengths and keeps me motivated despite obstacles.

    The residency experience includes a lot of management and leadership training. Some of the techniques I used in my previous career did not work well in a state education agency. The frameworks and methods taught, along with my Broad coach, really helped me work to push some of my team members to be higher performing. While residency training did touch on the social emotional aspects of learning as well as digital learning, it did not address the intersection. I see this as an emerging challenge in a digital world that needs to be addressed as part of the transition to digital in the classroom. For career growth, Broad provides a solid network of like-professionals dedicated to improving public education for all students and a network support team to keep me abreast of potential opportunities and help me think through challenges.

    What will you miss the most about being in the Residency?

    While I know I will always network with my cohort, nothing is more valuable, entertaining, and stress reducing than quarterly sessions. Collaborating with my cohort at session was such a valuable experience for me personally and professionally. Sessions also provided an opportunity to listen to leaders from different organizations, which gave me valuable insight into potential career options.

    Any advice for anyone contemplating applying for the Residency? What about advice for new Residents?

    If you are contemplating applying to the residency, you will walk away from the experience with: a broader set of leadership skills, a great group of friends, and a deeper passion for change in public education.

    For new resident: find the folks in your placement organization that get things done and partner with them as much as possible. And, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.