A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Mahati Tonk

Mahati Tonk
The Broad Residency Class of 2016-2018

Placement Organization:
Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Executive Director, School Operations

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  • Dec


    6:15 a.m.

    I wake up to the sound of my daughter cooing in her crib 15 minutes before my alarm is set to go off. While I wish I had a few more minutes to snooze, seeing her big smile is a pretty incredible start to my day! I feed her and hand her off to my mom, who is staying with us to help with the baby. I shower and get ready for work.

    7:30 a.m.

    I drive to work and take in the view crossing the bridge from the beach to downtown while listening to the radio.

    8:00 a.m.

    I check emails and get ready for my meetings today. One of my co-workers comes with Cuban coffee as she does every morning — a major perk of living in Miami.

    9:00 a.m.

    I oversee the creation of a differentiated accountability framework for Miami-Dade County Public Schools charter schools. I meet with our National Association of Charter School Authorizers liaison to align with national best practices in charter school authorizing by creating mechanisms to focus greater resources on struggling schools while providing autonomy to high performers. One component of the project is an annual report for every school to provide greater transparency to families looking to enroll their child in a charter school. NACSA is partnering with our office to get this project off the ground. We review our work to date and strategize about next steps.

    11:00 a.m.

    I have a discussion with our district’s head of research and data analysis to determine our current capabilities for creating the report we have in mind. I’m a bit discouraged at first. It sounds like compiling the data we need from multiple sources will be challenging. But we agree on some ideas for pressing forward.

    12:00 p.m.

    I run to the cafeteria to grab a sandwich. It’s pecan pie day, so I treat myself with some dessert, too. I quickly eat at my desk while responding to emails.

    1:00 p.m.

    We invited a focus group of six principals to gather input on the concept of the annual report.  This group is proactive. They seem on board with the idea and have many useful suggestions.

    2:30 p.m.

    I was originally scheduled to attend a compliance visit at one of our struggling schools, but the visit is rescheduled for next week. I am relieved. Now, I can use the rest of the afternoon to work on my analysis of several charter schools that applied for renewal. I watch the live webcast of the district’s school board meeting on my second screen as I work.

    4:45 p.m.

    I pack up for the day and continue listening to the school board meeting on the radio during my drive home.

    5:15 p.m.

    I am so excited to see my baby girl! I take her for a quick walk along the beach to get some time outside before the sun sets. My husband gets home in time for our baby’s bedtime routine.

    7:00 p.m.

    My mom made dinner. The three of us eat and catch up on our day.

    8:00 p.m.

    I finish prepping for my meetings tomorrow and respond to a few emails. The baby wakes up, so I feed her and get her back to sleep.

    10:30 p.m.

    I head to bed hoping the baby gives me at least a few hours of sleep before she wakes up again! 

  • Feb


    6:00 a.m.

    I look over to see my daughter just starting to stir awake in her crib. I put her into her baby swing and set her up in the living room while my husband and I do a quick workout. She always giggles when we do burpees, which makes them less painful. I shower, feed the baby and get dressed for work.

    7:30 a.m.

    My mother-in-law has been staying with us to help with the baby. I hand my daughter to her and drive to a curriculum and compliance review at one of our charter schools. This is one of 17 schools I will visit over the next two months to ensure that the educational program being implemented is effective and in line with the charter and meets all legal requirements. I’ve done a few so far with other team members, but this is the first one I conduct on my own. I am excited because this school is located within a children’s museum and right on my way to work.

    8:00 a.m.

    The school’s lead teacher points out exhibits we pass on our way to the school. There is a pretend grocery store and emergency room for kids to play in, a music studio and more. I wish I could explore all the exhibits but, alas, I have a compliance review to conduct.

    I meet with the principal to discuss the school’s strengths and challenges and review several binders of paperwork. We then tour the school and observe classrooms. We spend the remainder of the visit debriefing and reviewing my findings.

    I make a mental note that there is an early childhood program in the building that starts taking kids at 12 months old! It’s something to keep in mind since my mother-in-law won’t stay with us for much longer.

    11:30 a.m.

    I grab a sandwich on my way out of the museum and drive to the office. I catch up on e-mails and enter my observations from the visit into our online system while eating at my desk.

    1:00 p.m.

    The superintendent’s chief of staff invited a fellow Broad Resident working in the district and me to discuss our experiences so far. We meet with him, and he shares some great advice.

    2:00 p.m.

    It’s our deputy superintendent’s birthday, and there is a surprise birthday party for her in the conference room next to my desk. I missed the surprise, but I grab a cupcake and wish her a happy birthday.

    2:15 p.m.

    I meet with my supervisor to discuss revisions to the district’s charter schools policy that we plan to present at the next school board meeting. We have been trying to move this forward for some time but certain components have faced some pushback. Through stakeholder input and discussions across district departments, I revised the components. I confer with our attorney to ensure that all changes meet legal sufficiency.

    3:30 p.m.

    I incorporate the agreed-upon changes and spend the rest of the afternoon researching the school I will visit tomorrow morning to identify any red flags or questions to raise with the principal.

    4:45 p.m.

    I drive home, listening to a podcast.

    5:15 p.m.

    I get home in time to strap my baby into her carrier and race over to the library down the street to catch the last 15 minutes of “Baby Bedtime Storytime.” We head back home and, after feeding her and reading her a few books, she falls asleep.

    7:30 p.m.

    My husband comes home, and we have dinner and chat about our day. My supervisor asked me to review and provide recommendations on some proposed state legislation on charter schools. I read it with the television on in the background as my husband works on a presentation he will deliver tomorrow.

    9:30 p.m.

    I get everything ready for tomorrow and head to bed.

  • May

    8:00 a.m.

    I arrive at the office and make final edits to a presentation for next week's retreat for the school board and superintendent’s cabinet. The presentation reviews the district’s charter school portfolio, which will lead into a discussion of proposed revisions district charter-school policy to better align the district with national best practices in charter school authorization and better meet the needs of the families we serve. The board requested a deeper dive on these revisions before they vote on them. We also hope to discuss several components of proposed legislation that could greatly impact charter schools in the state.

    9:30 a.m.

    I attend a run-through of our presentation with the superintendent and cabinet members. My supervisor and I provide an overview of our content, and I jot down notes for changes based on the superintendent’s feedback. Our head of government relations provides an update on pending legislation, and our chief budget officer reviews our budget.

    11:30 a.m.

    I head back to my desk and eat my lunch while I update our deck.

    1:30 p.m.

    I lead a meeting to review our team’s processes for collecting, updating and utilizing data. We have a database with tremendous potential that was developed a while ago by one of my colleagues. However, most of the team is not aware it exists, and the data is not regularly updated. We review the current capabilities, and I gather input from my team. I use this information to develop standardized processes for regularly updating and reviewing the database. My goal is for the team to move from storing information in several disconnected documents to centralizing all data in one database.

    3:30 p.m.

    Our school district’s attorney, two other team members and I meet with lawyers for the management company that works with many of the charter schools in the district. They are requesting several changes to our standard charter contract. We review them and provide our feedback in advance of next week's contract review committee meeting, when any changes to their contracts will have a formal vote.

    5:00 p.m.

    I spend a few minutes catching up on e-mails and reviewing my calendar for tomorrow. I then grab my things and head out for the day.

    5:45 p.m.

    I arrive home and wrap my daughter in a big hug. I take her with me to a free weekly yoga class held in a park outside my apartment. She lasts about 15 minutes doing her own stretches in her stroller next to my mat before she starts fussing and I take her on a walk.

    7:00 p.m.

    My husband arrives home, and we put the baby to bed. We have dinner and share stories from our day.