A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Tamara Prather

Tamara Prather
The Broad Residency Class of 2013-2015

Placement Organization:
Chicago Public Schools

Title:
Manager, Strategic Projects

Profile:
Click here

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  • Apr
    21

    2014

    6:30 am

    After my third snooze, I wake up to get ready for my first day in the office after taking a four-day vacation for a little sun, rest and relaxation. It was a nice time to be out of the office because it was over Spring Break, so things were a bit quieter than normal. 

    I went to bed pretty late last night after arriving in Chicago around 9:00 pm, taking time to unpack, wash clothes and prep for the week. So I decide to skip the gym this morning for a little extra sleep. However, I don’t feel guilty because I worked out every morning during vacation -- thanks to a very gym-committed travel buddy.

    7:30 – 8:00 am

    Although, I typically try to take the train to work to save money, I drive today because I have to boogie to a swim lesson on the south side of the city right after my last meeting. Although the parking lot is super shabby and right across the street from a correctional facility, you can’t beat $6 parking in downtown Chicago, just three blocks from my office!

    8:00 – 1:00 pm

    My first day back is pretty light on meetings. I have three in the afternoon, but my morning is free -- which provides a great opportunity to catch-up on e-mails, progress work I have deadlines on this week and begin preparing for my rotation to a new team and project. 

    For the past nine months, I have been working in the CEO’s Office, leading special projects largely focused on engagement. In this time, I developed and manage the CEO’s Student Advisory Council (a group of high school students who provide counsel to the CEO and other leaders in the district on issues that impact students most), led the development of two new internal communications vehicles, led work to improve our culture and brand and, most recently, led a large, cross-functional team to execute the first-ever spring high school fair to ease the pivotal transition from eighth grade to high school for students who have been less engaged in the process of identifying and applying to high schools.

    Beginning this week, I will take the lead on one of the district’s top four priority projects, the High School Strategy project.  The objectives for this work are two-fold: to provide access to a variety of high-quality schools in every neighborhood and to develop and implement strategies to improve the performance of all high schools.

    I’m very excited to start this work, which will deepen my experience in the instructional side of education.

    1:00 – 2:00 pm

    I have a meeting with the Director of Social & Emotional Learning and a member of her staff to discuss an internship project that the CEO has requested we establish. The goal of the project is to leverage student and peer-to-peer relationships to expand restorative practices to more schools. The meeting goes well and I think I’m able to ease concerns that this “special” project from the CEO will not be disruptive to the work that this team already has underway, but that it will actually enhance the work. Mission accomplished! 

    2:30 – 3:00 pm

    I have a quick touch-base with the CEO’s Deputy Chief of Staff, with whom I work closely on the Student Advisory Council. We connect on a variety of agenda items related to the council to ensure the work is progressing well and that we are prepared for the next meeting with the CEO in mid-May. The Deputy Chief of Staff has also become a friend and great mentor, so at the end of our meeting, we chat about leadership effectiveness and she gives advice on being a change-agent in the organization. As always, I leave her office very thankful for our relationship.

    3:00 – 4:15 pm

    I have another break between meetings and begin addressing the transition e-mails I received from my new leader. More and more, I realize I have a ton to get up to speed on in a very short amount of time!

    4:20 – 5:30 pm

    I head down to the lobby to receive two members of the Student Advisory Council who have come to the Central Office to meet with members of the CEO’s Cabinet to discuss the issue of diminished resources in our schools. This is one of seven issues the Council has raised. For this meeting, the members of the Council meet with our Chief of Network Supports (leader of area superintendents), the manager of school budgets and our Director of Internal Communications. The council members do an amazing job sharing their issue and an idea they brainstormed to improve the issue: a student-led, city-wide fundraiser. I’m so proud of their maturity, grace and confidence as they present and answer questions – I’m not sure I would’ve been able to handle such a meeting as a junior in high school! 

    5:30 – 6:30 pm

    I head back to my desk to organize my “take-home” work and shut-down so that I can get to my swim lesson. As I leave the office, it is raining heavily on my three-block walk past the correctional facility to my favorite shabby $6 parking garage. I reach my car and begin my drive to Englewood’s Kennedy-King College, where my swim lesson is held. I’m quickly realizing that I didn’t allow myself enough time due to the rain. I arrive for my 6:30 lesson at 6:30, but still need to change into my swim gear.

    6:40 – 7:30 pm

    My swim lesson goes well. This is the fourth time I’ve taken swim lessons in my lifetime, but unfortunately, I am still not very comfortable in water and can’t swim and breathe at the same time :\. This lesson feels different though; I love the instructor and I’m motivated by the camaraderie of the others in the class. I’m going to be a swimmer by the end of July, I decide. Fourth time is a charm!

    7:30 – 9:00 pm

    Since I was away for the weekend, I did have not a chance to take care of my grocery shopping and other errands, so I take some time this evening to run my errands so that I can get back to my healthy eating/lifestyle routines.

    9:00 – 10:00 pm

    I put my groceries away, finally shower off the pool chlorine (the school’s shower water was ice cold, so I passed on that) and eat a small dinner so that I can prepare to get some more work done before bed.

    10:00 – 12:00 am

    I need to put the finishing touches on a district re-branding brief I’ve been working on. As a part of our re-branding efforts, we will host a contest for CPS students to design our new logo. The re-branding brief will be leveraged to provide direction to students for the logo design as well as for other re-branding efforts underway. I will be presenting the re-branding brief to our CEO in a week, but I have a pre-meeting in the morning with my partners on this initiative, the Director of Internal Communications, and the Director of Arts. 

    12:00 am

    After several dozing-off head jerks, I finally decide to call it quits for the night. A long day, but the price I pay for a few days off, I suppose.

     

  • Jun
    12

    2014

    6:00 – 7:00am

    After my third snooze (you’ll notice this is a theme with me), I wake up and get dressed for a run on the lake. I want to take full advantage of the warmer weather that Chicago is finally experiencing after the long and harsh winter. I’m also considering running the Chicago half marathon again this year, so I’d better start logging some miles.

    7:00 – 8:30 am

    I get back home from my run and prepare my “green meal” smoothie, lunch salad and green tea for the day. I enjoy preparing my meals each day, but I always underestimate the time it will take! After getting my food prepared and packed, I hit the shower and get dressed, while sipping my smoothie. I then head out to the office – I’m driving again today because I have an offsite meeting at the end of the day that is easier (and frankly safer) to travel to by car.

    9:00 – 12:00 pm

    I arrive at the office and I’m excited that I do not have any meetings this morning so that I can spend the morning making final preparations for two meetings I have later today with our CEO.

    12:00 – 1:00 pm

    I visit the Faith-Based Office to participate in the Father’s Day lunch they are hosting. The Faith Based lunches are the best! For those of you who can relate, their lunches are much like “Big Mama’s” Sunday dinner, complete with baked and fried chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, cornbread – you name it! Although I brought my lunch to work, I can’t resist partaking in the Father’s Day lunch, too! After all, I did contribute $10 to this yummy feast. My only fear is the 2:00 slump that may rear its ugly head.

    1:00 – 2:00 pm

    My boss and I meet with the CEO to present our plans for the High School Strategy and gain alignment on next steps and resources needed to move the work forward. Our CEO provides helpful feedback on the plan and is overall aligned and supportive of our recommendations. I’m especially excited about her support of our resourcing needs because, boy, do I need help with this!

    2:00 – 3:00 pm

    I have a bit of desk time to execute follow-ups from the meeting with the CEO, address e-mails and prepare for my second meeting with her in an hour (she’s going to be sick of seeing me before the day ends). Thankfully, the fear of not being prepared for the CEO meeting helps me divert the 2:00 slump from my lunch. 

    3:00 – 3:40 pm

    Although I moved on to a new role, leading the High School Strategy, I continue to be involved in work to re-brand our District because no one has been identified to inherit it. 

    With this, I head into my second meeting of the day with the CEO to share a recommendation on potential branding partners and to gain her alignment on the branding brief that would be leveraged to guide our chosen partner(s). At the start of the meeting, the CEO takes a look at me and says “You again… I’m getting sick of seeing you.” Just as I figured! Good thing she was smiling when she said it, otherwise, this would have been one painful meeting!

    After presenting my recommendations, the CEO shared that she recently hired a Strategic Manager of Communications and that I should look to transition the branding work to this new resource. This is great news because transitioning this work will enable me to dedicate more time and focus to the High School Strategy, which she understands will be quite an undertaking.

    3:40 – 4:15 pm

    I pack up my things and rush to my car to drive to my offsite meeting, which is held in the South Shore neighborhood.

    4:15 – 6:00 pm

    I arrive at the meeting, hosted by an urban education research arm of a local university. The meeting is to share findings on the implications of student performance in the middle grades on college and career readiness. The meeting is attended by a small set of well-regarded educators from across the city and CPS. The research is very insightful and could have tremendous implications for the High School Strategy and future practices and policies for the district.

    6:00 – 9:00 pm

    I leave the meeting full of new ideas and helpful contacts! I then drive to visit my significant other, who lives nearby. He made dinner tonight, so I’m feeling pretty happy about that. 

    9:00 – 10:30 pm

    I head home, answer a few e-mails and check out friends on Facebook and Instagram. Then I prepare for bed to rest up for another great day tomorrow!