Eliciting Urgency with Strategy in the AC-Stage of Education

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Launching her career as a substitute teacher in New York City’s Department of Education, Dr. Chase has 30 years of experience as an educator. Dr. Chase is widely known as a fierce advocate for all children. She believes every child deserves a world class education and their social/emotional needs addressed, regardless of his or her family’s economic tier, zip code, ethnicity or immigration status.

Dr. Michael Conner

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and welcome to another episode of Voices for Excellence, the Black Excellence Series here in February. I’m your host, Dr. Michael Conner, CEO and founder of the Agile Evolutionary Group, and of course, the proud host of VFE! And today’s guest epitomizes black Excellence in this month of February. Happy Black History Month to everybody. Yes, we are bringing the series back. And of course, I had a bring on my sister, a good, good personal close friend, somebody that I admire in this field. She is one of the most recognized superintendents across the country, is doing remarkable, remarkable work in Westbury, New York, for the Westbury Union Free School District. She is an author, a curriculum specialist, a pedagogical czar. I mean, I could just go on and on and on about Dr. Dupree Chase. She is, like I said, one of the best superintendents, one of the national voices, somebody I look up to personally. And it is great to have her on VFE. We’ve been trying to, you know, get her out of the way for a while right now. But we finally got her especially during Black History Month. So it is my honor to welcome Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase from Westbury, New York. You know, I’m up in Rochester, so we’re about three, four, 5 hours away, something like that. It’s good to see you. Dr. Chase, it’s good to have you on.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

It is a blessing to be here. And thank you so much for bringing me onto your show. You gave me such beautiful accolades as you introduced me. But let me just say, the feeling is mutual. When you and I first met, there was an instant connection because what we shared in common was our tenacity to make sure that all students have access to an exceptional education. And so I admire you. I admire your work. I still admire your work. I admire what you’re doing and leveraging the voices of educators from around the world. Because you’re not just, you know, doing national stuff. You’re doing international work. And so I’ve been following you and I’ve been watching you. And I must say that I admire you. I admire you for your wherewithal, for your tenacity, for your ability to pull out the best in educators and for the hard work that you’re doing to ensure that all children, regardless of zip code, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, have access to an excellent education. So kudos to you, my brother.

Dr. Michael Conner

Thank you. Thank you. Dr. Dupree Chase. It has. I tell you, this journey has definitely been interesting. You know, albeit one that is just motivating just to keep the work going. And I have seen your work, like I said, been admired, your work from afar. And there you have just been doing. Yes. Thanks. And I’m just so, so, so proud of you every time that I see that you’re on this, you know, on that. my God. That’s good. Well, great. That is my sister. And yes, she is literally my sister. Yes, absolutely. You know, a.k.a. Alpha Kappa Alpha. Right. There we go. We add to that. So it’s a bit. Dr. Dupree Chase, it is just going to be a conversation, just like picture that where we’re both at naps and we normally have our conversation. We wound up talking about everything going on with education. So now my audience, they get to actually see a dialog, a discussion between you and I. So I look forward to it. But Dr. Dupree Chase, this is the first question, and it’s usually a fun question, right? And a lot of people know who you are. They know your work, they follow you. You mentor many, many superintendents across this country and New York as well. But when leaders across the ecosystem unpacked your leadership signature, what excellence and equity song define the education stance of Dr. Dupree Chase?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

I laugh, you know, I laugh. And I’ll share why I laugh. I laugh because there are so many songs that resonate, that resonate to the journey, that resonates to the journey, not just as a superintendent, but as a woman of color, a black woman who’s leading a school district. And I’m ten years in, which is now an anomaly, if you will. Right. There are so many. But what comes to mind is what I played this morning. I actually have to. But what comes to mind, what I played this morning coming into work was you can’t break muscle. Right. And I know I need to lose my. And then I know that job. I know I can’t say, but. But let me tell you why. Our sister Beyonce really hit the nail on the head with this one because what she speaks about is no matter your challenge, no matter, you must find your motivation within those challenges. And that song is so powerful to the superintendency, to the leadership role that I play that so many women of color play today, because we are faced with challenges that are different from our counterparts. Let’s call it what it is. Our challenges are much different. And that being said, we have to find the motivation in each challenge. And so when I am faced with a challenge as a superintendent, I try to find the lesson within that challenge and turn that challenge into an opportunity to do something great right? To turn it around. And so Beyoncé really hit that on the head. Continuing to reinvent yourself, that song speaks to reinventing yourself through those challenges. Beyoncé speaks very eloquently about reinventing herself, being the best version of herself, and becoming the better version of what she was today. There is a line in that song that is so powerful. The line says if you don’t seek it, you won’t see it. And so it’s intended. We have to seek out what we know is right for our babies, what is right for our scholars, and also to for the educators who are responsible for educating the scholars. And let’s not leave out the families. We have to seek those things out, because if we don’t seek those things out, then they will just be a plan and not a dream Actually eyes. And so, you know, that song is very powerful for me. And I heard it this morning. I was popping into my car, windows were vibrating, and, you know, I was like, yay, beep. Because baby really speaks to what so many of us are going through as superintendents. The other song, too, that I feel that’s powerful. I know you only asked me for one, but, you know, I’m going to take you. Go right ahead. Andra Day. Rise up. Yes. A powerful, powerful song. She says, I rise up a thousand times again and again and again. How many times do we get knocked down as superintendents? How many times do we do? We deal with challenges again? But yet and still, no matter what, we’re so motivated by our vision, we’re so motivated and passionate about the youngsters, the young scholars that we serve, that we keep rising up again and again. Andra Day also says, I rise up in spite of the eight. I rise up and all we need is hope. Absolutely. To hold on to hope. Dr. Conner. Two years later, I’m still inspired. I’m still looking for ways to motivate myself as bass, as I’m still looking for ways to reinvent myself. And I’m still looking for ways to become the better version of the superintendent that I am today. I’m still motivated. I’m still inspired. Those two women created songs that are so powerful that I believe that as women, as superintendents, as black women superintendents, we can all relate to the experiences of being challenged, dealing with challenges, overcoming such challenges and still being motivated and still rising.

Dr. Michael Conner

Amazing. Absolutely. Absolutely amazing. Dr. Dupree Chase. I’ll tell you right now, you know, when I think about some of the resonating themes that you highlighted, you know, soul, vision, passion, motivation, re re reinventing yourself, those are all invigorating notes that we have to continue as superintendents, as executive leaders, you know, and and I think that obviously, you know, was inevitable within the seat of being a superintendent. Is that there’s going to be a myriad of different challenges. But out of those challenges stems the opportunity as you highlighted. And I tell you, you know, reinventing yourself during the challenges, as you specifically stated, I really love that because, you know, that’s personal to me. Right. And obviously, when you bring up again and again rise up again and again a thousand times, you might fall away. You’re going to rise up again at Absolutely. We have to do that in education because you stated it so eloquently for our babies, right, For families or the individual threads that make up the education ecosystem. I’d tell you that you jammin in the morning, right, with some beyond say, okay, Beyonce. You know, I like a little mix, right?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

So I listen to a variety of music, different genres. I love everything from reggae, which is my number one to rock n roll, to soft rock to jazz, to hip hop. You know, I’m born and raised in the Bronx where hip hop was born. So, of course, I’m a hip hop head. So I just love music. I just love the words. I love words that are just meaningful to me. Elton John, I. I’m still standing. Gloria Gaynor. I will survive. I mean, there are so many, like powerful salt. And I’ll tell you what I did, Dr. Conner. This year, at the beginning of the year, I always come up with a great thing for my teachers to hold on to in my administrators and my school board as well. And we decided that we would create a playlist. And I had everyone use a platform called Thought Exchange to identify a song that is powerful to them, that is meaningful to them, and that’s motivational and give a reason why. And at the beginning of the year, I had one of my media team members to create a playlist that’s on Spotify that includes all of the songs that my staff, my faculty and administrators and even my school board created. So we have a playlist that is a Westbury Union Free School District playlist that is our motivational songs, and it has well over 200 songs. We had custodians, we had school monitors, our food service folks, we had our principals, our school board members, our teachers are our assistant principal. So many different people to contribute to this playlist. And it’s a growing playlist. And I also use that as motivation in the morning. And I listen to those different songs in the morning. So music is very powerful.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And you know what, Dr. DuPree Chase speaks about your leadership, right? So we all know you’re a renowned superintendent across the country, Westbury Union, Free School District in Westbury, New York. But besides that, right, you are an author, a national speaker, a national motivational speaker, a mentor to many superintendents, especially black and brown superintendents, women of color superintendents and executive leaders. But for my listeners and viewers. Right. Who do not know you, Dr. Dupree Chase, what’s your strategy? GS Have you? A Why that is realizing the vision of Westbury Union Free School District, because you are doing some extraordinary things, extraordinary things down in Westbury, New York. So how are you leveraging access, opportunity, equity and excellence for your scholars in your district?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

So great question and thank you for that question. I’m intentional, Dr. Conner. I’m intentional. I’m strategic. This is my second superintendency. I’m entering my third year here at Westbury. Prior to that, I was in Westchester County, New York, where I served seven years as a superintendent. So I learned so much from my first superintendency. I learned what to do and I learned what not to do. In my second and apply those strategies. When I first arrived, I decided that I would listen intently to what others say about my scholars. How do they feel about that? What is their belief system in our scholars? And I took that information and I began to form a team of like minded individuals who believed in our scholars, who wanted the very best for our scholars. And let me just say, I serve 5000 beautiful scholars. I call this district the U.N. It’s like the My Rainbow Children. They were just in there. Right. Right. So we have about 98% of black and brown children here at Westbury School District. Majority of my students qualify for free or reduced lunch, yet we still maintain a 90 something percent graduation rate here. And so we’re just really proud. At least we’ve had that percentage since I’ve been here. As a superintendent. I will say that, and we’re really proud of those stats. But there is a belief system, Dr. Conner. There’s a belief system that I had to address when I first arrived here. And like I said, you know, I put together a team by hiring Practices were intentional as well. And I’m very grateful that my board allowed me to create a team. And from that team, we devised a plan and we devised a plan with every single scholar in mind, whether you were a unique special learner, whether you were an exceptional learner, whether you are a learner who has average results or whether you are a learner who need additional support. We make sure that we devise a plan for each. Number one, we became a PSC. We needed to do that. We needed to address every learner by becoming a posse. We needed to address what it is that we wanted children to know and be able to do once they leave. Westbury Union Free School District. How do we know that they learned it? And that means we had to create authentic assessment to constantly assess whether or not children are learning. And then once we had that information, what do we do with it? What do we do if they weren’t learning and what did we do once? They are excelling and we believe those four questions will answer the question of what it is that our children are doing. And it addresses the needs of every child. Then we knew that we had to be intentional about our D-plus B efforts. I know that many times people use that term, that phrase. Some of it is used negatively, some of it’s used positively, and some of it is used for commercial purposes. But we are intentional about our D-plus B practices, so much so we hired a dedicated director for D-plus. B in our school district, and we are the only district in Nassau County that has a dedicated D-plus. B Director. We are intentional about that, and I knew that we needed that because I wanted to make sure that there is someone who is safeguarding the access and equity for every child to have great education. I knew that we needed to do that because I need to make sure that the 18 languages that are represented in my school district, that all of those families had access to, the school district felt comfortable being in the school district, having discussions, and that we could have two way conversations with the variety of families that exist. I knew that we had to do that because we want to make sure that every child, every single child had access to a sound education, no matter their learning style. Also, too, aside from the hiring practices and making sure that we have like minded teams, we developed different committees in the school district, different committees to speak to curriculum and instruction, different committees to speak to facilities, different committees to speak to budgetary matters, different committees that actually speaks to DTI efforts. So there were so many things that we put in place to make sure that every child had access to great education here at Westbury School District. Here’s what we also did. We created a superintendent student advisory. We wanted to hear from the voices of our scholars. So I meet with my scholars every month. And I did this because oftentimes in education, we ask the adults what we believe is the best interest of scholars of children. How often do we ask the end user, How are they receiving this? What do they think needs to happen? What it is that they may need so that they will be successful? Post Westbury Experiences. So we put some of those strategies in place. They are working extremely well. We’re beginning to see results. We are continuing the work and our D-plus B efforts without any disruption because we are intentional and we make sure we put in our strategic plan and all of our goals. And we’re also beginning to see that we are leveraging some of those things that we’re doing and we’re seeing those outcomes at early childhood. We’re also seeing those outcomes at a high school graduation rates.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. Dr. Dupree Chase, Wow. You know, my audience, we use this podcast as a professional learning asynchronous mechanism so that they can be able to adopt the strategies, practices, different methodologies so that they can incorporate into their own individual repertoire. And what is critical here is the two words that you highlighted intentionality and being strategic, right? And I love how you were able to leverage that DTI plus B, worth having a director so that access, opportunity and equity lies with every single child. That’s high expectations, right? When we think about creating a culture for everyone, 18 different languages, right. And having that, I like to say personalized prescription for every single child. It is crucial. It’s crucial. I think it’s educational imperative. And then you leverage it with the voice of your students. Generation Z, Generation Alpha. I want you, Dr. Dupree Chase, if you can go and debts with the DTI plus B work, because that work, you know, nationally, we hear this all the time from our our academies across the country that that brings some tension to the work. Right. How how did you how did you leverage that work, being intentional, being strategic when sometimes that can bring a level of tension to a learning organization? What was the I like to say, step functions that you implemented to get to that level where the output is that personalized, individualized focus on every single child?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Great question. So at Westbury, I walked into this school district in July of 2021, and there was a strategic plan that was already in place here at Westbury that already included diversity, equity, inclusion. We added blogging, so there was already an existing of that here. It was already that mindset, but it was the work that was needed. What we needed to clean up the work as it related to DTI. And we also needed to make sure that every school had a full understanding of what those expectations were. So basically, I picked up the baton here at Westbury School District, and I want to credit the school board for having the the that the vision to to make sure that DTI was included in the strategic plan and understanding how it is needed in today’s society, how we needed to make sure that every child has access and equity. That being said, one of the things I asked the board was, Is it okay if we hire someone who’s going to be committed to this work? And they were definitely on board and allow me to do so. We underwent Dr. Conner an intense equity audit last year in my second year as a superintendent. We were ready for that work. We were ready to look at ourselves and each other about some of our practices. And oftentimes in public education, you hear so many different districts speak about, you know, equity, access, DTI, diversity, inclusion, and they speak about it because it’s a sexy term now. But I just didn’t want to speak about it in Westbury. I wanted to do the work, so I needed to see what it is that we were already doing and what it is that we need to do. And I wanted us to be honest with ourselves, and I needed us to humble ourselves, to be able to receive the information that we need. So that we could be better. So we hired a company who does this work around the country, and we underwent an audit. I will not tell you it was easy because we had to look at our own practices. Oftentimes we think we’re doing the right thing and we really have good arcs and we really believe that we’re doing all the right things. But there may be a population that we may have overlooked or we may have missed, and it was unintentional. And so we had to have those courageous conversations about some of the unintentional behaviors that are negatively impacting groups of beautiful scholars where there are opportunities missed because of those unintentional practices. And I will tell you, it came with some fever, a little bit of drama, a little bit of realization that, no, that’s not me, that’s not who I am. That’s not what I’m doing. And it took a while. It took some time for people to realize that this audit isn’t an indictment of your leadership or your work. But this audit is designed to help us to be better. This audit is designed so that every child will have an opportunity to actualize his or her dream when he or she leaves our school district. So from that audit, I allowed individuals an opportunity to get in their feelings, get over their feelings, and then let’s move on with the work. And we have done that. We’re now in the process and the phase of creating corrective action plans, and we’re just about finished now. Once those corrective action plans are done, we’re going to report out and we’ve reported out publicly where our challenges were. That took a lot of boldness, that took a lot of courage from my leaders and my teachers to stand before the public and say, here’s what the audit said here, areas that we have to work on. And they did that and they formed teams. They wrote the corrective action plans. We’re going to share out those corrective action plans and we’re going to implement them. Dr. Conner We’re going to eliminate them. And so we’re now in the phase of finalizing those plans. And next year for the 2024, 2025, we will be implementing such plans. I mean, things from what’s on our bulletin board. We’re talking about materials, looking at materials, looking at resources to make sure that our children are well-represented in those resources. The language that we use as we speak to our scholars, our practices and how we speak to our families, how we send communication and information to our families. So we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. But realizing that it is for the betterment of our scholars, we are now making corrective action and we’re going to implement it with fidelity.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. Dr. DuPree Chase, I tell you, when you talk about corrective action plans, implementation, intentionality, transfer error and see with the data that is objective, it goes back to the title of my book. Intentional, Bold and unapologetic. I absolutely love that. And the intentionality behind the language, the review of resources to ensure it follows the benchmarks within the actual audit and the accountability and transparency of the action plans that leads to implementation. That changed practice. Wow. That right there is an organizational cultural shift. It’s a huge paradigm. Kudos to you, Dr. Chase. And I want to talk about something right now because you and I have this very similar belief, right? Yes. You are considered one of the most innovative superintendents. Dr. DuPree Chase. But I always talk about that if we really want to close the achievement gap. Achievement gap, I always say, is a symptom to the root cause, which is the preparation gap, and that’s at the early childhood sector. Now, you have done some really creative and innovative programing to close the preparation gap so there won’t be an achievement gap that we see in grade two and three, kind of like the historical context that a lot of people reference the research study about. Great, great. But I want you to unwrap and highlight your work when it focuses on early childhood education. What were your great desires when you were designing these innovative, innovative systems? Right? What were some of the unexpected outcomes when you were designing these systems and putting these systems in place, but more importantly, the instructional impact that it had within your learning organizations and obviously with your students?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Sure. So thank you for that question. You know, at Westbury, you know, we are constantly reviewing our data and constantly doing data dives. I’m so grateful for the various committees where we can have those courageous conversations about where we are and where we need to be and what we believe we can be. Right, because all about the belief. And so very early on, what we recognize is that we needed to focus heavily on the early childhood and start building up. We were not happy with the data from 2021 when we’re looking at the achievement gap in terms of our scholars, looking at especially our special education data, looking at data of our black males. I found it very, very troubling that knowing that we have these challenges and not doing anything innovative about it, right, continuing to doing the same old things, thinking that we’re going to have different results. So what we decided to do was we looked at our upper elementary, middle school, high school progress. We talked about what we want our children to be by the time they get into 12th grade. And we started designing backwards. And what we did was we put a heavy emphasis on early childhood literacy. And what we realized is that when children do not have the literacy skills, they will continue to have challenges, access in social studies, access and science. And now, dare I say, mathematics, because so much in mathematics requires students to be able to read and comprehend what it is that to be reached. So we put in place a robust literacy program from kindergarten all the way through grade three. And we did that on purpose. We restructured our literacy block. We created a literacy block because that was absent. And what we also did was we ensured that each of our or elementary schools had the similar model when it comes to literacy instruction. There were different models when we first when I first arrived here. And so in doing so, this required intense training and intentional training for not only the educators but also for the supervisors, which would be principals, right? Our district y chairs, our literacy specialists. So we were purposeful in doing so. What we found is that through this literacy block and including formative assessments within this literacy block, we are already seeing marked differences in our early childhood education. In fact, last year’s data showed that the majority of our kindergartners went into first grade reading. We didn’t have data before. We didn’t have those outcomes before. One of my early elementary principals remarked, my God, I cannot believe the results that we’re seeing at the early childhood level. Well, that’s because we were intentional. We were intentional about the training. We were intentional about not only the training, but the intentionality with observe our educators to ensure that they are following the steps of the training. And if they’re not, then providing them with the support they need. It could be into visitation or visiting other educators. It could be giving them customized training, if you will, or just someone coming in and demonstrating, which will where we have literacy specialists to do that work in our school district. So we were very intentional in our focus on early childhood and had yielded wonderful results already. Our board in our community could not be happier. So we don’t want that to end at early childhood. So now what we’re doing is now we’re chunking the upper elementary to ensure that those kids, when they come into the upper elementary level, that that same type of training, that same type of focus, that same type of model is implemented at the upper elementary. We’re building systems and we started at the early elementary. We’re continuing to build all the way through high school.

Dr. Michael Conner

To my audience. Please rewind that answer because Dr. DuPree Chase. She highlighted how to develop, How to design a literacy system that coheres with each other when we think about organizational coherence, alignment and coherence. She went backwards, right? That’s reverse engineering and design. The literacy system so that there’s that level of vertical coherence, creating that common language of instruction, that common lexicon around instructional leadership, an integrated instructional system that is rooted, rooted in attentional professional learning. Wow. Now to my audience, right, Dr. Dupree Chase, that was I would like to say a textbook. A textbook answer. When we and I really want to expand on this because a lot of leaders, they they take a lot of strategies from BFA create that vertical coherence of a model, right. Of a system where that now job embedded professional learning is occurring customization in the context of improving pedagogical practices. That’s hard, right? That’s hard to design is hard to leverage, but more importantly, is hard to implement when you’re trying to get to that. You’re your mental model around common language of instruction, around common approaches with leadership. How did you design that professional learning system to ensure there’s that level of coherence among your instructional leaders, your site based principals, your literacy coach, essential office? But more importantly, it is levered in the classroom with your classroom practitioners.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

So this fully loaded question, it goes back to that belief. It goes back to bringing like minded individuals together and planning together, helping them to see the vision. And it’s also visioning with them, right? So it’s that buy in asset ownership you have to instill by it. Without the buy in, it’s kind of dead on arrival. What I did strategically, Dr. Conner, was I brought in my union. You know, unions can be your biggest disruptor or that can be your biggest supporter. And so everything I did, I brought in my teacher union leadership because I needed them to be on this team. I needed them to not be adversarial, but to be my biggest ally. And they have become just that. Any type of training that we attended as it related to places, as it related to, you know, literacy. I was present also absolutely. As the leader. Not only was I present, but I also made sure that my union leadership was also present with me. And so that learned together. And so to hear my union leadership use the vernacular, use the language, speak to the language publicly about the work that we’re doing. I believe we had made strides here at Westbury. And so the pushback is very minimum, because I got my teachers on board. I got my educators on board. You know, your administrators are going to be on board because they want the best word for it for our children. So the administrators, you know, came board with us and we all learned together and we all, you know, identified what the common language should be together. But the thing about common language is one thing, having a common language. It’s another thing, Dr. Conner having a common understanding. Right. We need to make sure there’s a common understanding because we can all speak the language of RTI, like, right? We know about the different tiers. But do we have an understanding that every classroom must every child must have access to Tier one instruction? But it has to be phenomenal Tier one instruction. Even if this child needs additional instruction, a near need Tier two or NEET, Tier three, that child should still have access to Tier one. So we had to make courageous decisions together about what this could possibly look like. We had to change schedules. We actually changed start times. We changed everything around in the school district so that we could have sound instructions for our scholars. And again, it took bringing the leadership together, bringing the unions together, making sure that the board was on board. And I must say, it’s working. I will not tell you that it’s we don’t have our challenges and we don’t have our bumps in the road and we don’t have our setbacks. We do. But as my song says, we rise up. Even when we have the setback, we rise up a thousand times again and again and again. Because we are so focused on making sure that every child in this school district has access to an exceptional education here at Westbury.

Dr. Michael Conner

So motivation, a common language, common understanding, well-stated. Well, but Dr. Dupree Chase, now during your superintendency. Right. You have implemented an international baccalaureate program. You have internship to a dual role. May I solutions to lever personalization, DTI plus B work that’s going on curriculum redesign projects that’s promulgating more project based learning. Dr. DuPree Chase You have done everything in that district for transformation. It epitomizes transformation. But I like to call it this innovation by design theory, right? So for leaders who want to immerse themselves in this innovation by design theory, this approach that’s needed in the AC stage of education, what methods or strategies would you recommend to be added in a leaders toolkit to just emulate some of the output, some of the innovative programs that you have implemented, implemented in your learning organization?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

So thank you for that question. You know, we can no longer use the pandemic as a crutch to say we do. We can’t do because of the pandemic. We can’t. You know, I will say that the pandemic was an opportunity to reimagine public education as we see it. And it was an opportunity, unfortunately, that we lost. Now, during the pandemic, there were so many educators who talked about reimagining changing the way we structure education and changing the systems and changing how we deliver curriculum and instruction. And what we did is we went back to the same old things that were causing our students to fail at Westbury. And even when I was in Greenburg because I transitioned during the pandemic, I recognize that I have to be innovative if I want my babies, if I want my scholars to be at the forefront of innovative careers and at the forefront of jobs for the future in jobs that aren’t even recognized yet, I know that we had to do some innovative things. You spoke about I.B. in my former district, we launched an IB program. We were one of maybe 13 districts in the nation that had IB K through 12. I’d say mindset Here to Westbury we are embarking upon an IB DP program, which is a diploma program where our scholars will graduate with a diploma that is international elite recognized. Why is that important? Well, it’s important because in my mission statement, we speak about preparing our scholars for ever world. It’s wonderful to have it written into the mission statements, the wonderful that my students are repeating it and reciting it in my teachers or repeating is reciting. We have posters all over the place. But it’s another thing that we are working toward finalizing that mission. And so IB is one the International Baccalaureate, providing my scholars with an opportunity to engage in deep thinking, critical thinking, anchoring base instruction to spark their curiosity and have them be able to answer their own questions through intense research so that they will be on the forefront of their preparation for college and careers of their choice. What we’re doing in our school district, Christine, at one particular point before my arrival, steam was only provided to students who have excelled in their academic course. We’ve changed that in this district. We are now a steam for all. I don’t care what your academic standing may be, you will have exposure to Steam. Why? Because steam prepares you for jobs for the future. Jobs that don’t yet exist. Our innovative jobs. I want every scholar to be able to demonstrate that he or she can interact with steam with science technology. You may not be an honor student. You might be an average student. And I may have spark or triggered an idea where you become a problem solver. Well, you know what? Problem solve is nothing but an engineer, right? So leading our scholars toward those innovative careers. So what we’ve leverage that, we also at our school district are not afraid to use A.I.. A.I. is not a curse here. Artificial intelligence has been around since the fifties. We’ve been using artificial intelligence for so long. But when it comes to public education, we’re a little hesitant about it. Well, here at Westbury, we’re not, because what we recognize is the A.I. that we have now is not going to be the AI five years from now when my middle school scholars are now going out into the world. I need for them not to fear. I need for them not to fear technology. I need for them to embrace technology and use technology responsibly. And I need for them to use technology to help them to reach an end result. I’ll give you a case in point. We just launched in our school district an AI platform where we can communicate to all 18 languages in our school district. Just so that AI and we’re going to launch this at a board meeting. We’re so excited. On how everyone can get access to information communications here at Westbury. I’ll give you another case. We just launched a math intervention program. What’s it’s more of a supplemental, should I say, program at our secondary level. It uses A.I., It uses AI to identify where a child’s status, academic status is as it relates to math. And then it creates programs for the child based on how they interact with the the math program. But it uses artificial intelligence to customize the lessons, to customize the instruction and continue to move the child forward. It also uses A.I. to alert the teacher as to where the child might be struggling in solving math programs. And so we use A.I. every single day. And what I am going to be doing in the next couple of weeks is providing workshops and and professional development for not only my administrators, but also for the classroom teachers, the educators, and some of our other support staff so that they could better utilize A.I. to help with lesson planning, with help with customizing instruction. Because you know how challenging it is to differentiate when you have about four or five different learners at different tiers in your classroom. Well, I can help those teachers to do just that. And I want to show them responsible ways in which they can do it. My Goal. And my dream and my vision is by the 2024, 25 school year, we will be using AI as a tool here to help us to become better educators, to help us be more innovative, to help us use our time more wisely. That is the goal for Westbury. I will also share with you. We open our schools here at Westbury six days a week. Dr. Conner. We’re one of the few districts where we have a Saturday academy and we’re committed to that. We call it Waze Academy. Wins is an acronym for what I need on Saturday. That’s some of the innovation and creativity that we’re using because we know we can’t get it all during the week. We know that afterschool is an option for everyone. But what we’re finding is our Saturday Academy is so wildly popular, so popular where we had to create more courses and there’s a heavy emphasis on steam for everyone, starting with our kindergartners. You will see our kindergartners are creating roller coasters and they’re talking about velocity and they’re doing all sides of physics at their level, but they’re doing the work because we sparked an interest. It’s something that’s interesting to them and it’s something that every child can do regardless of their academic standing. We’re celebrating it here. Westbury I’m so proud of the work that we’re doing.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. You should be proud. I tell you this. When you when you started to really unpack AI, right, Dr. DuPree Chase and you said to get to that level of personalization, I started to think back to the 1984 study. I Benjamin below. Do you appreciate this? Dr. Chase? And he highlighted in 1984 was all the two sigma problem. And he stated that and this was 1984 84. If we get to this level of 1 to 1 instruction, students would student achievement would increase by two standard deviations. Now, when I think about it and the utilization, the access and the availability of different emergent technologies, there is no excuse. Or at the education ecosystem not to get to that level of 1 to 1 instruction because of A.I., I, I like to call it now in 2020 for the two sigma solution where a I can get to that level of 1 to 1 instruction should complimentary to the classroom practitioner. The zone of proximal development that you and I always about that do to chase but really love how you create that K-through-12 vertical sector of the be right the primary years program the middle program in the on deployment program but that steam for all it’s just absolutely remarkable but extending time time is the variable learning is a constant underscoring that screw your Saturday program that you have innovation all around. But I think that you stated it right. We can’t go back to the legacy practices that exacerbated inequities and disparities that we see and education far too long. Generation Z, Generation Alpha deserves better. But now want to get to a question, right? That is near and dear to the work that you do. Your national work is also near and dear to my heart as well. You know, we see these egregious, egregious metrics nationally with regards to women in executive roles, right? Specifically black and brown women. Let’s focus now black women, right. In the CEO and superintendent roles in particular. What has been your message nationally to folks? Yes, right. To focus urgency on this issue, increasing awareness about the marginalization of gender practices as evidenced by this national data. But how can we move towards greater gender equity in education, specifically in the executive roles? And what is your call to action for the VFA audience in 2024? So metrics become promising in the future.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

So I think the most recent data this this is probably one of the most powerful questions, and I wish we could have dedicated this entire podcast to speaking about just this very topic. The most recent data shows that 1.8% of superintendents are black women. Wow. That is daunting. I am one of them. In fact, we all know each other because very few of us. My sister Supes and my sister Supes. I am so proud of the work that my sister Supes are doing in their respective school districts, but understand that there are challenges in being a woman of color in this position. We are so underrepresented, yet we are so powerful individually and collectively. People always say, If you want the job done, get a woman to do it. If you want it done really well, get a black woman to do it right. We’re all our own Olivia Pope, where we’re solving and we’re doing the work. And no, I’m not negating any other ethnicity of of superintendent, but I could speak to the black woman. We’re very passionate about what it is that we do. We are the mother of this earth. I mean, you know, we’re going to go back to history where we’ve always taken care of children, You know, even in slavery, when we were enslaved individuals, we took care of children. That is in our hearts. And that is in our desires. Whether we are mothers by nature, we are mothers to the district. We are natural nurturers to the district. So hiring of a black woman is probably one of the most powerful things a school district can do. But I do know that in some school districts that may not necessarily be an option. I think search firms need to understand to give black women an opportunity to to go before school board during the search process. Many of my sister soups feel as if and myself included, there are certain school districts that we are limited to work. Most of the school districts look like urban school districts, districts of color. Often times sometimes. Let me say sometimes when my sister suits land positions in districts that may not reflect who they are ethnically speaking. Some of those sister suits do run into challenges. There may be opposing desires from the community or maybe even the school board that may be opposing philosophies as it relates to what we share with our with our scholars in terms of, well, how they’re being educated and what they’re being exposed to. I had the fortune of being in school districts that resemble who I am, districts of color. I enjoy working in districts of color for a variety of reasons. I meet for the young ladies in my district to see me as a possibility of who they could become, and if not even more so, even better, I need for my young men to see that it is normal to normalize female leadership. I am on quite a few panels. I’m on quite a few committees and boards that actually speak to elevating female leadership, helping to build a pipeline, if you will, for female leadership. I actually mentor quite a few women who are new to the superintendency. We talk about everything from celebrating small milestones to understanding your pitfalls to building those circles. I’m a part of many superintendents circles, but my favorite circle happens to be the black female superintendents circle, and that is made up of the 1.8% of the superintendents. We need more work in the area of building pipelines and not just building pipelines, but ensuring that black women remain in these positions. Far too often I am seeing Dr. Conner women who are exiting the superintendency earlier than they should not fulfilling their contract for political societal nonsense reasons of not speaking to their their qualification. I am seeing too often we’re hiring these women because it is symbolic and not recognizing that they are highly qualified for the positions in which they assume and they need to be supported and mentored and sponsored. You know, I was on the Napoli panel for leading Ladies and that panel was moderated by the fabulous Dr. Sharon Contreras. And one of the questions she asked was about mentorship. And yes, black women superintendents need mentorship. And even as tenure superintendent myself, I still seek out mentorship. I still seek out support. But there’s a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Black women superintendents and black women leaders as a whole needs sponsorship. Sponsorship needs that there is someone who is looking out for you. There is someone who is opening up their network to you. There is someone who is saying to you, I need for you to go to this conference, this meeting to sit at this table, because this is going to be beneficial to your career. Absolutely right. I guess so. So this work is so very important. In my school district, we have 49 leadership positions. Leadership, meaning just not just, you know, directors and assistant superintendent and principals, but we also have teacher leader positions. There are 49 in my district. 34 of those 49 positions are assumed by women. We have flipped the statistic here at Westbury now to 80% of teachers are female, whereas 20% are male. And when it comes to leadership, 80% male leadership, 20% female leadership. But at Westbury, as you could see, we flipped that statistic and it wasn’t intentional. It just so happened that I was seeking the best candidates to fill certain positions. And it just so happened to be women. Yeah. Yeah. I will be featuring them for Women’s History Month because I want the world to see these women in powerful positions, positions that are typically assumed by males. My district wide chair for science is a woman, my district wide. She are from mathematics, is a woman. You know, my business official is a woman. You know, so I have my security. My security leader is female. And so I have these powerful, strong women at these positions here at Westbury. And I’m hoping to grow even more. And I’m hoping that I am normalizing what leadership should look like across this country.

Dr. Michael Conner

Such a call to action that 2 to 3 chase to my audience, please rewind that. You can see why. Dr. Dupree Chase is a national speaker. You can see why everybody turns to her, because that call to action or call to action, Dr. DuPree Chase, should get everybody motivated right? Especially when I think about the statistic that you provided 1.8% of our superintendents across the country are black women. And Dr. Dupree Chase, you know, we know most of them. We know all of them.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

I know all of them. I’m going to Watts and work with them. And that’s pathetic. Then I think

Dr. Michael Conner

It is, it is, it is as I will light, as I stated, is malfeasance, right?

Dr. Tahira Dupree Chase

It is. It is. And I love them all. We’re pal. And you know what I love about this group? We’re constantly uplifting each other and elevating each other. We’re constantly motivating one another. We’re constantly, you know, helping one another. And and we provide that sisterly love virtually. That is so powerful. And when we meet Dr. Conner at conferences, it’s a love.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I tell you, the panel that you sat on that was moderated by Dr. Conteras as well, that was powerful, varied, very, very powerful. So last question. Thank you for that answer to that, because it’s such an important topic. And I know that you as well as other women out there will not let this question or this focus subside. So keep up the record, keep up the urgency. We do need more representation. Hopefully we can get that in 2024 and beyond. But what rewards do you want our audience to leave with regarding persistency to achieve all and the AC stage of education?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Intentionality is one. We have to be intentional. We have to be strategic. We have to pinpoint and focus. We have to keep the main thing, the main thing. And it’s all about the scholars. The other word that comes to mind is tenacity. We have to be tenacious in our approach. We can’t let go. We have to continue to rise up. We have to continue to not give up and be resilient and our focus on our scholars. The last word is humility. And I say humility because it ain’t about us, Dr. Conner. It’s not about we don’t we don’t do this for the money because you know, we don’t do money because, Betty, we don’t do that. We don’t do it for the accolades and the awards and being able to showcase this on social media. We don’t do it for that. We do it for the outcomes of our scholars. You know, most of us understand that we were called to do this work. I know I was called to do this work. And I believe that I am living out and fulfilling an assignment that was given to me by God. And I know that’s the case. And so you have to have humility. You have to have humility in that, you know, if you want the buy in, if you want, you know, people to follow your lead and stand shoulder to shoulder by you, you have to have a level of humility in your leadership. Yes. You’re the boss. Yes, you have the fancy title, but you also need people. And that’s where the humility comes in. You’re dealing with other people’s children. You hold in your very end the lives of not only your children, but your teachers, your families, a community. That’s big responsibility and a huge assignment that is not given to everyone. And so you approach it with a level of humility. And I think that’s what has sustained me for the ten years I’ve been the superintendent.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And I tell you, ten years. Remarkable, right? You are blessed. One of the mainstays, I’ll tell you in education, but intentionality, tenacity and humility. No better way to put it. Dr. DuPree Chase. Wow. Wow. What a lesson. I’m going to have to go back to this episode with my notebook and listen to about three or four different times. But thank you so much for appearing on Voices for Excellence. Dr. DuPree Chase. I know that a lot of people are going to email you, are going to try to contact you after listening to this episode, how would they be able to get in touch with you for my audience?

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Sure, so they can definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn. I am Tahira Dupree Chase, there’s only one Tahira Dupree Chase on LinkedIn, so I’m not too hard to find. I also they can go to my website because I have a website. It is www.TahiraDuPreeChase.com and they can actually email me through my website as well. So again, LinkedIn is a great way to reach to reach me Tahira Dupree Chase and also www.TahiraDuPreeChase.com and I will respond, I will offer any guidance, anything that anyone should need and is within my power to give. I believe that’s what I’m put on the earth to do, is to give and to share my gifts. So I’m happy to do so, Dr. Conner and thank you for allowing this platform. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak my truth and to share just a vignette of who I am as a leader.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And I tell you, you know, for the Black Excellence series, we are highlighting black excellence this month across the country. And I am just honored to have black excellence here in you, Dr. Dupree Chase, thank you so much for the work that you’re doing, the continued work that you’re doing, the vitality that you’re bringing into the field, but more importantly, the mentorship and the sponsorship that you highlighted to leaders across the country. Happy Black History Month, Dr. Dupree Chase.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Happy Black History Month to you as well, and thank you for all that you are doing because you are the epitome of black history brother.

Dr. Michael Conner

Man, I’ll tell you that, that right there, that’s my nugget that I’m going to take with me, Dr. DuPree Chase, you already know that.And when I first met you, I said to you, we will be working together in some capacity.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Absolutely. And I’m hoping that this is the beginning. You are a powerful brother. You are what is needed today. You are what we need to move the agenda forward. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing

Dr. Michael Conner

Sister, I will. And I will be calling you soon. You know that we’re going to be getting together. I always love sitting down with you talking, and just listening and writing. Got my notebook out, just have it open it. I just ask one question, and Dr. DuPree Chase, you just go on and on and on. And I just got off three or four or five pages of notes. So thank you for all that you do. And on that note, onward and upward, everybody.

Dr. Tahira DuPree Chase

Onward and upward.

Dr. Michael Conner

Have a great evening.