Bob Sonju is the Director of K-12 Learning in Washington School District in Southern Utah.
In this interview, we discuss the following:
- A little about Bob's history and what he learned to help him become prepared for being a transformative principal.
- Bob focuses on making sure all students are doing their best, not just particular subgroups.
- What prepared Bob to be a principal: being a coach and a special education teacher.
- What barriers prevent a school from being ready for change.
- Three fundamentals that are needed to change:
- Why do we exist
- Describing a perfect school
- What are we going to do to make sure we get there!
- Conversations about structural change take time and informal and formal conversations with teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders.
- All the voices have to be in the room!
- Establishment of norms are critical for the success of our school, and while we want to hear everyone's concerns, we will move forward with the will of the group.
- The norms for Bob's schools.
- The need for "critical friends".
- How he deals with the fact of hearing that he is doing something wrong.
- One of the best interview questions: "Anticipate a mistake you are going to make, and how you will resolve that!"
- How to deal with cynical stakeholders.
- Why people need to be ready to change to make things better.
- How to make a good school even better.
- Why you wake up with panic attacks in the middle of the night as a transformative principal.
- The best time to change education was 20 years ago, the second best time to change education is today!
- The excuses we make to not make changes.
- There is no such thing as an optimal time to make changes, but we need to have a sense of urgency.
- The state of Utah lost 19% of students (that didn't graduate with a diploma). That is 1 in 5 kids! Unacceptable!
- If you don't find a better way... You fall back to how you did it before. We need to focus on using research-based best practices to help our students.
- The importance of the Professional Learning Communities and Response to Intervention.
- We don't need to find new things, we just need to get good at PLCs and RTI.
- There is no quick fix for schools.
- We need to remove the things that
- A super quick overview of PLCs and RTI in case you aren't familiar with them. Based mostly on the work of DuFour and Eaker in Learning by Doing
- What a principal can do to be a transformative principal today: Identify the research that drives your day-to-day work and recognize the sense of urgency we have to ensure that learning is not optional.
- What he has in his office or a story: Simplify and focus. Story about teacher telling him that he is right in pushing forward.
- How to get ahold of him (He is not on the Twitter, but he is willing to help you by giving his email address. Bob [dot] sonju at wash.k12.ut.us)