There are so many challenges facings school districts today: Budget shortfalls, curriculum, stakeholder engagement, communication, special population ed services, transportation, food service etc. Now, it falls on school leaders to come up with ways to solve problems from years ago, the new ones created today and the ones they don’t even know about yet.
The Truss Bridge Theory
Think of the school district as a toothpick or popsicle truss bridge (k12 science project). Every new initiative or requirement is another textbook added on the bridge.
How many books does it take before the stress and weight crack the bridge and send the challenges… I mean textbooks… straight to the ground?
Focusing on the truss design – weight can be supported from either the top or bottom. All bridges face a point where they start to wear down. Is it due to the systems in place?
Strengthen the trusses
When an administrator looks to strengthen a truss on their bridge, it’s common for he or she to turn to edtech for a solution to one of their challenges. Maybe there’s too much paper cost in a specific area, a workflow could be taking weeks when it could take a few minutes, communication strategies should go beyond an email, building the school brand to be more attractive in school choice, you name it. It seems like before one issue is resolved another one is added on.
WARNING: Apply the glue
The toothpick bridge starts to crack, we remove the books and try to apply glue to the area in need. Glue is great for a simple repair, but to hold more books a bit of glue at each crack isn’t going to be enough to stand the weight of the continuous challenge. On top of the glue, we then try to offset some of the weight bearing load by applying another truss. Now, you’re out of toothpicks from your original box and need to pick up a new box that doesn’t match the old set.
This type of “repair and replace” system can only take you so far if you’re trying to take on all your goals and set yourself up for unexpected future challenges.
Time for a redesign
Plans get outdated and need a fresh perspective, in the case of the toothpick bridge – if it’s cracking at the weight of a few textbooks, it’s time for a redesign. With school systems, it can be the same way.
It’s easy to overlook the big picture when there is a quick fix, simple answer that can address the one crack showing at the time. But too often, all your quick fixes end up being incompatible with one another, leading way to more cracks down the road.
A full redesign means going back to the drawing board and seeing where the root cause for error is occurring. In my edtech experience, your enterprise technology is your truss bridge. Depending on your role in the district, you may feel like all the weight is being supported by your Student Information System (SIS) or your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
The question is – how much glue are you willing to go through?