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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Creating momentum for students
Collaborating in support of students
By Carol Hansen and Julianne Hoefer | November | December 2021
Becoming an Olympian necessitates more than hard work, dedication and physical conditioning. It requires perseverance, focus and an unwavering drive to win. Olympic teams bring together the best athletes in the country and demand that they work with other equally talented individuals toward a common goal.
This may be no more evident than in crew with an eight-person rowing shell. Eight rowers who come from different places, with different experiences, different ages and have different reasons for competing, pull together. And when their oars are perfectly aligned at the catch and recovery, they create effortless momentum. The “catch and recovery” requires every rower to go into the water and move up the slide in unison. One misstep by a rower and the boat slows, stops or even flips.
Much like a medal-winning crew team, when a strong leadership team made up of the Board of Trustees and Executive Cabinet members are aligned, possess a shared vision, articulate common messages and pull together, they create momentum within the district.
In the Ocean View School District, the board of trustees, Executive Cabinet members, administrators, teachers and support staff pulled together during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided in-person instruction from the first day of school in September 2020. The schools remained open the entire year for all students in special education classes and, once permitted, for much of the year for all others. This would not have been possible without the alignment of the board of trustees, superintendent and Executive Cabinet, along with partnerships with all leaders and associations throughout the district.
As Patrick Lencioni asserts in “The Advantage”: “When an organization’s leaders are cohesive, when they are unambiguously aligned around a common set of answers to a few critical questions, when they communicate those answers again and again and again ... they create an environment in which success is almost impossible to prevent.”
A cohesive leadership team at the top is only possible when strong relationships based on trust permeate. Building trusting relationships requires time engaged in discussion. In Ocean View School District, the superintendent meets individually with board members the week before board meetings. During those meetings, the superintendent shares the background and details around board items; solicits board input and perspective; and devotes time for the Executive Cabinet to share highlights of key programs within their divisions.
There is an intentional focus to align leaders and build capacity to lead with clarity and unity. Additionally, junior Cabinet members have benefited from the invaluable experience of interacting one-on-one with board members. They have gained insight and experience that would not have been possible if their interactions had been limited to presentations during board meetings.
While regular phone calls are common between board members and the superintendent, with the rapidly evolving information and guidance around the COVID-19 pandemic this year, they were more numerous and important than ever. COVID-19 heightened divisions within the community, and regular ongoing conversations supported board members and Executive Cabinet with common messages during routine and difficult conversations. The circles of communication from board to employees to community ensured the board was frontloaded to answer questions. Although district leaders would prefer the community not rely on social media to wage complaints and solicit answers, it was and is our reality. Community forums have become the informal communication channels many individuals trust.
A cohesive leadership team at the top is only possible when strong relationships based on trust permeate. Building trusting relationships requires time engaged in discussion.
Simultaneously, the district held weekly meetings with the Ocean View Teachers Association’s negotiations team and district negotiations team, which included the assistant superintendents of human resources and educational services. The Partnership with Administration and Labor (PAL) structure created back in spring 2016 was the foundation for an effective working relationship in the pandemic.
The team shared a common vision during the pandemic to provide students as much in-person schooling as possible. They addressed barriers, shared information, proactively addressed concerns and created consistent messaging. The discussions that characterized the intentional partnership work demonstrated a commitment to the PAL tenant: “We won’t let one another fail.”
The board of trustees, union partners, leaders, and staff members throughout the district demonstrated their collective unwavering commitment to student achievement, innovative programs, open and transparent communication and engagement of stakeholders in decisions to support credibility in the community. We work together as one Leadership team creating momentum around continuous improvement. As Simon Sinek has asserted: “You can’t judge the quality of a crew by how a ship performs in calm waters; you judge the quality of a crew by how a ship performs in rough waters.”
Ocean View School District continues to effectively navigate the COVID-19 storm and, while there are rough patches, the team continues to pull together to create momentum to move forward and do what is best for students.

Carol Hansen is superintendent and Julianne Hoefer is assistant superintendent of educational services at Ocean View School District.
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