Facing leadership turnover and misalignment between schools, Oregon Community Unit School District 220 pursued the Transformational Leadership Experience to realign their team. Individualized coaching and group visioning sessions equipped administrators to model transparent communication and reinforce shared purpose. The renewed focus on district-wide goals boosted staff collaboration, stability and student outcomes. Getting leaders on the same page transformed culture. Unified leadership allowed the district to improve achievement metrics, attendance, behavior and family involvement through aligned staff support focused on student growth.
After ongoing leadership turnover and misalignment between schools, Oregon Community Unit School District 220 Superintendent Dr. Tom Mahoney and Oregon Junior Senior High School Principal Dr. Heidi Deininger knew change was essential. They committed to the Transformational Leadership Experience to realign their administrative team around shared vision and revitalize staff engagement district-wide.
Prior to beginning their partnership with our team, the district struggled from frequent transitions in leadership roles. With each new principal or superintendent seeking to make their mark, existing initiatives were often undone, creating a start-and-stop culture that bred skepticism in staff.
Additionally, the junior and senior high schools operated independently in silos. Each focused narrowly on their own metrics rather than collective district goals. This disconnect yielded inefficient operations and a fragmented experience for students as they transitioned between schools.
The lack of continuity further deteriorated relationships and collaboration among administrators. There was no common purpose binding the team. This environment ultimately impacted learning outcomes across the district, with achievement metrics, attendance and behavior incidents plateauing. Students suffered from the uncoordinated support.
The Transformational Leadership Experience equipped Dr. Mahoney and Dr. Deininger to transform their culture. Individualized coaching revealed communication and collaboration blind spots. Roleplay activities built self-awareness, while group visioning reinforced shared purpose and accountability.
Administrators clarified connected district goals, their school's role and key metrics tracking progress. Cross-functional sessions fostered connections between the junior and senior high schools. Ongoing cohort meetings provide administrators an open forum to address issues and nurture transparency.
The partnership realigned the leadership team to dramatically improve outcomes. Dr. Mahoney role modeled transparent communication and humility, inspiring administrators to lead by example. Staff retention stabilized, maintaining valuable institutional knowledge. Now understanding their contribution to district goals, the junior and senior high schools enhanced collaboration between departments. Students benefit from aligned social-emotional and academic supports year to year.
Most importantly, unified leadership allowed the district to substantially boost student achievement. From the 2021 through 2023 school years, student test scores in English language arts (ELA) improved by 106% and math scores rose by 70% with the aligned literacy and math programs. Attendance and engagement is up as discipline incidents declined over 20%. The culture shift also increased family and community involvement, further enriching the learning environment.
Dr. Mahoney highlights investing in alignment, self-reflection and skill building to transform cultures. By focusing internally, leaders can rally staff around shared purpose. Modeling effective collaboration permeates the entire district, enabling students to thrive in a supportive community. The rewards of leadership growth vastly outweigh the investment.
02:48: Tom "When I walked into the district, I was the sixth superintendent in a decade, and we had had 23 total administrative changes in that same decade. So, there was quite a bit of dysfunctionality here."
05:22 - Heidi explains their initial resistance and skepticism to doing more training: "And so the admin team, we were like, we don't want to do this. It's, you know, we have enough other stuff going on."
11:35 - Tom describes the feeling of desperation and spinning their wheels despite doing many good things: "We had great processes in place, great systems in place, but the outcomes weren’t matching the investment in time, energy, effort, and certainly not what we said we were going to do."
33:35 - Heidi talks about the retreat being emotional but powerful in bringing issues to light: "It was emotional. It was, uh, it was hard. It was, but it was also really powerful. And like a, a bond was created there..."
38:50 - Tom emphasizes the importance of questioning automatic responses as a leader and getting clarity on purpose through the experience.
47:21 - Tom notes the exponential impact of teachers leading other teachers: "Nothing's more powerful for teachers than another teacher leading them toward a goal."
54:45 - Heidi explains how holding themselves accountable to commitments made through the program keeps them focused even when things get difficult.
On the measurable differences in student outcomes:
49:45 - Tom highlights the huge improvements in ELA and math scores: "In our ELA scores, 106% increase in ELA outcomes. And in our math scores, we had a 70% increase in math outcomes."
"I felt as if we were failing what our primary mission is, you know, to help kids become life-long learners who are productive, responsible adults." (16:07)
"Our students who are our constituents deserve better. Our teachers deserve better." (21:52)
These quotes capture the sense of urgency and frustration Tom felt, which compelled them to seek a change.
"It was emotional. It was, uh, it was hard. It was, but it was also really powerful. And like a, a bond was created there..." (33:35)
"Seeing that and then being led to how to provide supportive accountability through that, that to me was the magic." (43:25)
Heidi and Tom describe the vulnerability yet support in the retreat experience that was transformative.
"In our ELA scores, 106% increase in ELA outcomes. And in our math scores, we had a 70% increase in math outcomes." (49:45)
"I directly attribute that to the work that our staff is doing, but that staff is spurred on by the conversations that our administrative team is having with them." (50:04)
The quantitative student achievement gains showcase the ultimate program impact. Tom also explains how unified leadership drove staff performance.