Special Report
School & District Management

John Youngquist: Getting the Right Resources Into Classrooms

By Michelle R. Davis — March 16, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The 40,000-student Aurora, Colo., district is in its first year of fully implementing a revamped organizational structure designed to encourage more support for schools and educators and to encourage lifelong learning among students and teachers. Chief Academic Officer John Youngquist, who has spent a career in education that spans nearly all levels, said the new system splits the district into five P-20 community clusters designed to foster closer cooperation and partnerships and to be more responsive in providing support and resources. The P-20 refers to the district’s work encompassing all levels of education from preschool, to students seeking college credits, to educators working on advanced degrees.

Mr. Youngquist has been a high school teacher, a middle school counselor, an elementary school principal, and an area superintendent. He has worked for a national educational foundation, and in higher education with principal-training programs. Since he took the Aurora job in 2013, that breadth of experience, he said, is proving to be very valuable in his role as a CAO.

Education Week Contributing Writer Michelle R. Davis recently spoke with Mr. Youngquist about this new organizational structure, its impact on schools, and how it is shaping his job.

How does this new organizational structure benefit the district and affect your job?

We have five P-20 learning communities, supported by five P-20 learning community directors, each of them supervising about 10 schools, and each of them leading cross-functional support teams that are representative of the resources we provide for teachers and principals.

While I’m the CAO for Aurora public schools, I am also the head of our division of equity and learning, which includes the supervision of the English-language-acquisition department, student services, including exceptional student services, health services for students, mental health and counseling, and our gifted and talented program. I also supervise the area that we call teaching and learning, which includes professional learning, and ed tech, early-childhood education, library services, and educator effectiveness.

That seems like an extremely wide range of responsibilities.

The interest for me was in being able to engage one voice with my director team around all of this work. The organization of it was very important to me so that we’re able to provide services to students, teachers, and principals that are aligned, and to have a common voice in regard to the content of the work.

How are you able to implement district goals and strategies as the CAO?

Part of our superintendent’s mantra in coming in is that our job is to accelerate learning for every student, every day. My role in that is to make sure that every learning experience is engaging and challenging and propels every young person to a successful future. This new structure allows me to really support the engagement of effective learning experiences in a pretty fluid way and in a responsive manner.

How does this new structure benefit students and schools?

We moved from a pretty traditional system of functions or initiative offices in the district, with principals and teachers needing to contact different offices to gain access to resources. Now, the teacher or principal calls one person—the director—and that director has at their fingertips every function. Those functional representatives are sitting together and working together and know each other’s work so they’re able to really support people in a manner that is aligned and consistent. All indicators are that something special is happening on these cross-functional teams.

Explain more specifically your role in all this.

I’m looking through the system to ensure that our three priorities this year that we’ve selected as a division are coming into play. They relate to engagement of equity in learning; educator effectiveness; and the alignment of standards, curricular resources, and assessment. My responsibility is to have a view on all of this work, not just through the directors and program directors, but importantly at the school site. About a third of my week is spent in classrooms to see what is happening at the moment between students and teachers.

What attracted you to this job?

I came to this role because I saw a superintendent I would be learning things from, who was going to allow us to create structural shifts to get resources closer to the classroom. I saw the opportunity to develop a team of talented individuals who would be able to lead. We’ve created those significant shifts. I’m excited about the team we have at the district and division level, and we’ve been able to see elements of our vision proving to be true through our structure. What we need to do now is really ensure that we’re getting the resources to teachers, [and] that we’re responsive to teachers.

Coverage of personalized learning and systems leadership in Education Week and its special reports is supported in part by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as Q&As: Challenges and Responsibilities for CAOs

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management From Our Research Center Nearly Half of Educators Say Climate Change Is Affecting Their Schools—or Will Soon
Most educators said their school districts have not taken any action to prepare for more severe weather, a new survey finds.
6 min read
Global warming illustration, environment pollution, global warming heating impact concept. Change climate concept.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion 7 Ways Principals Can Support Teachers
Listening more than talking is one vital piece of advice for school leaders to help teachers.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management What Schools Can Do to Tackle Climate Change (Hint: More Than You Think)
For starters, don't assume change is too difficult.
7 min read
Haley Williams, left, and Amiya Cox hold a sign together and chant while participating in a "Global Climate Strike" at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Across the globe hundreds of thousands of young people took the streets Friday to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit.
Haley Williams, left, and Amiya Cox participate in a Global Climate Strike at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., in September 2019.
Khadejeh Nikouyeh/News & Record via AP
School & District Management 'It Has to Be a Priority': Why Schools Can't Ignore the Climate Crisis
Schools have a part to play in combating climate change, but they don't always know how.
16 min read
Composite image of school building and climate change protestors.
Illustration by F. Sheehan/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty and E+)