Classrooms are once again taking shape and campus grounds are being prepared. As Oakdale Joint Unified School District students and families enjoy their final weeks of summer, much of the district staff and administration are readying themselves for the 2016-17 school year. The official first day of school for class instruction is Wednesday, Aug. 10.
OJUSD Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone is busy in the lead role as he prepares his administration team for the coming school year and the components he finds necessary to set Oakdale students apart from the others.
“My primary goal as the Superintendent of the OJUSD is to develop a comprehensive system of education that produces students that are college and career ready,” Malone said.
He shared that events of the past school year, have demonstrated what he believes to be a positive shift, as well as testament that Oakdale students are properly headed in that direction. Malone pointed to both the Oakdale High School Academic Decathlon and Occupational Olympics teams and their 2015-16 wins as tops in Stanislaus County.
“That’s a good thing,” he said of the achievement. “That’s a multiple measure that shows our kids are getting there. A dynamic educational institution must fully embrace the growth mindset.”
Malone describes this approach as a belief that every person can get better. That both student and staff have a responsibility to continue to improve in their roles, noting research which proves the brain continues to be malleable well into adulthood.
“Embracing the growth mindset requires an uncommon work ethic,” he said. “Striving for continual improvement guarantees that you will deal with failures and plateaus. The Japanese have an appropriate saying that fits this situation: Fall seven, rise eight. Our level of improvement in any task is directly related to the amount of work that we apply to that task.”
‘Fall seven, rise eight’ is one of many wisdoms Malone gained at the hands of Angela Duckworth, 2013 MacArthur Fellow, professor of Psychology and author of “Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
In the book Duckworth reveals extensive research on the topic of Grit and how it separates the average achiever from the successful regardless of socio economic class or extensive conditions.
“Developing Grit requires we foster a passion for the task at hand,” Malone said. “This passion must be strong enough that we are willing to persevere through adversity to accomplish the task. In an educational sense we cannot develop a passion without first creating an interest.”
This philosophy and approach of growth mindset partnered with work ethic, Malone cited as a movement which began to take shape in the district three years ago. It began with the fundamental of leadership and owning what that entails as an administration.
“You get what you coach,” Malone said. “If I don’t like what I’m getting in the way of results, I need to reevaluate what I’m coaching. Be it a leader, a teacher or a student, you can’t place blame. We need to modify if we are unhappy with the result.
“This movement … this particular year is really about a return to fundamentals,” he continued, “and that’s really what our mantra is going to be.”
The superintendent acknowledged the amount of time teachers have spent outside of the classroom as a result of the Common Core implementation. Something he prefers to call College and Career Readiness, as it’s viewed as an instructional system benefitting both areas necessary for the student.
“That work is done, with the exception of some science,” he said of the teachers’ Common Core workshops, mentioning the need for creating dynamic instruction for Oakdale students and all those involved with making that possible.
Malone believes it to be the responsibility of the OJUSD staff as a whole to foster that for its students. Whether it be from their experience with the driver on their school bus ride to school, an encounter with the person serving them breakfast in the school cafeteria or the monitor on the playground and the manner in which they address the individual, each role contributes to the overall dynamic.
“We want to encourage this system of education for our kids,” Malone explained. “Leadership is greatly enhanced by Grit. Personally, I think this book is a game changer. In my role it’s important to distinguish fact from opinion.”
Incorporating lessons from the book will be part of the return to fundamentals.
“The beauty of this book, is it’s research based,” he said of Duckworth’s book. “She looked at all the places that produce this … college and career ready kids. She went out and said what makes people successful. I would be remiss as the leader of a school district if I did not take that to heart, because I want our kids to be difference makers.”