Welcome to Core Connections, a blog by Success at the Core. You'll find stories of best practices, inspiring experiences, and effective strategies related to leadership development, classroom instruction, and student engagement.

Collaborative Time: How to Plan for Its Effective Use

Obadiah Dunham

A shift has begun in the Northshore School District this year.  Last June, as part of bargaining with the teachers union, the district added what it calls “Collaborative Time” to the weekly schedule.  Every Wednesday, students will leave school ninety five minutes early so that staff can collaborate.  This creates a unique opportunity for my school’s leadership team.  We are at a critical point where we have the chance to define the collaborative culture within our building.

How will we do so?

At our staff retreat, our staff identified three areas of focus for the year: the Teacher/Principal Evaluation process, Common …

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Leaning In to Shared Leadership


I served for eight years as an elementary principal in small schools. I loved the small school environment. I was able to learn every student’s name fairly quickly, and I got to work closely with a small group of teachers. As the only administrator, all of the directorial responsibilities rested on my shoulders.

This year, I am the principal of a much larger elementary school. My school has over 650 students. It’s a big change! One huge difference is that I get to work with an assistant principal. An assistant principal?  A partner? I’m in!

Another change for me is the level …

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The Little Alaska High School That Could


Collaboration for many staff members can be a dreadful experience.  Everyone piles into a common area knowing that nobody really wants to be there. Arguments often ensue, and one might even have to stay past the contractual day.  Often the person who talks the loudest or the most manages to get what he/she wants, while the rest of the staff just wishes it would be different.  This is what I endured for four years at Delta High School in Delta Junction, Alaska.

This all started to change when our principal, Patrick Mayer, implemented three new concepts: Group Norms, Timed Agenda and …

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How Data Is Driving My District’s Improvement

Andrea Brixey

Over the past decade or two, sophisticated brain-imaging devices, combined with research, have provided schools with a bounty of new information about how students learn.  Last week, through my district’s efforts to analyze our state assessment data and then act on what we found, I discovered the Success the Core website was designed with that information already in mind.

Several years ago, the middle school where I worked was invited to pilot the Success at the Core program.  The school’s principal, Kenny Renner-Singer (who went on to become the 2012 Washington State Principal of the Year), chose to focus much of …

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