Joe Cuddemi •
Kinard Middle School • Fort Colllins, CO
Kinard Middle School
I have been the principal of Kinard Middle School since its inception in 2004. With humble beginnings, we operated our first two years on the second floor of a high school. In search of literature to support the opening of a new school, I noticed a book called Getting Started by Rick DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, and Bob Eaker in one of my professional development catalogues.
The PLC concept made sense to me, and was supported by extensive research and results; however, clarity precedes competence. At this time in my journey as a leader, I hadn’t yet developed a clear understanding of the conditions that I would need to create and ensure sustainability and success for all. Then in 2010, I attended a PLC Summit in Arizona and had an “ah ha” experience. Rick DuFour challenged the audience, in one of his sessions, as to whether they were going to “settle or soar” as a PLC. In my reflection and assessment of our place on the PLC journey, I realized that while we had established a very congenial culture, with teachers organized into teams; we weren’t focused on the “right work”.
Through recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research, we used the Learning by Doing book as a guide to help us assess our culture and our professional practices. We grew hungry for evidence of student learning. We made commitments to each other, developed systems to address conflict, and held each other accountable. Our teacher “groups” transformed into high-performing teams, developing norms, a guaranteed, viable curriculum, and teacher-made common formative assessments. On-going analysis of common formative assessments resulted in adjustments to instructional strategies and timely interventions for supporting or challenging students. We became intentional and student achievement results increased.
In 2012, based on evidence of effectiveness, we were selected by Professional Learning Community at Work to be a Model PLC. Our school has hosted several visitors from around the state who want to learn more about the PLC process and how to build high-performing teams.
In February 2015, we were nominated by the Colorado Department of Education, as one of three Colorado schools to represent Colorado for the National Blue Ribbon Award for sustaining high academic student performance for over a five year period of time.
I hope our story inspires educational leaders who aspire to increase student learning and build the collective capacity of its educators through the PLC process and journey. I would like to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation for all the support that the Solution Tree organization provides to us through institutes, summits, workshops, literature, and mentoring.