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New Professional Pathways aim to provide more opportunities as employees’ skills grow

CASTLE ROCK – In one way or another, all of us have been exposed to professional pathways—choices regarding where our work might take us. While some may choose the climb towards leadership opportunities, others are working to hone their skills, and then there are those that share those lessons-learned with others.

A new tool being developed by the Douglas County School District (DCSD) aims at providing employees with a clearer understanding of all of the options that may be available to them as they grow in their career, as well as the support needed to help them achieve those dreams.

Professional Pathways is an element of the District’s new Pay for Performance system, which was created to provide incentives and support to retain the District’s most effective employees, as well as attracting high quality talent to Douglas County. The goal of the tool is to map out different, differentiated routes employees can take throughout their careers.

“We are a learning organization. We want our organization to continue learning and growing,” explained Director of Elementary Schools and Professional Pathways Project Manager Marie Unger. “As their skills increase, their opportunities should increase.”
The tool, which is still in development, takes into consideration the different stages of an employee’s career, as well as the ambitions and desires our employees may have along the way.
For instance, while some teachers may have no interest in leaving the classroom, others may have aspirations about being a counselor, principal or maybe even the superintendent one day.
Every employee will have the ability to choose from pathways that may lead to new positions or the opportunity to stay right where they are, while giving back to the system.
Of course, the pathways for each employee group may be completely different, so efforts are underway to ensure that professional pathways are mapped out for every position within the District.
A group of 15 administrators and 20 teachers have been involved over the course of the work of developing the tool since last summer.
“It has been really exciting to watch it since its inception. I’ve never sat on a District committee that created something brand new,” said Julie Holtz, a teacher from Eldorado Elementary.
“At first we started with coming up with a common definition,” added Unger. “What is our definition of Professional Pathways? We did this by researching different Professional ladders and paths. That’s a pretty common term, not just in education, but in business too.”
After months of research and discussion, the group agreed that the Professional Pathways tool should be a resource to guide teachers through goal planning, something that would be extremely useful during the annual review process.
“One of the things we should be constantly asking is ‘what’s next for you?’ Where is your area of focus?” Unger said.
The opportunities offered are broken down into four areas, which also happen to coincide with Emergenetics preferences:
  • Innovation (Yellow)
  • Development (Red)
  • Leadership (Green)
  • System Performance (Blue)
The web-based tool will allow employees to explore different links that are pertinent to their career stage and position. For instance there will be different pathways for in-classroom teachers, Building Resource Teachers, counselors, etc., all built by teacher-led groups.
Next, within the tool, employees will be able to click on links for more information about the skills and experience required and even professional development classes that can prepare them.
Unger says Professional Pathways is meant to be guidance. Simply completing the skills required, doesn’t guarantee a position.
“We didn’t want it to become a checklist, because we all know that just because you complete a checklist, doesn’t mean that you are ready to pursue a different career,” Unger said.
She also says that there will not be financial incentives for every pathway.
“I might be doing this because it’s good for my experience and it’s good on my resume,” explained Unger. “We’re trying to be really clear about what is the incentive to pursue each of the professional pathways.”
The goal of the program is to support employees and their choices. If a teacher or bus driver, for instance, enjoy what they do—opportunities are provided for them to grow in those positions.
That is the aspect of the Professional Pathways work that most interested Holtz.
“I am a teacher who will be a teacher her entire life. I have no need to be in administration or counseling or.. I want to be a teacher. They were looking for ways to keep teachers in the classroom and ways we can enhance ourselves as teachers and as professionals. I wanted to be part of that,” Holtz said.
Kali Goings, a first year teacher at Sage Canyon Elementary brought another perspective to the group. She like many other brand new teachers, want to be able to look ahead at all of the opportunities that may lie ahead. 
“I think it’s helpful for anybody to know, ‘this is what I’m looking forward to doing. How can I take this job to the next level?’” Goings said. “It gives me a good starting off point of what I need to be working on as a first year teacher and how I can help others who are going to be coming into the District.”
She says that she would have never thought of certain pathways presented by teachers in the group, who represent every level and career stage in the District.
“We talked a lot about having a model classroom where you have teachers coming in and observing you. I never thought about doing something like that before,” Goings said.
Of course, these pathways are not necessarily new. Holtz says in her career, she would have never considered certain opportunities if they hadn’t been brought to her attention—another aspect built into Professional Pathways.
“I probably would have never thought of having a student teacher, if an administrator had never come up to me and said, ‘hey, I think you’d be perfect for this,” Holtz said.
The program is going to be presented to the Board of Education next week and Unger says she is hoping to provide a webcast for employees so the group can walk them through how Professional Pathways will work. 
While a lot of progress has been made on the project, the group recognizes that this is only a start. They plan to take feedback from the system and integrate it this summer and as teachers begin to use it in the fall.
I anticipate that as we learn more about how to grow our organization we’ll add some things,” Unger said. “For example, I just recently had a conversation about where Schedule A fits. Schedule A should be in here somewhere. We’re trying to think of how it embeds, because for some people, they love their classroom work, but I want to work outside of my classroom in coaching.”
Unger says she expects Professional Pathways to continue to grow and change to meet the needs of our highly effective and innovative employees moving forward.
October 14, 2013 | By Anonymous | Category:

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