Up Close With Nevada Succeeds: Transformation Starts With Equity

This is a special Getting Smart Podcast mini-series about the Nevada Succeeds InspirED Fellowship

Nevada Succeeds is a Las Vegas-based education nonprofit focused on empowering systems transformation through educator impact, policy, and design thinking. Dedicated to building a statewide ecosystem, Nevada Succeeds launched an InspirED Fellowship in July 2020 in partnership with Las Vegas Sands.

The goal of the fellowship was to empower educational practitioners to investigate Nevada education challenges and use design thinking to develop actionable plans to determine solutions. Using the Singapore education system and best practices sites across the country as a guide, Fellows engaged in deep conversations around collaboration, student achievement and professional growth for educators.

Keeping equity at the forefront of all their work, Fellows were given the opportunity to lead, the support to discover innovative solutions to educational obstacles and space to shift their practice and learning from insight to impact.

We’ve been honored to partner with Nevada Succeeds on some of this work and are excited for you to hear these conversations with some of the many key players in the initiative.

On the final episode of our Nevada Succeeds series, we’re joined by Jeanine Collins, Executive Director of Nevada Succeeds as well as Dr. Marion Smith,  superintendent in beautiful Summit County Colorado. His Racial Equity Adaptive Leadership (R.E.A.L.) Framework was key to the Nevada Succeeds fellowship program design. We’re also joined by Dr. Kaleb Rashad Creative Director of the High Tech High Graduate School of Education and his “work husband” Dr. Eric Chagala, Founding Principal of the Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA).

Kaleb and Eric have been hard at work on a new initiative called Unlocked and have had an instrumental influence on the mindset and methodology of the Nevada Succeeds InspirED Fellowship.

To start, Jeanine Collins highlights the important work of Dr. Marion Smith, a leader who has been able to share practical examples with our fellows while inspiring and challenging us to center racial equity as part of our design process. His diversity of experience in terms of location and system have made for some invaluable insights that resulted in the Racial Equity Adaptive Leadership (R.E.A.L.) Framework.

“It is important to center students who are furthest from opportunity,” said Dr. Marion Smith.

Dr. Kaleb Rashad, third-time guest on the Getting Smart Podcast, shares about his relationship with Dr. Eric Chagala and discusses his passion for bringing people together around big ideas and in authentic spaces.

Eric started to work with Kaleb when designing VIDA. “Kaleb was the first to bring up this idea to me of ecosystem building including the Virginia Is For Learners Network.”

Jeanine asks the profound question, “How do we thrive in situations where we may not know the answers? How are we going to make sense of what is potentially useful and inspiring?”

Later, Tom asks about human-centered and equity-focused design, Kaleb acknowledges that it originated out of design thinking. “Every system is designed perfectly to get the results that it gets,” said Kaleb. He continues, saying that it is about not leading with personal biases and doubles down on the fact that empathy, a step of the design thinking process, does not equate to equity. “Creativity, design, innovation — can be not equity centered. If your work is not shifting the power to the hands of the people who have been disassociated from it… then y’all are just running in circles.”

Eric shared one of the key principles of Vita, “We’re trying to tend to the soul of school.” For too long “school was something that had been done to [students], they want to be the ones doing it.”

On the future of leadership prep and development, the guests shared that it is about:

  • Schooling vs education
  • Deep personal work
  • Understanding the context
  • Have to teach leaders about the development of culture within an organization
  • You have to be willing to be disturbed/uncomfortable

Throughout the conversation, they continued to enforce the need for multiple pathways to develop individuals and groups of people and for them to know their own contexts and histories, as well as others. The group shared one program that is doing it particularly well, EduColor in Rhode Island. These are fellowships that explore place, identity, the de-colonizing of self, reinhabitation.

Eric and Kaleb have been hard at work on Unlocked, a new design process. From the Unlocked website: “education should be about positioning young people to leverage their talents, tastes, and interests to make meaningful contributions to the world.”

Key Takeaways:

[:04] About the Nevada Succeeds mini-series.
[1:22] About the third and final part of the series.
[2:10] Tom welcomes special guest, Jeanine Collins, back to the podcast!
[2:44] Jeanine introduces Dr. Marion Smith and shares how they originally connected.
[4:29] Dr. Marion Smith shares about his career journey and rich educational history!
[5:43] How did Dr. Marion Smith develop his racial equity adaptive leadership framework? What is it about and what does it aim to accomplish?
[8:58] Jeanine shares why the framework resonates so much with her and why she wanted to incorporate it into the Nevada Succeeds fellowship.
[11:04] Tom welcomes Dr. Kaleb Rashad and Eric Chagala to the podcast!
[11:51] Kaleb shares how he and Eric came together to create Unlocked, a Black-led 501(c)3 education non-profit.
[14:03] Jeanine shares what she loves about Eric and Kaleb and why she wanted to get them involved with Nevada Succeeds.
[16:24] Eric explains what human-centered and equity-focused design means when it comes to VIDA and Unlocked.
[18:32] Eric shares some practical examples of human-centered and equity-focused design and the results that it brings.
[20:48] Marion speaks about what human-centered and equity-focused design means at a system level.
[24:27] What is creative leadership? And why is it more important than ever?
[28:22] Jeanine elaborates on how they keep the spirit and message of equity and justice alive amongst the Nevada Succeeds fellows!
[30:08] On the Unlocked website, there is a quote about inviting kids to do work that really matters to them and their community. Eric elaborates on this and shares how, at VIDA, they are “tending to the souls of schools.”
[31:24] Dr. Smith speaks about the kinds of experiences that people would benefit the most from in terms of preparing them to be thoughtful school and community leaders.
[34:58] Kaleb shares about the ways in which we can prepare people to be thoughtful school and community leaders.
[39:35] Eric shares how he believes people can become more thoughtful school and community leaders.
[41:20] Jeanine shares what is on Nevada Succeeds’ roadmap and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.
[43:11] Tom thanks everyone for joining the podcast!
[43:40] Shawnee concludes the Nevada Succeeds three-part mini-series!

Mentioned in This Episode:

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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