Getting Smart Podcast | The Role of Trustees in Shaping, Supporting and Monitoring the Innovation Agenda

Juan Cabrera is superintendent of El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) in far west Texas. After an academic scandal, the state took over the district in 2013. A state appointed board appointed Cabrera, an attorney who served as general counsel and advisor to Texas school districts. Having worked with many school boards, Cabrera has a well-developed appreciation for the role of trustees.

Shifting the focus of the test prep to active learning, Cabrera and the El Paso trustees have embraced the Border Economy and advanced dual language education as an equity and economic Imperative. Juan is a national advocate for social and emotional learning. He created partnerships with SEL advocate CASEL and Council of The Great City Schools.

Listen in as he shares with Tom Vander Ark what he feels the role of trustees in the innovation agenda.

Podcast Highlights

  • Juan discussed the relative benefits of appointed and elected boards noting that appointed boards move more quickly but may be less interested in constituents. He speculates that hybrid approach could balance community connections and the ability to sustain agenda.
  • Cabrera argues we should elevate the important role of trustees give how important and challenging the work is.
  • On driving the innovation agenda, Cabrera thinks trustees should frame parameters and administrators should build and advance the agenda. (Tom mentions Carver’s Policy Governance model. EPISD uses the CRSS approach).
  • Cabrera notes the importance of role and goal clarity in the system–and that starts with trustees.
  • On the benefits of active learning, Cabrera notes improved engagement and discipline rates that have dropped by more than 50%.
  • If we want young people to learn to work together collaborative, we need to model it as adults Cabrera said. He acknowledges the challenges of managing politics and personalities.

For a couple more great podcasts with Juan Cabrera see:

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