Tuesday , 25 February 2020

Serving Smart – DoDEA Schools

By Kevin O’Brien, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

It’s that time of year again.

Labor Day weekend is upon us which can mean only one thing…summer is unofficially over (It’s unofficial because the sun’s not directly striking the equator yet).  But for all you kiddos out there, summer is most definitely, without a doubt, no if’s and’s or but’s, OFFICIALLY over.

It’s Back to School time — Parents rejoice!

To kick off the school year, DoDLive caught up with a very important man — Mr. Thomas Brady. He’s the Director of the Department of Defense Education Activity. Mr. Brady was sworn in as DoDEA’s director last March and since that day, he’s been tirelessly getting himself familiar with DoDEA and its 181 schools and approximately 78,000 students.

DoDEA Director Tom Brady addresses parents of students attending DoDEA Okinawa District schools during an open forum. Brady visited several schools across the Pacific to hear directly from students, parents and employees on their experiences, concerns and ideas for improvement.
DoDEA Director Tom Brady addresses parents of students attending DoDEA Okinawa District schools during an open forum. Brady visited several schools across the Pacific to hear directly from students, parents and employees on their experiences, concerns and ideas for improvement.

Over the last 100 days, Mr. Brady traveled more than 27,000 miles to visit with DoDEA’s three area offices in Germany, Okinawa, and Georgia to prepare for the 2014-15 school year.

Here’s a more comprehensive look of his first 100 days in office.

  • Visited 8 of DoDEA’s 14 districts
  • Visited 79 of DoDEA’s 181 schools in Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia.
  • Conducted 27 faculty and staff meetings, 9 parent meetings, and 7 meetings with union officials.
  • Met with senior military spouses, members of Dependents Education Council, and several other organizations that have a vested interest in DoDEA schools.

“Within DoDEA, most of the schools have already re-opened, and that’s a great thing.” Brady, said,’ “It starts in the South (U.S.) in the Fort Benning and Fort Knox, Fort Campbell and it begins in the early part of August and it goes right through next week where the majority of schools will re-open. I’m very pleased to say the openings have gone exceedingly well.”

Mr. Brady said during his first 100 days, he was able to meet with a large cross-section of the DoDEA community to include many teachers, administrators, commanders, service members and military spouses to get a better understanding of DoDEA. Despite the exhaustion of traveling across time zones, Brady said he was very pleased with everyone’s candidness and he now has better understanding of DoDEA’s current state and the unique challenges military families face.

Mr. Brady said there were 3 common themes that came across during his visits to DoDEA schools. “Number one is that we are very well resourced,” said Brady,  “Thanks to DoD and its commitment…we are not in a position to having to cut vital programs or teachers, so that was pretty common and everybody recognized that.”

He said in his 15 years’ experience as an educational administrator and leader in public schools, there were always threats to educational programs, extracurricular activities and reductions in the workforce. Mr. Brady says DoDEA is fortunate to have the ability to resource important educational programs around the world, but still must be committed to identifying and ensuring educational programs vital to a student’s achievement.

The second theme according to Mr. Brady is how DoDEA continues to be impacted by issues that create uncertainty. These factors include Re-stationing, downsizing, and studies to examine whether DoDEA should continue schools in the United States.

“Those (issues) are all impactful on our employees and our students and our parents,” Mr. Brady explained, “I perceive if there was an organization that was in angst unknowing of the future…my commitment was that we’d open up increased communication of factual information.”

He said DoDEA is examining and looking deeper into areas and organizational structure to decide how they can effectively support schools and improve student achievement.

Mr. Brady’s third impression was DoDEA was experiencing “unfocused educational” reform and this lack of strategic focus needs to be addressed immediately. “We needed to refocus, simplify – too many educational reform programs, too many things going on, too many priorities and I’ve seen that at other places. This leaves the organization to being exhausted, no one knowing what the priorities are.”

He said he is narrowing the strategic focus to two priority areas to improve student achievement, “It is the implementation of an aligned instruction curriculum. Which are the standards, scope and sequence, assessments and professional development.” And the second priority according to Brady, “We need to reorganize our educational directorate to better align with the responsibilities we have and to reinvent our HR department so that we can get the absolutely most talented administrators and teachers.”

The bottom line is Mr. Brady is very enthusiastic about DoDEA. He shows the passion and dedication that every student deserves. He concluded with this final statement.

“My personal vision is that vision at the end — that we have increased student performance/achievement and that it’s the best school system in the United States and our children have a world of opportunity when they get to graduate.”

That’s a pretty solid vision I think every parent can agree with and support.

Happy Back-to-School, everyone and have safe Labor Day weekend!

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