• CSI Professional Testimonials


  • Core Team Member

    & School Improvement Facilitator 

                            Joy Mackenzie

    An Interview with Joy MacKenzie

    What is your role or roles in the school improvement process? 

    I began working as a school improvement facilitator, and I am now transitioning into the role of a core team member for the elementary school I support in the Harrisburg area. 

    As a school improvement facilitator, I assisted schools by walking them through the school improvement process, asking critical questions, building relationships of trust and ultimately ensuring that the school teams and steering committee felt ownership in creating their unique cycle of improvement. As a core team member, I will support the school teams and leaders based on their specific action plan. For example, I am an English language arts specialist, so I will support the school I’m working with in that capacity because some of their major goals and action steps are focus on improving literacy. 

    Can you tell me more about your background in education and any additional work you are currently doing? 

    This year will mark roughly 40 years in education for me! I was a principal for much of that time, and as I mentioned before, I specialized in English language arts. Although I am currently retired, I do still teach and tutor students while also assisting the schools through this process. 

    What interested you about this role? 

    Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed a challenge and enjoyed working with others to improve the lives and education of children. I knew that being a part of the school improvement process would be challenging work, but there's really no better role for someone who loves working in education and really wants to feel and know that this work makes a difference for children and fellow educators. 

    What has the time commitment been like in this role? 

    The time I spent varied depending on the school and their specific plan of improvement. On average, as a school improvement facilitator, I spent a day each week in the school building and facilitated a meeting or sometimes a few meetings. I also spent time each week preparing for those meetings, making sure that I was ready to ask important, thoughtful questions as well as provide resources if needed. Every meeting I planned or prepared for began with time dedicated to celebrating the work that was going well and the positive responses that we noticed in the schools and their staff so that we could tackle the more challenging work with the positives in mind.

    I plan to continue working with this school and district in these two roles for the length of the improvement program, which is currently scheduled to continue for two more years.  

    Are there any challenges you've had to overcome in your role(s)? 

    One of the challenges that I encountered as we began working through the initial strategies and issues was that we really needed to create an environment where people felt comfortable speaking their mind without fearing disapproval or retribution. However, we were able to move past that and actually make that space a reality and allow people to discover their strengths and share their ideas.

    Another persistent challenge is just showing people that they really will receive the support they need. I want them to know that if they ask for help then they will receive the resources or assistance that they need and receive it without judgement. As I continued to work with the steering committee and the school teams and build those relationships of trust, we began to face difficult conversations with a collaborative, honest and student-focused mindset.

    What do you feel you've been able to offer in either or both of your role(s)? 

    I helped school teams and school leaders learn how to build true consensus in their schools. We worked together to implement processes that would encourage everyone in their building and their community to give their full support for the plan and action steps we developed. It was crucial that everyone involved be able to agree and see the value in the chosen method of moving forward.

    I also pushed them to dig deep and take the time to look at the root causes of the issues that they are dealing with and understand why they face the unique problems that they do. I think that oftentimes we try to address a problem without taking enough time to get to the root of it and then we end up with a Band-Aid that doesn’t really solve the problem. Then educators and those involved don’t end up feeling good about the solution because it didn’t really help their students and it made them feel ineffective even though they did try their best to implement the given solution.

    What have you experienced as far as school success within this process? 

    When I first started working with the school, I interviewed and conducted conversations with representative groups throughout the school building, and it was clear that they were feeling very defeated and were wondering if anything would really change this time. Since then, the attitude throughout the building has significantly improved. They’ve become invested in the process, committed to their part of the plan, built trust and come to see me as a support and help. The group became so close and so energized by our work together that going to the school and conducting meetings with them became the highlight of my week.

    Why do you think others should consider becoming involved in the school improvement process? 

    Consider this role if you like a challenge, supporting other change agents, enjoy working with educators and desire a meaningful engagement in education. I do this work because it matters. All kids deserve the opportunity to learn, thrive and succeed, and at the end of the day that is what this work is focused on achieving.

  • School Improvement

                                 Stacey Ames

    An Interview with Stacey Ames

    What is your role or roles in the school improvement process? 

    I currently work with the school district of Philadelphia as well as a charter school in the Philadelphia area. My role in the school improvement process is as a school improvement facilitator. I began working in a part-time capacity while I continued consulting for a few additional agencies; however, this role has quickly transitioned into a full-time as I am now taking on the facilitator position for five or six schools rather than the initial three schools I started with.

    When I first started this work I was a little nervous supporting three schools, but after spending the last year in the role I have actually asked to be involved with more schools! Once you begin working with the first school and get your system and approach down, it becomes easier to see how you can adapt or implement your approach to other schools.

    Can you tell me more about your background in education and any additional work you are currently doing? 

    I came into this work with a strong background in special education and previously spent time working as a school administrator as well as a licensed behavioral specialist. I was an acting assistant principal and then the dean of students for a charter school, but for the last 10 years I’ve acted as a liaison between schools and parents, helping parents to navigate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). I have also transitioned into doing education consulting work that focused primarily on assisting parents as well. 

    What would you say interested you about this role? 

    Being a part of the school improvement process and assisting schools is something I really desired to be a part of and focus on full-time, because it makes such a huge impact and it is extremely fulfilling.

    I am also Philadelphia born and raised. I have family members, grandchildren and nieces and nephews that are of school age and received their education in the Philadelphia school system, so it has been very rewarding to be able to assist schools and a district that I am so connected to and care about so deeply.

    Are there any challenges you've had to overcome in your role? 

    I definitely had to work through the schools' initial attitudes and hurt to get them to open up and realize that I wasn’t the enemy; I was there to help them and to empower them throughout their journey. However, once I built a relationship with the school teams and stakeholders, we were able to have open, honest and critical conversations that drilled down on the issues that they needed to face in order to progress and also how we were going to achieve the future of their school that they envisioned.

    What do you feel you've been able to offer in your role? 

    In this role I am the person who pushes the school teams to think deeper. I do not tell them how to move forward, but I challenge them to think beyond what they’ve tried before and devise new solutions and strategies that are within their control. I helped them to focus on the value they add to students’ lives and asking questions like, ‘Why do they want to come to school?’ and ‘Are we creating an environment of community and family?’ so that school becomes something they really look forward to everyday. 

    I’ve also been able to help school leaders take a clear look at where they are so they can reach the next level, and those conversations aren’t always easy but they make a big difference and they help the school teams and leaders focus on growth and opportunity rather than disappointment.

    What have you experienced as far as school success within this process? 

    I’ve gotten to see and help the principals and educators in the schools start almost from the beginning and view their school in a new light and take charge of this process in an energized way. The school team really operates as a team and they know that they are all accountable for following through with the action plan that they developed and agreed on together.

    When we all work together you can really see their mindsets shift and watch them realize that this is a different process than before and something that they should be invested in and take ownership of. They have hope and feel confident in their abilities and the steps they need to take.

    Why do you think others should consider becoming involved in the school improvement process? 

    I highly encourage others to get involved in these school improvement program roles because they offer the unique chance to help others change their mindset and do something beneficial that effects so many people, from the students and their education to the teachers and administrators feeling like they have the support they need to do their jobs well and make a difference.

    This role is extremely rewarding for me. I know that I am making a difference, a positive difference, for my community.


    Are you a skilled professional with experience in specific curriculum areas and instruction? Apply your knowledge as a core team member! Like Joy, core team members assist in the creation and implementation of evidence-based improvement plans, offering experience in: school climate, English language arts, mathematics, human capital strategies, data analysis, MTSS and family/community engagement.

    For more detailed information, download the Core Team Member information sheet.


    Are you an experienced educational leader who likes collaborating with other leaders? Consider becoming a school improvement facilitator! Like Stacey, school improvement facilitators offer on-site support in the design and implementation of an evidence-based continuous improvement process. 

    For more detailed information, download the School Improvement Facilitator information sheet.

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Last Modified on May 13, 2020