Educated Woman of the Week- Shannon Dulaney

Where did you go to school and what did you study?
BA with a major in English and a minor in music from Cal State Fullerton, MEd in Secondary Education and Administrative Endorsement from Southern Utah University, EdD in Curriculum and Instruction from Utah State University

Tell us about your school/work life:My name is Shannon Dulaney and I am currently Superintendent of Schools in the Iron County School District located in Cedar City Utah. I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else (professionally) that could be more rewarding. I am committed to the work and the service that takes place in our schools and love the people I am privileged to associate with everyday. I have been the superintendent in Iron County since July 2013, so I am entering my second year. I know that I have much to learn, but feel supported by a Board that consists of good men and women who have children and youth at the center of their thoughts and actions. They are united in their efforts (even though at times it takes some thoughtful discussion to get there), and that unity makes my job so much more joyful and rewarding. The following is my job and education history:
2013 – Present – Superintendent, Iron County School District, Cedar City, Utah
2010 – 2013 – Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership Department within the McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
2005-2010 – Special Programs Director, Iron County School District, Cedar City, Utah
2001 – 2005 – Principal of the Southwest Education Academy, Iron County’s Alternative High School
2000- Med from Southern Utah University in Education with a secondary endorsement and an Administrative/Supervisory licensure concentration
1997-2001 – Teacher in the Iron County School District Youth in Custody program
1994- 1997 – English, Choir and Drama teacher at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley California.
1994 – Bachelor of Arts from Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton, California
Piano Teacher in my home from 1975 – 1997

I knew I wanted to be a teacher while in Mrs. Brown’s 4th grade class in Buena Park, California. My home life wasn’t always the most stable and Mrs. Brown was loving and kind. When she read to us, it was as if I became a part of each book. This is when I became a voracious reader: partly for the joy of reading and partly to escape. Then in my 9th grade English class Mrs. Wilson challenged me to really “think” about the story… not just the text, but also the context and then find meaning and connection with my life experiences. This helped me to make sense of my life and who I was as a person. Can you see why I grew to know that education and teachers were critical?

I have been married for 39 years to a good man who has supported all that I have wanted to do and be. Without that support, my life and career would have taken a different path. Tim and I have four wonderful kids who have given us, so far, 10 even more wonderful grand kids. My oldest son is a middle school band teacher in California and writes music for high school marching bands. He is married to a tenacious and extremely supportive girl and they have two daughters and one son. My only daughter has her elementary education license, and has chosen to be a full-time mom to four of my wonderful grandkids: two daughters and two sons. My middle son is a lawyer in Orlando, Florida, is married to a sweetheart of a girl and has one beautiful daughter and another on the way in November. My youngest son is a technology wiz and lives here in Cedar with his cute wife and adorable daughter. I have been blessed!

As I indicated earlier, I love my job. I appreciate the people serving at each level of our system and in every position within my district, the other 40 districts, and at the state level as well. I understand the importance of what we do and the decisions we make. I feel supported, mostly, by those that I associate with. At times I am troubled by decisions, politically motivated decisions, that seem to be made without regard for what is best for kids. If I could change anything about the profession and climate/culture surrounding this profession, it would be to have every politician, legislator, and state and local Board member remember that service to the children in our State should always be central to the decisions they make. This is my expectation for myself and those I lead!

How have your career passions changed over the course of your career, and how have you managed transitions?
While working toward my EdD at Utah State University, I had a very wise professor say in class one day, “Remember, you are always interviewing.” That simple statement had a huge impact on how I have made career decisions over the last 10 years or so. I have come to understand that one must always engage in the practice of creating opportunities and following passions.

Each educational opportunity taken has brought a realization of what excites me most about the profession I have chosen and led me to the next best step and opportunity. Going from teacher, to school principal, to district leader, to college professor and now school district superintendent has been all at once challenging and exciting and I am enjoying the journey: challenges and all. I have managed these transitions by always looking forward and considering the connection between my professional and personal goals.

how do you handle conflict resolution?
I have been extremely fortunate to work and serve in organizations that have been functional and collaborative in nature. As I took the position of Special Programs Director in Iron County back in 2005, my predecessor had worked to build relationships with those he served. I know this, because I was one of those who served under his leadership. So, I knew coming into this position, that building and sustaining good relationships would be key to assuaging any feelings of discomfort or apprehension on the part of those that I would now direct and serve in regards to how I would lead and build upon what they had previously experienced.
As I assumed this position, there were some who felt that because I did not have a Special Education endorsement, I would not understand the nature of special education and the needs of students who were served through special Education services. It was going to be important for me to demonstrate not only my capabilities, but to show care and compassion for these great educators. I have always believed that relationship-building and -sustaining is essential. It is truly the most critical part of effective leadership. Without strong relationships, morale is compromised and needed change and sustainable improvement cannot occur.
As I worked to learn all that I could about those I led as well as what they needed to learn and know to increase student achievement, I believe that improvement in practice took place. Practices, such as response to instruction/intervention (RtI) were just coming to the forefront in education nationwide as well as within our state in 2005 (my first year as the special programs director). I felt that it would be critical for me to understand these practices and how they could be implemented to hold our special needs students to high expectations as well as increase their achievement. I focused my research for my dissertation on RtI and did it within the context of the middle school setting (Cedar Middle School). What I discovered was that responding to student needs through instruction and intervention was not just for special education, it was for all education and educators, and we began to implement its precepts district-wide.
This implementation and focus, I believe, helped not only special education teachers, but others within the district to see that we were all serving all students. From 2005-2010 I worked with others at the district and school level to understand how what Superintendent Johnson was promoting in our district with professional learning communities was tied directly to RtI and they would work hand-in-hand to increase student achievement. The data surrounding our student achievement in Iron County supports this direction and I have seen how the increased focus on collaboration and student improvement can lead, in many cases, to increased teacher satisfaction and improved morale.
It would be my intent to continue to build on what Jim has accomplished during his tenure as superintendent. I will work to establish, sustain and continue to improve upon these wonderful relationships with the Iron County school community as well as the community at large: attending to the issues of morale and satisfaction that must never be neglected when directing and serving any organization.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
My initial exposure to professional learning communities (PLCs) came as an administrator in Iron County in 2003. Jim Johnson had just been hired as superintendent, and in our principal meetings each month he began training us on PLCs. I was immediately drawn to the possibilities for my kids at the alternative high school (SEA) as well as our teachers. Attending to the needs of all students has always been a priority for me, and PLCs gave voice to these priorities as well as a framework for implementation. Since that time, it has been my great privilege to teach courses within the Ed. Leadership department at BYU and present, statewide, on PLC foundational concepts and the principal’s role within a PLC.

During my time at BYU I have done research on response to intervention and multi-tiered systems of support and published on each of these subjects. Within these publications has been the recognition that a PLC is the collaborative vehicle for moving districts and schools forward in changing the focus of schools from teaching to learning. Are we meeting the educational needs of all students and are these efforts increasing the learning and achievement in our schools as well as supporting the professional growth of educators?

Districts and schools operating within the PLC structure develop the collective capacity of educators to function as members of a community of learners that act upon the belief that all students can learn at high levels. I firmly believe that in order for this kind of learning to take place, processes and structures must be in place to allow ongoing, job-embedded learning of the adults who serve our students to take place. Having said this, I also recognize that districts and schools cannot only be doing PLCs they must be becoming PLCs if they want to achieve sustainable results for all learners.

The student success and achievement that can be attained through the PLC structure is measured through the ongoing processes of problem-solving and data-driven decision making within the collaborative team structure in every school as well as the district. At the elementary level, in Iron County as well as other districts throughout our state, the PLC structure has been in place for 10 plus years. Teachers and administrators in these settings have set-aside time for collaborative teaming to take place and best practices are examined and correlated with student achievement. In the secondary setting this structure is in its infancy.

The nature of secondary schools is more autonomous and teachers and teams nationwide are struggling to find the relevance and efficiencies that can come through working collaboratively. However, there is movement forward when teachers and teams are supported in the PLC effort through the designation of time and resources for collaboration to occur. I would work collaboratively with the district and school teams to promote this forward movement and improvement in practice. Also, in both the elementary and secondary settings, teachers and administrators need to have access to data systems that are easy to use and have relevant and real-time data available that can drive conversations about student achievement during the teaming process.

Finally, when these processes are in place in both the elementary and secondary settings, it is critical for administrators to evaluate the level of functionality of their collaborative teams. It is essential that school administrators attend team meetings regularly and engage in conversations with collaborative team members about their preparation for these meetings, encourage dialogue about evidence-based instructional practices, and promote and support high levels of collaborative practices such as expertise, professionalism and productivity. I would work tirelessly to promote and support these practices and processes.

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