The Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAS) is a K-12 WASC-accredited virtual public charter school, with a Central Office in Thousand Oaks and Learning Centers in San Diego and Thousand Oaks. AAS currently serves over 2,000 scholars throughout the State of California and employs over 100 employees across the state. As a virtual charter school with staff spread out across the state, professional development is an area of opportunity for the Senior Management Team. In the past, AAS has had a one size fits all approach to professional development, and past surveys have shared that staff are not taking away what they should from Professional Development Days. For example, from the January 2016 PD, the PD was eight-hours, and of those eight hours, one hour was intended for all-staff; the rest was for the Academic Affairs Division. This meant that for over half the staff, the content was not appropriate for their personal and/or professional growth.
I am proposing the creation of the AAS Institute. The AAS Institute will be a monthly professional development course for all staff, leading to a Certificate of Completion at the end of the school year. From survey results from the PDs that were offered in the 2015-16 school year, there will be several tracks in the AAS Institute: teachers, advisors, coordinators, managers and administration. Based on feedback from our IT Coordinator and Director of Academic Affairs, there is a lack of understanding and awareness amongst our staff on technology use in the classroom, basic Microsoft Office and Google use, and from conversations with coordinators and managers, a lack of proper training for these roles within the organization. These has also been a lack of focus on all areas of AAS, as noted from the surveys from 2015-16, which is addressed in the creation of the AAS Institute. The Institute will become our in-house professional development vehicle and provide meaningful professional development training routes for all employee groups.
The objective of the AAS Institute is to ensure all staff have the training and resources necessary to be successful at AAS and in turn, ensure they are able to meet the mission and vision of AAS, which is to "inspire and develop innovative, creative, self-directed learners, one scholar at a time" and "create a collaborative virtual learning community, inspiring scholars to appreciate the ways in which arts and sciences nurture a curiosity for life-long learning, and prepare scholars to take responsibility for their future success." The AAS Institute will run monthly for each track, with an hour-long program. There will be a combination of sessions, ranging from Microsoft Office Suite Basics to training on the use of Adobe Collaborate and Livestream. Depending on the track, there could be a focus on "Common Core in the Classroom" to "Reading Your Department Monthly Budget." Through the monthly Staff Virtual Suggestion Box, it was evident there was a need for specific training for the various employee groups, especially those who were in management roles. These individuals were asking for more resources on ways to be a better manager, such as how to use the new Performance Planning System and understanding the Department Budget.
It is my hope that the AAS Institute will cover the professional development needs of staff, and enhance their skill-sets to move the organization forward. All staff are required, as part of their Performance Review System, to include training needs for the year. The AAS Institute should be able to cover these needs, in addition to covering organizational trainings around budging, governance, management and more. There are also goals in place on academic achievement and scholar engagement through our LCAPs. Our various levels of training will be able to address ways for different groups to impact scholar achievement and scholar engagement. Both teachers and advisors, for example, impact these areas, though the training modules can be different as these two employee groups would be on different tracks. Just like our individualized academic program for scholars, the AAS Institute is individualized by employee group through the track system. If successful, this could become a model for other organizations to implement.
This project is coming from two areas: AAS Job Descriptions and our LCAP. In the job descriptions we include participating in professional development, and those staff in the Academic Affairs Division are also encouraged to have a Certificate in Online Learning, which is a newer certificate option which most staff have not earned. The AAS Institute will be our internal effort to award a similar certificate for staff. Our LCAP goals consist of increasing scholar engagement, increasing scholar achievement and utilizing our assessment system. This Institute will ensure all staff have the resources and training to help our scholars be more engaged and successful, while also understanding the various results of our assessment systems.
It is my hope that the AAS Institute will cover professional development needs of staff, and enhance their skill-sets to move the organization forward. All staff are required, as part of their Performance Review System, to include training needs for the year. The Institute is covered in the overall $13 million AAS operating budget. $150,000 has been budgeted for conference and registration fees, and an additional $50,000 for lodging and travel. The idea is for staff to attend trainings to bring back to AAS and incorporate into the AAS Institute. This will be a train the trainer approach, where key staff will learn the content and bring it back for mass dissemination through the Institute. Part of the Performance Plan for 2016-17 includes a section on how each employee will work on the four goals of our LCAP. Assisting with the creation and build-out of the AAS Institute will count towards this section of the Performance Plan for staff who wish to access professional development funds in 2016-17.
$100,000 has been budgeted for technology. We will utilize $2,388 to purchase a LiveStream account. We will also utilize $3,000 to purchase ParentSquare. The LiveStream account will be utilized to run live sessions of the AAS Institute and record and store them for future use in our Intranet. The program will also be utilized by other departments within the organization, including the Board of Directors to stream their meetings for the public. ParentSquare is a communication tool for scholars, parents and staff, which includes short surveys. To monitor participation in the AAS Institute, each session will have a short survey through ParentSquare for staff to complete. It will not be a test, rather, a way to ensure the entire session was reviewed. Results will be shared with the HR Generalist, who will track competition of sessions in Bamboo, our HRIS system which tracks other required trainings such as Mandated Reporter and others.
The overall AAS budget is $13 million. It is anticipated the AAS Institute will be roughly $160,000 of that budget, utilizing the conference and registration line, conference travel line, and portions of the technology line. As all staff need to incorporate LCAPs into their Performance Plan for the 2016-17 year, those who attend professional development trainings will incorporate into their plan the creation and buildout of the AAS Institute. The HR team will also be able to include the creation and buildout of the AAS Institute, to serve as guides to those building the sessions and to aid in the tracking of staff participation in the recorded sessions. The Senior Management Team supports the creation of the AAS Institute as a means to increase professional development opportunities for all staff, and in turn, ensure all staff have the resources they need to positively impact the scholars we serve throughout the state.