High School Professional Development Sessions

Because one of the pillars of the strategic plan focuses on redesigning the high school experience in Salem, we knew it was essential to share the High School Work Team's recommendations with high school faculty and staff and obtain their input.

To do this, we held two sessions for faculty and staff from Salem's high schools, scheduled during time periods that they had already reserved for professional development sessions.

Session #1

This session was run by the Salem High School principal, who was also one of the co-leads of the High School Work Team. The meeting opened with some introductory remarks from him, followed by an overview of the strategic planning process by the Superintendent. Next, the Superintendent introduced the Assistant Superintendent.

A Changing Job Market & "The Myth of Average" 


  • Purpose: Help teachers and staff understand the demands of the changing job market and the importance of 1) helping students develop the 21st century skills that will be necessary to succeed in a changing market and 2) designing schools and classrooms that foster the development of all different kinds of minds and talent. This also helped us gather input on what a redesigned high school experience might look like, ideally, from the perspective of school faculty and staff.
  • Activity: 
  • The Assistant Superintendent provided some data on the changing job market and necessary skills
  • A clip of a TED talk by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Todd Rose was then shown. Using an analogy to cockpit design in Air Force fighter jets, the clip makes a compelling point that there is no such thing as an average learner.
  • This video served as a starting point for a conversation focused on envisioning the future of the school district. At their tables, teachers and staff were asked to discuss the following questions:


  1. What thoughts and questions do you have about the Todd Rose video?
  2. What would you most want to redesign about the high school experience in Salem and why?


Presentations by High School Work Team Members

  • Purpose: Share the draft recommendations that the High School Work Team had developed with all high school faculty and staff. By having work team members present these, we were also able to foster more of a sense of ownership of the recommendations.
  • Activity: Several members of the work team gave short presentations on the three key priority areas the team had identified for redesign. A handout with highlights from each priority area was also distributed among the participants.

Small Group Discussion of High School Work Team Recommendations

  • Purpose: Provide High School Work Team with feedback on their draft recommendations and allow team members to see the patterns in the responses and gain a better understanding of what was exciting and/or confusing to them.
  • Activity: Participants were asked to discuss the following questions at their tables: 
  1. What most excited you about what you just heard?
  2. What do you wonder about and why?
  3. What’s missing?

All the responses were compiled and posted to help the High School Work Team in easily identifying any emerging themes or common answers.

To conclude the meeting, the principal thanked the staff for their participation and shared the timeline for the remainder of the Strategic Planning Process.

Session #2

The second session was intended to update the teachers with the recommendations proposed by the High School Work Team that had spent months learning about trends and promising practices embraced by 21 st century high schools. The Salem High School principal opened the meeting by sharing the goals for the session and then invited the superintendent to give opening remarks. In her remarks, the superintendent emphasized the importance of teachers deepening their own learning in order to better prepare students. She shared the following quote from Linda Darling-Hammond:

“If we want to improve student learning, what we have to do is invest in teachers’ learning.”

The superintendent encouraged the teachers to embrace the role of “learner” rather than “teacher” during the session. Following this and a brief re-cap of the previous session by the assistant superintendent, a warm-up session was conducted.

Warm-Up Session

  • Purpose: Help teachers put themselves in the learner mindset.
  • Activity: Participants were asked to turn to a partner and take turns answering the following question: What is one powerful and positive learning experience in your life that shaped you as a professional or was an influence?

Breakout Discussions of High School Work Team Recommendations

  • Purpose: Enable teachers and staff to engage more deeply with one of three "prongs" of the High School Work Team's recommendations.
  • Activity: Teachers and staff were asked to split into three different breakout rooms depending on which prong of the High School Work Team's recommendations they wanted to discuss. Each room had a discussion facilitator who introduced the teachers to a “playlist” of materials and resources related to that particular part of the plan, including Restructuring for 21st Century Learning, Student Empowerment: Leadership & Voice, and Equity & Access to College & Career. The teachers were then asked to discuss to the following prompt: ‘What would work at Salem’s high schools?’

Full Group Report Out

  • Purpose: Allow the full group to understand what the nature of the conversations in the breakout sessions was -- what were some of the key topics, ideas, and concerns that were discussed. This helped both the High School Work Team as well as the faculty and staff as a whole compare findings, hear other groups' insights, and recognize patterns across the groups.
  • Activity: The faculty reconvened in the auditorium and the principal asked for one of the facilitators from each breakout group to report out highlights from their group's discussion.

Closing & Exit Survey

  • Purpose: "Take the temperature" of the group and understand what the general impressions were of the session, and allow faculty and staff to voice any additional comments or ideas they may have.
  • Activity: The Principal thanked the facilitators for their summaries and shared additional resources with the faculty. An exit survey was also distributed to session participants. The survey included the following questions: 
  1. How worthwhile did you find today’s session? (1=Not worthwhile to 5=Extremely worthwhile)
  2. Do you have any comments on the High School Work Team’s recommendations or the Strategic Planning Process overall?