As the former director of instructional technology at Indian Prairie School District 204, Stacey Gonzales led the effort to create the eLo Online Consortium, a cooperative online learning program that brought together three school districts and eventually drew 2,500 students.
“It was a huge undertaking,” she said. “We had three separate districts with three different cultures, different teachers unions, different individuals with their own visions and viewpoints. Teachers believe they are going to lose their jobs, that the whole point is to get rid of teachers, but that is the exact opposite of what we wanted. This was all about supporting our teachers, our curriculum, our rigor.”
To overcome resistance, she arranged for weekly leadership calls among the eLo organizers, set rigorous schedules and held people accountable. For a year and a half, she pressed hard to hire a coordinator who could synchronize the districts’ efforts. “The coordinator was key. We had six high schools and there had to be someone who could work with all those guidance departments and work with all those teachers,” she said.
In her new position as director of curriculum and instruction, she’s bringing that same tech-centric vision to the table in her Orland Park, Ill., district, knowing full well the kind of heavy lifting that is needed to turn a school district in the direction of online and blended education. Gonzales wants to continue pushing for online options. “We are bringing blended learning, offering students opportunities for those options,” she said. The effort is off to a strong start: 150 kids enrolled in the initial summer program. Within five years Gonzales wants to have available a blended learning version of every class.
“My focus is to do this one teacher at a time,” she said. “Success in blended learning is not so much about the course. It’s about having a teacher who is willing. That’s what makes a course successful online.” — Adam Stone