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Q&A with Tommy Chang, on leading a school system like a startup

LA School Report | October 2, 2015

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The-Boston-GlobeBy Michael Fitzgerald
What the new Boston superintendent has to say about testing, charter schools, and innovation.

Globe Magazine: You’ve been handing out Atul Gawande’s “Cowboys and Pit Crews” [a 2011 commencement address on why the medical profession needs to be more collaborative]. How is it being received? 

Tommy Chang: When I walk schools, I have heard people use the words “we’re going to act more as pit crews,” so it has been generally very positive. And I know there have been faculty meetings where that article has been used — this notion that nobody is an expert on everything, including doctors, and doctors have to work better as teams.

Have you seen any specific new ideas that have emerged out of this? 

We did a Shark Tank-type of approach where different teams of central office folks shared their prototypes of how to support schools differently and got feedback from parents, administrators, and teachers. Every prototype was criticized, and it was completely disheartening for these senior administrators. But they took all that feedback and they re-prototyped, and that’s how we came up with the “We Room,” a room where we had different divisions that came together to solve problems. Principals in the morning would come and say, “I have an issue with A; I don’t know how to solve it yet.” A team of people solved the problem and reported back. Over the course of two days, we had 170 different dilemmas that were ultimately solved.

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