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How Highline Academy turned a period of rapid change into one of rapid productivity

Executive Summary

By enlisting InSight Coaching & Consulting and retooling areas of focus in their strategic planning, Highline Academy Executive Director Chris Ferris improved communication and trust among leaders of the school and unified the organization’s board. In the process, the board restructured its committees in order to more effectively tackle core initiatives and Highline’s parents reported higher satisfaction ratings. The engagement and reinvigoration fostered by Insight allowed Highline to emerge from a period of leadership changes with more productivity than even before, and with increased participation by board members and the addition of new members.

Highline Academy Overview

Highline Academy is a local network of free, public charter schools serving Denver’s diverse community. Its Southeast location serves just over 500 students in grades K-8 and its Northeast location serves ECE – 2nd graders and will be adding 3rd grade in the 2016/17 school year. Since opening in 2004, these campuses have prepared thousands of Denver students for success in high school and beyond.

A Unique Offsite Retreat Unlocked Valuable Insights

Insight Founder and Executive Coach Renelle Darr guided Highline’s board members through a day-long retreat built around improving the board’s leadership. Renelle took a pulse of the organization prior to the retreat by interviewing several stakeholders, and as a result shaped the retreat’s format into small group discussions. Members who had not previously worked together were brought together and voices were given to parties who didn’t normally speak up at meetings.

Highline Academy

Industry:  Education
Revenue: Less than $1M/year
Employees: 50

Insight’s approach is about creating structure FOR YOU. There isn’t a list of things you have to do; everything is organic, and built around your needs, and connected to the people who take it on. If we hadn’t gone through the process of improving our leadership and culture, I think I would be looking at losing board members.

Chris Ferris

Executive Director, Highline Academy

Renewed Focus & Streamlined Committees

With Renelle’s help, Highline’s board decided to consolidate their seven committees into just three in order to focus on the core initiatives in their new strategic plan: Student excellence; brand awareness; and an improved adult culture. Renelle follows up after board meetings to ensure everything continues to tie back to their strategic plan.

The Results

A stronger structure, a renewed sense of trust, and improved communication has enhanced performance and life at Highline Academy. The board is able to focus on oversight and long-term planning, and Executive Director Chris Ferris reports “I no long feel like I’m dragging people along. I’m effective in sharing my vision and everyone’s inspired, so we move faster on our initiatives.”

Other impacts and results of the Insight approach include:

  • Scores on areas such as trust and happiness on a 2017 survey of parents were 15-25% higher than those on the same survey conducted by an outside consultant in 2016.

  • An increase in the number of board members and their overall engagement with the school’s mission.

  • Executive Director Chris Ferris reports that they’re moving faster on all 2018 initiatives.