Leading Learning in 2021/2022

By Darlene Wilgus | Mar 9, 2021, 6:06pm MT

Like most leaders, once we jettison semester one, we are not just immersed in the second half of the year, but we move to all things planning for the subsequent school year: budget, staffing, forecasting, best practices, and communication pertinent to these areas if we want to be leading learning.

One year ago, this week while attending the Digital Learning Collaborative(DLAC) conference in Austin, TX, the keynote speaker and director, John Watson said in his opening address and I quote, “The future of education is here, it just isn’t widely distributed.” Little did we know that less than a month later, the 100-year-old educational system would be upended in ways none of us could have predicted and certainly had little to no time to systemically plan for a response that would meet the needs of all community stakeholders.

So, the outcomes may not have been entirely clear and measurable, but you have been living that reality for nearly a year.  Blended learning is on most district’s agendas as patrons demand in-person learning for their students, but around every bend, there are bridges to be crossed with little to no GPS or Waze to whisper in our ears to turn left, right, or make a u-turn.

Given the above, how do you and your leadership team prioritize decision-making regarding fall? Since the media prognosticators are telling us that we won’t have herd immunity till at least fall and the vaccination rollout doesn’t even get at our age 15 and below students, a robust virtual learning program for K-12  makes sense. For every student that doesn’t return to their neighborhood school due to safety concerns and the dollar/cents hit (FTE) to your budget scenario, developing and partnering with a trusted blended learning provider now, gives time for the thoughtful planning of resources and answers for your parents that will seek options. 

Thinking from a personalized options perspective vs. a static view of the school building and classroom. Leading learning is about options to personalize learning. One of my colleagues in this digital learning landscape said it best, “One family has a bedroom school student that is flourishing, gets work done efficiently and has the rest of the day to play; his sister however is a butterfly girl flitting from one interest to the next and really could benefit from the structure of a traditional classroom.” 

Will your decisions reflect the diverse needs of the demographic you serve?


Meet The Writer


        Darlene has 35+ years of experience in education spanning teaching and leading private and public schools K-12. She has also served as an adjunct professor in both education and university administrative programs for George Fox, Seattle Pacific, and Heritage.  Her passions lie in student-centered practices, program development, and best practices approaches for teachers to employ. Her undergrad work was at Northwest Nazarene University, MEd in School Administration from Central Washington University, and her Superintendent’s license was earned through the Executive Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University.

During her tenure in alternative learning the past 14 years, she became an NBCT and led a 10 member cohort with 80% certification in year one, and facilitated two district-level program cohorts.

Her focus for the past seven years became a lightning rod for today’s educational paradigm: developing and implementing a successful district online learning program. Until the spring of 2020, many districts were considering online learning options for students, but few were being successful. Recruiting and training teachers and support staff, seeking effective partnerships with approved platform providers, keeping the district looped in for key information and statistical reporting to attract and retain FTE are just a few of the myriad of program development tasks that Darlene has deep experience with. Understanding policies, the online learning laws, and the interface with alternative learning at OSPI is an additional layer in solidly starting a program. Each district’s direction in implementation should reflect their respective service demographic.

Darlene is active in the Digital Learning Collaborative, which is an international organization for digital learning, personalized learning, learning on demand entities. Last year at the national conference in Austin, Texas the keynote speaker said “The future of education is here, it’s just not widely distributed.” This was three weeks before the March 13th shutdown of American public education as it has been for the past 100+ years. Personalizing learning and involving families has the power to forever positively impact the educational landscape, most importantly, its students and their families.