Adam Torres and Meghan Mackay discuss creating change in schools and communities.
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Educational leaders are key to solving problems in schools and under-resourced communities. In this episode, Adam Torres interviewed Meghan Mackay, Executive Director at LeveragED Foundation. Explore LeveragED Foundation and the upcoming book Meghan will be launching with Mission Matters.
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About Meghan Mackay
Experienced leader with a demonstrated history of success in education leadership and school systems management. Skilled in leadership development, program design and implementation, turning challenges into opportunities, and maximizing impact through educational experiences and outcomes.
Meghan has taught children and coached CEOs, started and reinvented schools, designed curriculum, developed technology, and led school networks. Four years ago, she co-founded a school network and simultaneously started a nonprofit operating foundation to work with school leaders across the country. They invest in their success and sustainability by using their experience and connections to support them in their growth and expanding their networks.
Their intent is to be a sustaining force for the benefit of educational leaders, and by extension, their communities. They offer access to compelling development experiences and trusted resources, connection to others to broaden and deepen relationships within the education sector, and ongoing coaching to provide consistency and cohesiveness.
About LeveragED Foundation
LeveragED Foundation’s mission is to invest in the success of education leaders because they believe that they can accelerate the growth of thriving school systems that transform entire communities.
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest on the show, just head on over to mission matters.com and click on Be Our Guest to Apply. All right, so today I have Megan Mackay on the line, and she’s executive director at Leverage Ed Foundation.
Megan, welcome the show. Thank you. So nice to be here. Thanks. Okay, so these are my favorite episodes to, to record or go live with. First off, love welcoming new authors into our community and onto the show. For everybody that’s listening to this, Megan is one of our latest authors in our, in our Business Leaders book series.
So, Megan, first off, just wanna say, hey, congrats. Thank you. Thanks. It’s been, it’s been great. It’s a great challenge. Oh yeah. And and one that we’re, we’re happy to be on this journey with you to to produce making books, creating books, distributing books. Not easy, but you’re, you’re, it’s gonna be fun working on this project with you.
Alright, well just to get this episode started, we will start this one the way that we start them all with our mission matters. So Megan, we at Mission Matters, we amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives and experts. That’s our mission. Megan, what mission matters to you? I care about access to education, a high quality education for all children, and that is my, been my mission from the very start.
And I work with school systems leaders in order to make that. Hmm. Love bringing mission-based individuals on the line to share why they do what they do, how they’re doing it, and really what we can all, all learn and grow from that, from that mission. So I guess just to get us kicked off, like how did that, you mentioned from the start, like, when did you know that education and this would really be your mission?
Like how did that come about? Well, I think it, it, it started right after I graduated from college and I was working at a school that was an alternative for kids who had trouble in the public school system. And I was 21, I was very idealistic and I thought, okay, well that matters to me to make sure that all kids have access to a good education.
And unfortunately, That was not a good place for kids. I like to think about what the soundtrack of a school sounds like, and this school was a toxic cacophony. People yelling at each other and it wasn’t a good place for kids. And even though I was young and I didn’t know much, I did know that this was a bad place for kids and that kids deserved much better than what they were getting.
And so I went back to school and learned a little bit more. Taught in some other schools and really then that really, that initial spark was because, It was such a failure for kids who were in that school and I was just determined to do something about it through teaching and then subsequently through leading in schools and founding schools myself.
So that’s, that’s, that’s where it started. Tell us a little bit more about Leverage Ed Foundation and it. Sure. So the leverage Add foundation it’s, we’re about five years old. So we’re still you know, young at this, but we’re all about leaders and I think that one of the things is the theory.
Our theory of action is if we can support leaders by connecting them to each other and with ongoing professional development, that they will be able to sustain their careers. So this isn’t about. Just supporting them. It’s about. Having access to something that where they can support themselves and each other.
So we’ve created this, what we call a collective of leaders, and we are, we run regular cohorts where we focus on problems of practice that people bring to the table. So it’s not just about our ideas, but it’s about the collect the idea of the collective. And there are already. Good things that coming out of it where we build things together.
And it’s really about this notion of collective action to make sure that sustaining their careers is a possibility. Hmm. So you mentioned in the beginning that you you know, earlier in your career you, that there was some, there’s some opportunity, like you were in one particular school that, you know, just wasn’t a good place for kids, not the right soundtrack.
What do you find are some of the challenges maybe now that the school systems are, are having in the, in the country? Well, we all know that pandemic was a big challenge a bigger challenge than we’d ever seen before, but I would say that even before the pandemic if you’ve looked at any of our national standardized test scores and, and look some people are anti standardized tests, I think that data is important because it tells you something about how well our schools are doing.
And before the pandemic. We weren’t doing very well, and then, then the pandemic hits we’re, and now it’s really, really hard because there are a lot of kids who missed those foundational years of really learning to read and learning like what is math and scientific principles, and being able to practice in an environ.
Where they were with their peers. So I think that we have a lot of catch up to do. And unfortunately now there are all these stats on the number of people who are leaving education because they realize that a lot of the problems have become intractable and the pandemic really shined a light. On the failure failures of the system and so much, and, and so it’s not just one thing, it’s a whole, it’s the system as a whole.
And I always think about, well, what are we as adults doing to make sure that the children who are in our care are getting what they deserve? Yeah. And as I, as I think about this and, and I’m a big fan of the collective model and, and the way that you’re running Leverage Ed Foundation, because I mean, we’re not quite a collective at, at, at Mission Matters, but I guess sometimes I use the, the word interchangeably, collective versus collaboration.
I know they’re different, but I, I like to think that a lot of our growth and a lot of the best ideas we’ve had have really come from the, the collective or the col collaborators, however we wanna say it for mission. What has been maybe one of the, some of the benefits that, or the outputs that’s come from using this collective model when it comes to leverage Ed Foundation?
Yep. Good. I, good question. I think a lot of it is about, again, because we’re connecting people to each other, we’re able to do a little bit of matchmaking. So all of my team members and I do we really value getting to know people and building those relationships so that we understand. You know, one person, for example said, I, I am interested in building a new school.
And so I need some ideas about people from people who have built their own schools or are working in a school that it has some innovative idea ideas and how can I capture those and really bring them into my school? I think that we then, Our job is to connect that person with other people who are doing the same.
So that’s one example. I think another example is, you know, we have a number of executives within the collective who are running very big school districts or school networks and their challenges. Are a lot more related to how do you, how do you interface with a board that may not understand the challenges on the ground?
How do you make sure that your professional development and the training of the adults in your schools are it’s cohesive and that it actually gets at what, what the adults are expected to do. In order to make make sure that the kids are all getting a very high quality experience and it’s not spotty, that it’s consistent and that it’s aligned to the mission, vision, and values of their school.
So when it comes to ongoing professional development, and I see how leverage Ed Foundation kind of fits in that space in, in a really unique way. I don’t care what the, like a lot of people that watch this are business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, like ex. Verse like a lot of different individuals that watch our program.
And when I think about professional development, like this is always a hot topic, whether you’re a financial advisor or otherwise accountant, cpa, like all these things where, you know, we have to continually get get our skills better cuz rules change and other things. Change, right? That just keep you, you wanna stand compliance and relevant in the market.
So, for leverage, ed Foundation, in relation to teachers and educators, can you maybe talk a little bit about the importance of professional development and like ongoing education? Sure. So I think oftentimes when we think about school systems leaders, they are in charge of professional developments within their school systems.
Mm-hmm. But they themselves don’t often have access to high quality professional development, nor do they have access to each other. If you are part of a larger district, then that might be so but I think it’s harder if. If you feel like you’re the only person who is actually trying to come up with, okay, what are we gonna put in, what are we gonna put in for in place first?
Mm-hmm. And I think this notion of connecting people to each other. So I will say that the leverage ed foundation was we started before the pandemic, but during the pandemic. People were calling us and saying, what is everybody else doing? And so much of that was then we started bringing people together and they said, can we do that again?
Because they wanted to know like, well, but what, how are the teachers reacting to, you know, some of them are in person and then some of them are online. And so I think that when we think about Prof ongoing professional development, we think about it as like the dial tone of all of the. That you regularly think about in terms of, you know, whether or not your organization is meeting its mission and whether they’re doing that within their, their values and really thinking about there are some things that are out there, but are they good for your organization?
Because if they’re not aligned to what your mission, vision values are, then it’s really hard to plug that in because peop it, the language is different. It feels like it’s foreign. And so really we help people think about how could you take this? And then how do you adapt it so that it actually fits into your school’s culture.
And so that, again, like people are getting high quality high quality, ongoing develop. But it’s in the way of your schools. Mm-hmm. Not just because it’s our idea. Yeah. It’s a great concept. It’s a great model. And I’d be curious to hear what some of the feedback you’ve received, Hannah, as as individuals and educators have kind of gone through the program and been part of the community.
I think, you know, I think some of the reason that we are able to do what we do is because we, we approach this with a lot of humility. Mm-hmm. You know, so many members of my team, five of the six of us have been teachers and principals and superintendents, and it is really important that that is so, because we have walked in the shoes of other people in and we know that it’s really hard.
We know that having. You know, like very deep found. Determination for making sure that kids get what they deserve means that you have to be good enough. And when it’s not going well, you’re looking at yourself and thinking, well, what am I doing to cause this dysfunction? And how do I unwind that to make sure that it’s okay?
So I think we, we. Trusted individuals because we’ve, we come with some credibility in having done, in having done the work, but also because we really take the time to get to know people and the relationships are really important. I, you know, we wouldn’t we wouldn’t ever do something with somebody if we didn’t get to know them first.
It’s important to, And I know Megan, that one, like one of the big focuses are really under-resourced communities and systems and, and just ar and, and areas why that focus. And maybe talk a little bit about the potential for like a multi multiplying effect for that focus. Yeah. So I my whole career has been in historically under resourced communities.
Mm-hmm. As has the, my team members. So again, it goes back to we weren’t working in really affluent suburbs of schools. We were working in, in urban areas where there was a lot of need and not just need for great academics, but a lot of other needs. And so it’s like, how do you meet the need? And I think.
The focus on under resources because we know that we often make excuses for why that, why we can’t get better results. And I actually don’t accept the excuses. I think that if we really wanna make a dent in this, we have to figure out like, what, how do you put together the systems to ensure that all.
Get what they deserve. And I think it starts with the adults. It starts with the adults being really thinking about how are they continually honing their practice? And are leaders going into classrooms and coaching up teachers? Are they doing it so that they’re finding the results, they’re looking at student work, they’re looking at the data, and there are lots of data points to put together to say, this is working well, let’s go watch that teacher because she’s getting the results or he’s getting the.
In their room. And so let’s go watch what they’re doing and then making our thinking visibles about like, this is why it’s good. And so can we take that and that little nugget and make sure that we can say, okay, this is the way, this is the approach. And then spread those ideas further. So that’s another one of our values as an organization is really amplifying.
Ideas that are working in education, and so much of that is about how do you make sure that kids and you know, communities that have been historically under-resourced how do you make sure that they get every privilege that is offered across the. One of the reasons why I’m just such a, a big fan of, of your mission and what you’re doing is because, I mean, at the end of all of this, all the work, everything else we’re doing, like these are the kids, like the kids benefit.
These are, this is our future. Like this is who matter, right? Long term, and this is who we wanna give an opportunity too. So, really, With that focus on the kids. I mean, it seems to me like it’s something that people would and should rally around. What are your plans as you continue to kind of spread the mission of Leverage Ed Foundation and like, like, like what’s next for you?
Well, so we, over the summer we did a pilot of creating this community, an online community. And so we did a pilot in July and in August. And we had anybody who was willing, it was really for us, it was for our education to figure out like, what are the things that are working well what are the things they want more of?
And then just recently in January we launched we launched. Online community, and we offer ongoing development. By the way, everything that we do is pro bono, so we never charge a cent to anybody who comes to us, and that is because we believe that leaders deserve access to really high quality. Professional development and to connection with each other, and that shouldn’t cost you anything.
We really think that the, the, what we call the, like the cost is through service. So when we have collective members, they give back in some way. So, oh, you’re an expert in building your own brand. Great. Why don’t you do a, a meeting, a meetup with people and tell them about how you do that. Okay. There’s somebody else who really thinks about.
Early childhood education and the importance of early high childhood education. Here are three things that you can do in really teaching others. There are other people who say like, I want people to come visit my school. And so I’ll organize tours in with schools that are within the same region. So there are many different ways in which people can participate.
And I’ll say that we do things by invitation because we wanna make sure that we have a really engaged community. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the people who are in the collective who really want to both get better themselves. Mm-hmm. And give back to the people who are a part of the collective, because everybody who is there is there for kids, is there for making sure that their schools get continually better and that they’re able to innovate on some things because they have all these brilliant people around them who are willing to teach.
So I want to take a moment or two here. So we’re, we’re not gonna spend that much time on this part of it. And just to let everybody know, we’ll be bringing Megan back onto the show after the book that we’re writing together is live and out there and we’re promoting it. But just high level. Megan, I know we’re still in editing.
I know we’re still finalizing content, so not holding you to this, but what are some of the things you hope to, or the messages you hope to get across in the upcoming. Sure. So so I, I have a mantra that I live by and it’s, you know, Do something hard mm-hmm. Around yourself with good people who push you to do your best work and make it matter.
And so the, the chapter of the book is called Make It Matter. And it really is all about tackling the biggest education challenges of our times. It’s about change and leadership, knowing who you are as a leader so that you can be your best. To your, for your teammates. And then really thinking about teamwork and who are the people on your team?
How are they operating? How do they, how do they interact with each other? And then how do they make sure that everybody is behind this rallying cry about making sure. That we are doing all that we can, and we’re holding ourselves to high expectations to make sure that kids get what they deserve. And a lot of that is about connection to each other and knowing each other.
So I believe that that’s what makes it matter, is making sure that the adults feel like they are the responsible parties, and by the way, like they’re responsible and we wanna make sure that. Support. And so it’s not just throw them in the deep end, it’s give them the support that they need and deserve.
Hmm. All right. I’m gonna cut you off there. You give, that’s just a teaser. You can’t give all the content out. I’m a publisher. I gotta sell books. Right? When we bring you back on the show though, seriously we’ll do. We’ll do a deep. Dive and the book will be available. There’ll be a, a link in there. People can pick up a copy, of course.
So that being said, Megan, really, it has been a pleasure having you in the show, a big advocate of what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, the collective model, and really the kids benefit at the end of the day from what you’re doing and many of them in underserved communities. But that being said, just have to ask what’s next?
I think you, you maybe have a, a conference coming up, you’re attending and some other. Oh yeah, sure. So my, some teammates of mine and I, and a number of member of members of the collective will be at asu, G S V. And we always like to try and get, get someone from the team on all the. The bigger education conferences.
I particularly like this one because it’s a lot of innovators who are there and so we often will pick up on some good ideas and, you know, again, it’s about connecting with others who are doing really great things in education. So we’re excited to go. Speaking of connecting with others, Megan, if somebody’s watching this or listening to this and they want to connect and follow the journey of leverage Ed Foundation what’s the best way for them to.
Sure. We have a website, it’s called leverage ed foundation.org. And you can find out more information there. We’re also on LinkedIn and are pretty active on that. And often we’ll offer up some live events that are not within the collective, but it’s more like, get a sense of who we are and what kinds of things that we offer in terms of professional.
Perfect. And we’ll, we’ll put of course the link and the show notes and all that good stuff so that our audience can just click on the links and head right on over and check out the site. And speaking of the audience, if this is your first time with Mission Matters or engaging in an episode or listening to something on the platform, We’re all about bringing on business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, and experts, and we have ’em share their mission, the reason behind their mission, really what gets them fired up to go out into the marketplace and into the world and to make a difference.
If that’s the type of content that sounds fun or exciting or interesting to you, we welcome you. Hit that subscribe button. Because we have many more mission-based individuals coming up on the line, and we don’t want you to miss a thing. And Megan really has been a pleasure looking forward to the next time we get to work with each other when the book is live.
So thanks again for coming on. Thank you so much, Adam.