To be a leader in education, you need a strong network. But how do you go about building your network as a Federal Programs Director?
As a Federal Programs Director, your network extends far beyond your district. You regularly interact with education leaders at the local, statewide, and national levels, so it makes sense to invest time in growing your network. Doing so will open the door to professional learning opportunities, help you stay informed in education and policy matters, and give you access to trusted peers you can turn to when you need advice. In this blog post, we’ll look at how to create a comprehensive network. It does take time – but the results are well worth it.
1. Expand your national network.
To create connections at a national level, start by joining national education networks like the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (NAFEPA).
NAFEPA publishes newsletters for members, provides networking opportunities, and holds an annual conference with presenters and exhibitors focused on administering and managing federal education programs. Networking with other Federal Programs Directors will provide you with diverse perspectives that will assist you in your own role.
2. Network with leaders across the state.
Next, join your State Association for Federal Programs Directors. Education policies differ greatly from one state to another; being a member of your state organization will help you stay up to date with important state requirements, guidelines, and changes. Get to know the key points of contact in your state’s department of education and if applicable, state service centers or hubs.
3. Grow your local network.
You will see your local contacts most often, so this group makes up the largest part of your network. Your local network will include superintendents, principals, and staff members, as well as members of your local community.
Hold regularly scheduled meetings with your supervisor to ensure clear communication of expectations, goals, and any areas where you may need support.
Superintendents, Chief Academic Officers, and Curriculum Directors
It’s important to have a strong, ongoing relationship with the Superintendent, as well as the Chief Academic Officer or Curriculum Director in your district, so that you can ensure you are applying federal funding in a way that aligns with the mission and vision of the school system. Meet with these leaders often to talk through goals, budget, and plans.
Local Federal Programs Directors
Reach out to Federal Programs Directors of neighboring school systems and keep in touch about what your respective districts are doing. This will help you understand what is happening in your region and also provide you with relevant information to refer to if and when the superintendents in your system come to you with requests.
If, for example, a local superintendent requests funding for a new roof using Pandemic Relief Funds and state that a neighboring district has already made this investment, it is helpful to have a point of contact to check in with that district. Superintendents in your region are already talking – so Federal Programs Directors should be, too.
Accounting and Purchasing
To be successful as a Federal Programs Director, you must be able to work well with the accounting and purchasing departments of your local school system.
These individuals hold the purse strings, so it is very important to understand and comply with the local procurement and accounting policies. Communicate with your accounting department clearly and regularly to create a great working relationship.
No matter who you are, where you are, or what position you are in, your support staff can make or break you. When you respect, value, and show appreciation for staff members, they can become your strongest allies. This goes for every member of your staff, including Title I specialists, administrative assistants, and custodians.
Custodians, for example, are often responsible for document storage and warehouses – so be sure to communicate with them about where important documents are stored, when documents are moved, and which documents should never be thrown out.
Administrative assistants may have been working in federal programs for decades, and can have very valuable knowledge and experience. Make them your allies, and you will have greater success in your role.
The work of a Federal Programs Director is often too much for one human – so you may have hired specialists to help you implement programming and ensure federal dollars are aligned with student growth. These individuals are the boots are the ground – the ones going into schools, monitoring programming, and ensuring programs are being implemented with fidelity. Build a relationship of trust with your campus administration and certificated staff.
Local Nonprofit Community Leaders
At times, students and families in your district may have urgent needs that cannot be met with federal funds. For example, a family who lost everything in a house fire might need clothing, shoes, and coats right away, with no time to waste.
In cases like these, it is helpful to have relationships with local nonprofit organizations such as the United Way, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, hospitals, and churches, mosques and temples. These organizations may have funds or hold annual drives for coats, school supplies, and clothing, which can be excellent resources in an emergency.
It pays to make friends with local businesses, such as the nice people at the local cookie or ice cream shop. Local businesses can be avid supporters of education. Besides, you’ll need chocolate on some days – not paid for with federal dollars, of course!
4. Expand your professional network.
Outside of education administration and the community, professional relationships can also be important in your network.
Get to know sales representatives for educational software products and curriculum; think of these individuals as your allies. If you are in a position where you need to negotiate pricing in order to meet budgetary requirements or avoid exceeding thresholds that require a more complicated bidding process, it can be valuable to have a good relationship with your sales representative.
Being friendly with sales representatives benefits both the school system and the business. Sales representatives will try to take good care of you when you have formed an honest relationship with them.
Professional networking events, continuing education classes, and community professional organizations, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, are great places to make business contacts and meet education allies.
5. Grow your social network.
Social networks can never replace real-life relationships, but they can help build and strengthen your professional network. Join, like, and follow social media pages and groups for national, state, local, and professional organizations that align with your career and interests.
Then, when you log into social media, your feed will include news updates and informational posts that may be helpful to you, as well as like-minded people who should be part of your network.
6. Find a circle of mentors.
Many people will make up your network, but a few may rise to the level of true friends and mentors. Let these people know how much you value their insights, and take time to develop those friendships.
Your goal should be to form a circle of mentors that you can rely on to help answer tough questions and provide valuable advice – people whom you can call or text at any time. Sometimes, you will need to “phone a friend,” and other times, you will be that friend for someone else.
At 806 Technologies, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities that Federal Programs Directors face; we are here to support you in your role.
Our team of certified educators can help save you time, streamline organization and administration, ensure compliance, and improve educational outcomes with our web-based Title1Crate and Plan4Learning tools. We also provide professional learning in Leadership, Comprehensive Needs Assessments, Improvement Planning, and more.
Make 806 Technologies part of your network by contacting us in the form below, and join our social network by following us on social media!