Sam Coleman takes role as director for curriculum and instruction

As the former Director for Equity and now the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Sam Coleman has a lot under his belt as he approaches this upcoming school year. 

With his transition, he’ll still work to improve equity within the district, but his focus will now be on teaching and learning, making sure that Shorewood schools meet educational standards. Those standards ensure that teachers, administrators and all support staff have the resources they need to provide high quality instruction. 

Right now, as the new normal of virtual learning begins, Coleman makes sure that as teachers are learning how to teach virtually, they’re meeting the needs of students. 

“Part of my work is to make sure that teachers are supported with the training and the collaboration with their fellow teachers on best practices and best approaches to provide instruction, especially under these times,” Coleman said.

Part of my work is to make sure that teachers are supported with the training and the collaboration with their fellow teachers on best practices and best approaches to provide instruction, especially under these times

— Sam Coleman

Coleman filled this vacancy after Tim Joynt, former Director of Curriculum and Instruction, left to become the superintendent of Maple Dale-Indian Hills School District. Joynt says his move was not motivated by a wish to leave Shorewood. 

“The big thing is, and what’s really important to remember, is that it is the only application I put in,” Joynt said. “I was not looking to get out of Shorewood by any means, it was more of a ‘there’s a small district in that Northshore area, my family lives in the Northshore area.’ So it was an opportunity nearby that I wanted to at least give a chance to.”

The opportunity to become a superintendent is one that doesn’t open up often. 

“The job market for superintendents is pretty limited and so when opportunities come around, you kind of have to take them,” said Dr. Paru Shah, school board president.

As the district turned to find Joynt’s replacement, they did not post a job opening as they often do. Instead, they looked for a candidate who was already involved in the school district. 

“As you know, we’re in the middle of probably the most unique start, the most unique school year, at least to date, and we really needed to think about a transition that was smooth and [allowed] for us to continue to move forward with the work that we’ve been doing all summer to get us ready for this fall,” Shah said. “Sam has the experience and the expertise, the credentials, to be a director of curriculum, and so … when thinking about an internal candidate, he came to mind.”

Something that made Coleman stand out was that he already had worked closely with the previous Director of C&I

“Sam Coleman and I have been working together closely for the whole last year,” Joynt said. “Him as the Director for Equity and myself as the Director for Curriculum and Instruction worked really, really closely throughout the year. And he’s super smart. His transition is probably one of the easier transitions because we did work so closely together. So I’ve got nothing but faith, respect and he’s going to be phenomenal at that position.”

The teamwork between the Director for Equity and Director of C&I will continue this coming year. 

“Actually the way that I have advocated to restructure the role is that the Director [of] Equity works in direct collaboration with the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and our pupil services director,” Coleman said.

Coleman says he will still make a point to work on improving equity wherever he can. 

“I’ll still be working with teacher teams, student groups, so I’ll still be able to have opportunities to meet with students, meet with teachers, and work with administrators toward our overall goal of addressing equity issues and issues of systemic racism in our district,” Coleman said. “I’ll still be able to do that work, that’s still very much a priority in our work as improving our curriculum and instruction or teaching and learning so I’ll still be able to do that.”

Shah notes that while he is no longer officially the Director for Equity, Coleman’s new role will offer him a different facet through which to continue his equity work. 

“When we hired the Director for Equity, we knew a big part of their job would be working directly with teachers and thinking about curriculum and instruction, and so it seemed like a great way for us to continue the equity work … within the infrastructure that we already have set for Director of Curriculum and Instruction,” Shah said.

Joynt hopes that Coleman continues to use his strengths in his new role. 

“Honestly what I hope he continues is to utilize his skill set in that Director for Equity position in the Director of Curriculum and Instruction,” Joynt said. “We know that a lot of those equity issues have got to burn themselves into our curriculum and instructional practices. So he brings a skill set that is going to be really, really phenomenal for that Director of Curriculum and Instruction position.”

He brings a skill set that is going to be really, really phenomenal for that Director of Curriculum and Instruction position.

— Tim Joynt

Looking back at his first year at Shorewood and the work he did as Director for Equity, Coleman says he’s proud of the work that’s been done to get different parts of the community involved.

“I think the biggest accomplishment was engaging our community, our staff, parents and students in a process that set up our systems change,” Coleman said. “I think most people approach equity work by doing events that make people feel good, but … that does not change the conditions within a system. What changes the condition is when we restructure our policies, when we restructure our systems.”

Coleman says one recurring piece of feedback he has received from students is that they have heard work is being done to improve equity, but that they aren’t seeing the results. He notes that this was partially by design, and that there were behind-the-scenes changes that needed to be made before the equity work would start to be felt. 

“The first year of my position was specifically designed to do systems change work and work with administrators,” Coleman said. “The second year is designed to work more with students and teachers. I also know that there will be a difference in how the new director for equity is working, because we’ve done all that systems work already, so now that person can begin to focus on working with teachers, students and community members, whereas before a lot of the work was so behind-the-scenes just to get set up. So that’ll be different, and hopefully students and family members will see that person just out more and more accessible and more available.”

Despite his accomplishments, Coleman says the year wasn’t a cakewalk by any means.

“I wish people knew how stressful and traumatizing this work is, too,” Coleman said. “Like being a Black person in this district in general is hard … It’s hard to be Black and in Shorewood. I think it’s even harder when you are working to change a system that most people think doesn’t need to change, or most people don’t agree with the way we’re talking about changing it. And so that comes with a lot of attitudes from people, a lot of resistance from people, being isolated, being talked about, being dismissed, being looked at as if the work is not important and therefore the position is not important. And that is very disheartening, it’s frustrating.

But for Coleman, the work is fulfilling, and it’s convinced him that this is the right place for him.

“I used to question all the time ‘Am I supposed to be here? Is this the right time? Should I be doing my work somewhere else?’ but the more experiences I had last year, the more I learned, the more students I got to meet, the more teachers and families I got to work with, the more convinced I became that this is where I’m supposed to be and this is the work that I’m supposed to be doing.”