I remember walking into my first meeting as a newly hired Site Leader amongst all of the veterans. I was greeted by Sharifa Kelly, the Program Manager, who told me to make myself comfortable. How? I don’t know anyone. I’m nervous.

I sat in a corner of the room, hoping to sink into the background, observe, and take notes. That was not the case. I was placed into a team and expected to work.

I was new. I had no clue what I was doing.

I had missed the team-building meetings, the get-the-butterflies-out sessions, and the confidence-building workshops. And now it was time to work.


In our groups, we developed strategies for teacher professional development, plans to get parents involved, and how to move students forward. I worked closely with my Ops Lead, Alex. When I got anxious, he whispered, “I won’t let you fail.”

And he didn’t. He had my back, and my front, and my side during the entire program. He still does. A lasting friendship was built in just a mere 7 weeks.


And so it began.

The program began with hiring teachers and finding students. A mass promotion went out to school parents, to summer camps. We posted flyers on car windows, in grocery stores, in laundromats.

My metaphorical village helped me out, posting on social media. It spread like wildfire. Within a week, we went from 20 eager faces to 125 little people ready to read. I was a little overwhelmed.

Could I do this? Do I have the leadership capabilities to guide teachers?

I’m a teacher leader, not an administrator. I was ready to back out. One of the teachers saw it on my face. She told me, “McCall, you are the best teacher leader I have ever met. You say what needs to be said and you’re not afraid to jump in and help. You lead. I will make sure it gets done.” 

I took a deep breath and moved forward, making sure children were assessed and rostered in classes. Teachers scheduled home visits and created action plans. We were up and rolling… so I thought.


Up and rolling.

We were ready for our first day. Banners, music, breakfast, smiling faces. We shed some tears, played some games, and got to know each other in a few short hours. The day was wonderful and each day got better.

Until I got the email. Our assessments were not done correctly and needed to be re-administered to ensure the best programming for our students, including getting the right leveled books in the right hands.  

What did I do? I crawled up in a ball and cried. I called my best friend and cried until I was given the classic line: “Are you finished?”  

I blew my nose and began to ramble, problem-solving. By the end of it, I had a plan that could be implemented for all children to be retested with fidelity. I shared the plan with Alex. “Let’s rock,” he said, smiling.

I congratulated myself and asked for help from the Philadelphia team. Within 45 minutes, I had five additional people that could give two hours to help. Combined with our three assessment gurus, we had eight people to test 100 children in four days. This was doable.

We collapsed classes and began to test. Not only did we finish re-assessing, but my village had grown. I could see success on the horizon.


My village loves me.

It was the last week: time to plan the celebration. What I wanted to do had never been done and no one was sure if it could be pulled off. But by then I was in my Beyoncé mode.

I don’t know if I wanted to challenge the “no,” or because we had overcome so much. After surviving the lack of children, the no-good, horrible, very bad assessments, and the heatwave, nothing could stop us from having a great celebration. We would have the bestest barbecue Springboard Collaborative had ever seen. (Yes, I said it – the bestest.)

I sat down with my village, who at that point were my family. Within twenty minutes, we had planned both the learning celebration and the barbecue.

It was a huge success. The village showed up and showed out.

The children were celebrated, awards were given out, and families were smiling. It was a wonderful day. I could not have dreamt for anything better.

Nothing says success like the Springboard Collaborative’s central staff doing the cha-cha slide with a student while eating a burger donated by a teacher, cooked by the school police officer, and served by a parent.

The village was happy.


If ever…

If ever you doubted what Springboard Collaborative was about, here it is:

It is building the confidence of children through reading while developing leaders and a family of like-minded educators.


This blog was contributed by Catherine McCall. Catherine has been an educator for 20 years and participated with Springboard for one year. Her goal is to become an administrator of a student-led school where parental engagement is paramount, and failure is not an option.