CharterFolk Contributor Dan Effland – Seminar Is Our New, “Always-on” Professional Learning Community

Greetings, CharterFolk!

Today we are pleased to share a contributor column from Dan Effland, the Executive Director for Summit Atlas High School.

Dan Effland, Executive Director for Summit Atlas High School

We provide Dan’s bio below.

After working for 10+ years as a professional musician based in Chicago, Dan was inspired by some incredible experiences working with young people in Chicago Public Schools to change paths and dive fully into the world of K-12 education. Going through Teach for America, Dan earned an M.S. in Special Education from Dominican University and worked as a Special Education teacher for grades 6-12 in Chicago and eventually Seattle. He then served as the Dean of Culture and Instruction for Grades 11-12 at Summit Sierra High School for two years and received his M.Ed. in Public School Building Administration from Columbia University. Dan is currently the Executive Director for Summit Atlas High School and also serves on the Network Leadership Team for the Summit Public Schools CMO in Washington and California.

Seminar Is Our New, “Always-on” Professional Learning Community

In the complex world of charter school leadership, where challenges arise as rapidly as opportunities, the introduction of Seminar has been invaluable for many of us in the field. Seminar serves as a community connector for charter school leaders while also functioning as a digital hub for building and sharing solutions to community problems. 

This groundbreaking initiative fundamentally supports the value of collectivity through leadership development, capacity building and sharing resources and best practices. This resonated with me as a leader and is a core belief at Summit Public Schools. In just a few months of existence, Seminar is already building momentum and impact as it brings together a passionate community, practical resources, and innovative workshops to empower charter school executive leaders.

A Tailored Solution for Charter Leaders

Seminar is a dynamic community crafted out of necessity and driven by the practical realities of leading schools and CMOs. Developed by seasoned charter network founders Jen Davis Wickens and Kristen McCaw, Seminar directly addresses the unique challenges faced by leaders like us.

From grappling with teacher shortages to navigating fluctuating funding and political landscapes, the hurdles in our path are numerous. Upon joining, the entire Seminar community is your strategic ally, offering not just theoretical knowledge but practical tools and resources that are immediately applicable on your school site or across your network.

Jed Wallace said it best:

Most people think that CharterFolk need “a manual” to succeed.  But Seminar knows the truth. This work is complex.  It requires “a seminar,” a learning experience and system of support reflective of the complexity and priority of the responsibilities that are being taken on.

The Power of Practicality

What sets Seminar apart is its grounding in the everyday experiences of charter school leaders. The platform focuses on the real-life issues we face—from optimizing operational efficiency to strategic planning and staff development. Each resource, tool, and workshop is designed to be directly relevant and actionable. Within the first couple of weeks of joining the community, I experienced a fantastic, concrete workshop on leadership voice that I was able to apply to a key meeting several hours later.  Additionally, I have been able to adopt shared resources as broad as a yearlong scope for an operations leader and as narrow as a job description for a common school based role. 

Here’s a snapshot of the tool, which houses a dynamic list of workshops charter leaders need to succeed.

Community to Keep You Going

As charter system leaders, our jobs are difficult on their best days, but we continue because of the joy of connection and community. Seminar serves as an extension of that community to include leaders in similar roles, doing similar work across the country. It’s a place where leaders can share experiences, strategies, and solutions in a supportive environment, enhancing our collective capacity to lead our schools effectively.

Here’s a snapshot of community exchange within the Seminar portal.

This is a dedicated spot to foster connections that matter, offering support and insights from those walking similar paths.

Free Resource & Call to Action for Charter School Leaders

Seminar is sharing a free enrollment resource for all CharterFolk who are hustling to plan community events that increase enrollment. Visit here to download your complimentary enrollment event plan to support summer outreach and enrollment planning this summer. 

I invite all charter school leaders to explore Seminar. Whether you’re looking to refine your leadership skills, enhance your school’s operations, or simply connect with peers who face similar challenges, Seminar offers a unique and valuable experience. It’s a community where we can all grow together, sharing challenges and best practices that ultimately support the students and communities we serve.