Slide 1: Welcome to the unit on inter-agency collaboration. I’m Emily Kresiak, working on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.
Slide 2: So what is “inter-agency collaboration?” It sounds fancy, but it is part of everyday life in schools. Students, most often those on IEPs, receive supplemental services from other organizations. Such organizations might include (1) private transportation providers, (2) human service agencies, (3) hospitals and clinics, (4) regional education service centers, or (5) agencies specializing in developmental disabilities or other disabilities. Inter-agency collaboration involves working together with personnel from such outside organizations.
Slide 3: Maybe you already do this: that’s quite likely. But even if you are already doing this, thinking about what this phase of your work accomplishes can help you and the whole instructional team do it better. It’s important work.
Slide 4: So educators in schools often collaborate with non-school organizations to ensure that students receive the supplemental services specified in their IEPs. For instance, you might escort students to physical therapy sessions or to orientation and mobility training or you might even work with a teacher whose employer is a regional service center or agency that specializes in developmental disabilities.
Slide 5: Here’s the key fact, which may not seem all that obvious: these outside personnel work for other organizations. It may not seem obvious because sometimes these personnel spend a lot of time (sometimes all their time) in your school district.
Slide 6: Nevertheless, whether they spend a lot of time or a little bit of time in your district, they also belong to another organization. And different organizations have different ways of doing things. Those differences exist, but it’s hard to see them because you aren’t part of those other organizations!
Slide 7: When all you have to go on is your interactions with just one or two people from another organization, the features of that organization that make it different from other organizations are very difficult to see. Nonetheless those unseen features are there, and they strongly influence how those people behave.
Slide 8: For instance, the organization might not have employees, but instead it might organize independent “contractors.” By contrast, parapros, teachers, and principals are usually school-district employees (in Ohio, though, many parapros are in fact ESC employees). By contrast with being an employee, though, being an independent contractor is very different. Independent contractors have less regular schedules; they may not meet very often with supervisors; and they may work at a variety of sites—schools, hospitals, prisons, or private homes. As a result, they will view their work in very different terms from the way school-district employees view their work. That’s just one example.
Slide 9: So different ways of doing things produce employees (or contractors) with ideas about how to do things that are different from educators’ ideas about how to do things. For this reason you can’t necessarily expect the physical therapist or the orientation and mobility specialist to behave or think like the educators you work with. They may or may not understand very well how your school—or schools in general—work. You can’t know in advance. You have to watch and think, and ask careful questions in order to find out.
Slide 10: What does all this mean? It means that you need to take the likely existence of such differences into consideration when interacting with employees of (or independent contractors associated with) non-school organizations.
Slide 11: How do you do that? Use what you already know by applying the principles of effective communication to this new context: Be aware of your assumptions, exercise patience, observe carefully, think before you speak, and do all of this in order to advance the interests of the instructional team.
Slide 12: When you interact in this way with personnel from other organizations, you are doing something more than making sure that students get the supplementary services they need. This something more is the reason for this unit. It doesn’t necessarily occur to educators working hard in the rapid-paced context of teaching. So what is that “something more”?
Slide 13: The something more involves building strong connections between the instructional team and outside organizations. Effective communication helps strengthen these connections. It benefits the team, the school, and the district. These interactions may not seem like much, but they are actually very important.
Slide 14: Your interactions with personnel from outside organizations not only help ensure the range of options needed to serve a variety of students well, they help the team become more effective because of its capacity to secure these options! When an effective team operates in this way, moreover, it is able to expand its ability to build additional organizational relationships. It helps the team expand its network of organizational partners. So you can see that inter-agency collaboration is also part of what makes a more effective team—and a more effective school and district.
Slide 15: All of this, of course, does not fall heavily on your shoulders: but misjudgments and bad mistakes in communication can make organizational relationships more difficult for the team and for the school and district. So the care required by “effective communication” is essential whenever educators interact with personnel from other agencies.
Slide 16: One extremely important part of being careful involves maintaining confidentiality. Because you and a person from another agency are both working with the same student, it’s tempting to share information. But, as we’ve discussed before, school leaders need to be the ones to decide who has a need to know information about a student. Without a clear determination from the principal or other supervisor, it’s best to listen but not volunteer information about students.
Slide 17: In short: be courteous, respectful, and observant. But do be sure to share what you learn about these other organizations with your team.