Today’s We Love Schools podcast episode features Dr. Dave Palzet, superintendent at Pleasantdale Elementary District 107 in Illinois. Host Joel Gagne and Dr. Palzet discuss moving beyond classroom walls and rethinking the public school experience.

Dr. Palzet discusses his deep belief in social justice, and he explains that’s what led him to school leadership in public education. He said an administrative role within a school was a great fit for him as his personal mission statement is to create opportunities for others.

Dr. Palzet is excited for a shift that’s happening in public schools and how people are rethinking the public school experience.

“We’re moving away from a structure that’s about adults, and moving toward a structure that’s about kids,” Dr. Palzet says. “We’re giving kids what they need to be successful in the future.”

He says that the focus is on allowing students to be not just consumers of content, but also creators of content. With the advent of the internet, there may not be as much need to teach students some of the foundational information that was required to be memorized in previous generations.

“When we’re walking around with the internet in our pockets on a daily basis, we need to be learning how to take those facts and figures and apply them to big problems,” Dr. Palzet says. “Some of the kids in our schools right now are going to have to solve some of the biggest problems our country has ever had to face, and what has me most excited and enthusiastic, is that we really are setting them up right now to be the solvers of these problems.”

He says this shift in how we approach school, where it’s less memorization and more collaboration, has him really excited for the future. He says going well above and beyond the four walls of the classroom shows a lot of promise for today’s students.

Dr. Palzet says that as a smaller school district, their budget may be smaller than a larger district, but that budgets are a problem facing school districts of all sizes. He says they’ve redesigned their hiring process to hire the perfect people to connect with their mission. And then they give their staff autonomy and support to do the best work possible and give students the best possible outcome.

He also says that starting with small-scale and pilot programs rather than using full-school initiatives allows them to make the best decisions both from an educational and financial standpoint.

When discussing rethinking the public school experience, he’s confident that schools are already in the process of going away from the traditional calendar and timeline for a more fluid model. He’s encouraged to see so many non-traditional learning experiences already being implemented in public schools.

Finally, Dr. Palzet’s recommends listeners check out “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.” He says the goal of leadership is to make more leaders by building people up, and this book does great work explaining why this works.


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