Scrum in Schools — Interview with Caitlyn Savage & Jerry Aguilera

Maria Matarelli, Executive Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) conducted an interview with Caitlyn Savage & Jerry Aguilera from Blueprint Education during the Global Scrum Gathering in Denver this summer. Here is an excerpt from their talk.

Maria: How have you enjoyed the Scrum Gathering so far?

Jerry: Really wonderful. A lot of interesting ideas, very informative. It’s actually our first time being a part of the Global Scrum Gathering. A lot of people to interact with, and lots of opportunities to learn.

Maria: You have been using agile in a very creative way. Can you tell us more about it?

Caitlyn: We use Agile in education. We use it in all different facets. We have a district with two charter schools. We have an online school and a Brick-and-Mortar school. We use Scrum with our staff members to be able to create different stories. Our backlogs can be a little bit different from traditional backlogs in a business. Our backlogs can be coming from the State, whether it’s requirements that are like State Standardized tests or it’s something creative that we want to build, like maybe school culture, or an event. We use Scrum not only to plan those events but also to be able to teach our students.

Maria: That’s pretty cool to be able to teach students these types of skills, because really what we’re teaching them is how to be efficient, how to be effective, have more visibility, and be more collaborative. And these are all incredible skills, in addition to achieving things and meeting goals, and, getting minimum viable things completed. What a great skill for the students. Can you share with us some of the feedback that you’ve heard from people that have used Scrum schools?

Caitlyn: The feedback wasn’t always the greatest. When we have new staff members that join us, they’re unfamiliar with Scrum. So the buy-in was not a hundred percent there. But then once they started, actually implementing it, they realize they can actually get done with so much work. It doesn’t feel as overwhelming. Because being a teacher can be a very stressful job.

And so it can be a little overwhelming at times. But with Agile and Scrum, it makes it a lot easier to be able to not only handle all of those things but to be cross-functional and to communicate with not only our staff but also with the parents and the students too.

Maria: What would you say are some of the benefits that you’ve heard?

Jerry: Honestly, it just makes work a lot easier because we’re using cross-functional teams to get stuff done. There is a lot of collaboration, which I think doesn’t necessarily happen in traditional schools.

Maria: Can you tell us how long you’ve been applying Scrum in the school?

Jerry: We’ve been implementing Scrum since 2014. Scrum and Agile actually saved us, because our school grade was an F and we were on the break of closure.

Maria: So tell me more about what this looks like? How is Scrum being applied?

Caitlyn: We do it a little bit different in both schools. So I can share a little bit about how we do it in the online setting. We actually use an online platform called Trello. We have our backlog there and then we move items along.

This is actually something we both do, but we just do it in an online setting, but basically, we scrum their attendance, as well as their progress. So it helps make sure that no student gets left behind. If we notice that a student has been stuck at the progress of, 0–15% for more than a few days, we can see it right there on the board, and everybody has access to that. So even though maybe I’m not necessarily the teacher, I am the Academic Advisor, so I can reach out to the student and see what’s going on. To learn why are they not progressing? We are making sure that students are not being fallen under the cracks, but also that we’re giving them the time, attention, and transparency by using Scrum.

Jerry: And for the Brick-and-Mortar School is basically the same as Caitlyn said. However, we don’t use Trello. We use the standard Kanban board. A big board, that’s visible in their hallways at school. So the teachers and students know what’s happening. Because collaboration is the key for us.

Maria: So it sounds like you’re using Scrum to help how the school runs. And to continuously improve how you interact with students. You are teaching the skills that are empowering them and showing them how they can make a difference, and make an impact. Their voice can be heard. And those skills sound very important as they move through the school system.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us on how you’re using Scrum in schools.



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