Strengthen Central Office Expertise

Strengthen Central Office Expertise

When central office leaders understand SEL research and practices, they are able to promote and sustain systemic implementation.

Below you’ll find an overview of: WHAT high-quality implementation looks like, WHY it’s important, WHEN to engage in this key activity, and WHO to involve. Also see the PROCESS page for step-by-step guidance on how to engage in the work, and the RESOURCES page for additional tools to support your efforts.

What does it mean to strengthen central office SEL expertise?


When you strengthen SEL expertise, you ensure that leaders and staff across the district develop a strong knowledge base in SEL research, theory, and implementation methods.

A strong approach to strengthening central office expertise includes:

Providing professional learning that relates to SEL research and practice to central office leaders and staff from all departments.

Providing foundational professional learning as onboarding for new staff.

Supporting central office staff in understanding their role in integrating SEL into their area of work and speaking clearly about the value of SEL.

Convening SEL learning communities among central office staff.

Use the Rubric to assess your approach to strengthening central office expertise.

In order to understand their role in integrating SEL into their work and speak clearly about the value of SEL, staff need to understand:

Why is it important to build SEL expertise in the central office?


The more that leaders in the central office understand the practices and benefits of SEL, the better they’ll be able to promote and sustain systemic SEL implementation districtwide. This ensures that SEL is not siloed into a single department or viewed as a stand-alone initiative, but ingrained into all of the district’s work.

Leaders who have a solid knowledge base in SEL can also work more effectively to advocate and budget for SEL in the district and in the classroom, and identify specific opportunities within their departments for integrating and promoting SEL.

SEL expertise allows district leaders to:

  • Communicate the importance of SEL to schools, funders, students, families, and the community.
  • Make strategic and budgetary decisions informed by SEL priorities.
  • Identify new opportunities for promoting SEL.
  • Embed SEL into various professional learning, resources, frameworks, and guidance.

When should my district begin building expertise in SEL?


Ideally, building SEL expertise is one of the first steps for districtwide adoption of SEL. Begin with core district leaders, including the superintendent, cabinet members, board members, and those who are directly responsible for leading key aspects of SEL implementation. After these leaders have established a foundational level of SEL knowledge to support SEL policy and implementation, you can begin introducing SEL principles and practices to larger groups of central office staff. Deepening expertise in SEL will be an ongoing process throughout implementation, with different timelines and approaches based on staffs’ roles and needs.

Who should be involved?


Ideally, your district will support all staff in building a foundational level of SEL knowledge. Some of the district leaders you may wish to prioritize when developing a plan for building and deepening SEL expertise are:

  • SEL lead and team
  • District school board members
  • The superintendent and cabinet
  • Instructional leaders and coaches
  • Professional learning leaders
  • Principal development leaders
  • Student behavior and supports leaders
  • Key department leaders (such as equity, academics, etc.)
  • Principal supervisors
  • Human resources staff
  • Budget/grants staff
  • Union leaders
  • Communications leader
  • Family and community engagement leaders

Be aware, however, that the same type of SEL development session may not be appropriate for all the staff listed here. Some, like board members, need a higher-level, less practice-oriented understanding of SEL, while professional learning leaders and instructional leaders need more in-depth expertise. Learn more about how to differentiate your development sessions in the Process section.

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