Q & A with President Dan Morgan
Please share your reflections about your first year at Groves.
Groves was everything I expected it to be in my first year, and as the world proved to us all, so much more! As I regularly share, this is my dream job and Groves is a truly special, unique organization. I was welcomed warmly by the Board and Staff and with each month I was here, the more excited I became. Of course, there were the things you couldn’t expect like COVID and social justice upheaval. We were able to accomplish so much this year, despite the unexpected challenges, which is a true testament to the strength of our community—staff, faculty, parents, donors, and beyond.
Any big surprises?
The pandemic certainly caught us all off guard. However, a happy “surprise” has been the amount and depth of data Groves has collected over the years. It is really exciting. With the recent hire of Joel McDougall, Manager of Data Analytics, we are digging into data in a robust way to show student progress and the effectiveness of our programming. While Groves was always a data-driven organization, in certain ways, we are just scratching the surface.
What gets you excited to wake up and come to work each day?
The mission of Groves and the work that we do gets me out of bed each morning. I am motivated to make Groves the best in the world at what we do—to educate and support the teaching of neurodiverse kids. What we are learning will ultimately lead people (and policy) down the path to teach all kids (not just neurodiverse students) top-notch literacy skills, based on the science of reading and learning.
What do you consider to be Groves’ “big opportunity”? Please share some of the strategic initiatives guiding your leadership.
Groves’ biggest opportunity is the Groves Method™ curriculum. Two years ago, we began writing our own curriculum because we did not find anything currently available that met our needs to teach both general ed students in our partner schools and the neurodiverse students at our school and Learning Center. Our completed curriculum will support the entire organization. Currently, the Groves Method™ is being used in K-2 classrooms in the 46 Groves Literacy Partnership schools. Having our own researched and validated curriculum and method will allow us to hire people, train them in the Groves Method™ and ultimately, help so many more students.
Another strategic initiative providing a lens for everything we do at Groves is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). DEIB will become part of all conversations and provide a foundation for everything we do. It will ensure that we meet the needs of every student as they discover their brilliance.
Furthermore, I have a passion for supporting mental health, and at Groves we recently launched a cross-organizational Mental Health Task Force made up of our school counselors, psychologists in our Learning Center, a board member with deep expertise in mental health, and a Groves parent. Paying attention to mental health is especially important for our students who are neurodiverse. Mental health and learning challenges are intricately connected and are often linked diagnostically. It is critical to make sure our students are supported in all aspects of their being. An unseen silver lining of COVID is that it has opened all eyes in the education space to the importance of students’ mental health. Now we are all talking about it and taking action, to the benefit of all students.
Anything else you would like to share?
I want to acknowledge we have felt 2020 emotionally, physically, and personally. We have experienced so much loss. Despite all of it, I am still feeling hopeful. The disruption COVID caused to the traditional paradigm of education—a group of kids in a classroom with one teacher, all learning the same thing in the same way—ignited a conversation about how to successfully educate a human being, especially for students whose brains are wired differently. It is an active conversation and awareness is building. As a country, we are now paying attention to what works and what doesn’t in how we teach students.
I feel Groves is thriving, despite challenging circumstances, because there are so many people working hard to care for and support effective instruction for our students. This support allows Groves to stand at the center and be a leader. This past year has shown how important our community is and we are so grateful to our parents, staff, donors, and all who help us balance health and safety with a powerful transformative educational experience. Thank you.
Describe a favorite moment while working at Groves.
Graduation 2020 and diplomas on a pizza paddle!
If you could describe Groves in one word what would it be?
What makes Groves a special place?
Love is at the forefront of an expert education.
What are your hobbies and interests in your spare time?
Chasing my four kids, British football, researching the best electric car. I love to cook and once it is safe to do so I am going to start playing squash (another holdover from my years in the UK).