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Modernizing and Moving Forward in J.O. Combs USD

Paper is proud to support our first Arizona partner, J.O. Combs Unified School District, with unlimited, 24/7 tutoring this new school year for all students in grades 3-12. The Paper team recently sat down with Superintendent Dr. Greg Wyman to talk about what this support means for his community and how Paper fits into the district’s broader initiatives. 

What were the key challenges facing your district that had you looking for a solution?

One of the key challenges for us is trying to learn what was lost as part of the pandemic and close the gaps that have been highlighted within our schools in terms of student achievement.

I think COVID taught us that true online doesn't work for the majority of kids. When we were forced into remote learning for a year-and-a-half, many students that needed that human interaction in a much more defined way lost some understanding of concepts. We were looking for additional ways to get that understanding, and it can't all fall on the backs of teachers. We were looking at different avenues that we can address with certified individuals, but without adding one more thing to the plate of a teacher or a principal. 

What did you like about the Paper solution in particular? 

As a district, we truly believe in any time, any place, anywhere learning. Paper enables that because it's accessible at nine o'clock at night, at four o'clock in the morning—whenever it is students need to learn—without putting a strain on teachers. The limited impact on teacher workload was the main reason why Paper is a great fit for us. As educational leaders, we're often dealing with initiative fatigue. Everything you try is brand new, which in and of itself isn't bad, but when you stack all the new tools, it can be overwhelming for teachers. The fact that we could get students to ask somebody else for help and not just rely on teachers is very beneficial.

Do you have any advice for other district leaders who are looking to make this type of investment in round-the-clock academic support? 

Well, I think the advice is that the more ways that we, as educational leaders, can connect with our families, the better. Everything's getting so political that the ability to connect with families becomes critical. To give parents this resource that enables their child to access help while allowing for full transparency is so valuable. 

There's currently a push towards parental rights to see what's being done in the classroom. And while Paper isn't the classroom, there is a degree of transparency that allows a parent or a school to see the exchange between the tutor and the student. I think that will become critical and beneficial for building back stronger relationships with our parents and our community when it comes to helping kids. There'll be a greater chance for parents to indirectly get an understanding of what's really being taught in schools and take a look at what and how their kids are learning. I think there's a number of different ways that transparency becomes really, really critical.

Is there anything you'd like to highlight about your community?

We work with a network called Modern Teacher that consists of around 100 districts across the country. Each district has a matrix that's got six drivers across seven stages. It's a fairly sophisticated matrix that you judge yourself off of, and every district does its own thing. We call ours #Forward, moving our kids #Forward. That's the whole concept of any time, any place, anywhere.

For us, the piece that we like is that Paper melds with this initiative and what we're trying to do, which is to provide that any time, any place, anywhere learning for our kids. As we move #Forward with this, it's critical for us to find ways to allow for that to happen. I think many of the districts in Modern Teacher are looking at similar types of solutions.

To me, that's the biggest thing. It's the essence of who we are and where we're going. To find a product like Paper that helps us move in that direction became critical for us to move #Forward.

Thinking of bringing Paper to your schools?