Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

A Conversation with Dave Bailis, Senior Director of Operations, Westchester Education Services

July 22, 2021 Nicole Tomassi and Dave Bailis Season 1 Episode 18
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
A Conversation with Dave Bailis, Senior Director of Operations, Westchester Education Services
Show Notes Transcript

Dave Bailis, Senior Director of Operations for Westchester Education Services describes his time with the company from joining in an editorial role to leadership of the day-to-day operations of the division, and discusses some of the unique characteristics of the Westchester team that benefit the work developed for their clients.

Nicole Tomassi:

Welcome To Westchester Words, Education Ed-Tech and Publishing. I'm Nicole Tomassi. And in this episode, I'll be speaking with Dave Bailis, Senior Director of Operations for Westchester Education Services. Dave has devoted his entire career to education first as a teacher, and then for approximately a decade working at education publishers, he joined Westchester Education Services as STEM Content Director in 2017 and was promoted to his current role as Senior Director of Operations in January of 2020, Dave. I'm really excited to welcome you to the Westchester Words podcast.

Dave Bailis:

Thank you, Nicole. I'm happy to be here.

Nicole Tomassi:

It's really great to have you here to get things started. Could you provide some additional context for our listeners about your career prior to joining Westchester?

Dave Bailis:

Absolutely. As you said before I, after I graduated from college, I taught a wide variety of students at various different schools. I taught anywhere from kindergarten through eighth grade, gym, language arts and math and science and social studies in the last five years or so of my tenure teaching career. I taught junior high mathematics and junior high science. I love the junior high age. I know that isn't always the most popular age, but I loved them. I loved my teaching career in 2006 though. Um, I decided to move over into educational publishing and I worked at , uh , Pearson as a publisher in the science and math department. And then over the course of the next 10 to 15 years, I had a stint at National Geographic Learning and their science department to develop a new science program for the state of Florida, as well as a group of other vendors, including Quarasan, Symmetry Creative Production and Tighe, which is now SPI global. Then I came to Westchester as the STEM director.

Nicole Tomassi:

And like you Dave, many of the staff here at Westchester Education Services have previously worked as K-12 teachers and then gone on to create content for education publishers. How do you find that experience helps to inform the work that Westchester does for education publishers and ed-tech companies?

Dave Bailis:

Yeah, I think that it is an absolute necessity to have the background in education, not just going to school, not just reading about or going to a conference and learning about how people teach, but to actually have the personal experience standing in front of students and working as a teacher, all of our staff members have some teaching experience. Um , some of which have around the same amount that I have and every time we develop something, any piece of educational content, I always rely on that lens because we know that our end-users are students. So we know that our end-users for our products are teachers. And I want to be able to, when we send along a completed teachers guide to know that the lessons that we're talking about there , the pedagogy that we see in those and that content is exactly the way that I would teach it in real life. So not necessarily some, you know , pedagogy that we read in some research there, but also to try to make it as in the weeds, you know, in the trenches as possible so that when the teachers read i t, they know that you've been there when they see what you have in the c ontent.

Nicole Tomassi:

That's, that's very interesting and very important too . And I'm sure the teachers appreciate that when they are looking at that content in the classroom. Um, as, as I had mentioned at the beginning, you became Senior Director of Operations in January of 2020, and shortly thereafter were faced with what was likely one of the most significant challenges of your career due to the pandemic. How did Westchester work with clients to support their changing needs during the spring of 2020 and even through to now?

Dave Bailis:

Well, obviously the pandemic brought on changes, differences in attitudes and an entirely new lens and opportunity for students to learn in a unique and interesting ways. When the pandemic, when the pandemic , uh , started , um, schools were scrambling to try to find ways to reach their students who were no longer going to be in the building with them. And likewise, the content developers and content providers for those teachers, for those schools also were scrambling to try to find a way to deliver the content that they knew was good to help the teachers , um, deliver that content to the students. So we ran into an enormous amount of work from the content providers and it sort of fell into two different groups. One group was trying to take the wonderful content that they had and try to make it into something that was more interactive that was, would help the students become more engaged in the learning that they were doing. Sure any content provider was also looking to provide PDFs that the students could use on their computers on their Chromebooks or iPad, but it wasn't just that they wanted to take that content and to make it more interactive and engaging so that the students who weren't going to be engaged by their teachers in school would have more to focus on when they were learning. The other group was trying to from scratch. This, gave them the opportunity and possibly investment for their companies, large and small, both large publishers, basal publishers, and small supplemental publishers. So we work with quite a bit to try to come up with a new and innovative way to teach since the students weren't going to be in school anymore. There was a great opportunity and a great amount of investment to try to come up with something new from scratch that would help the students minds even better than the materials that they created before. And so not only was it a large amount of work that we were seeing, but it was also really interesting time. And, you know, as, as school was one of the things affected most by the pandemic. I see that as we were beginning to come down from the pandemic and students are going to be going back to school this fall and may have even gotten into the schools, in this school year, we're seeing a lot of the publishers large and small moving towards these new and innovative programs. And I'm just, I'm really excited about the future and what is holds for all these new and interesting ways to reach students.

Nicole Tomassi:

I'm gonna throw you a bit of a curve ball question here. Um, do you feel like this has opened the door a little more widely to, I guess what we would call individualized or personalized learning?

Dave Bailis:

Absolutely. During my teaching career, differentiated instruction became a term and as any teacher would and will say they do their best to teach the students in the best way possible. But now that we're entering a period of time where the technology is so fluid and the students are so used to learning in a very digital way, we have an opportunity here for the first time maybe ever of really truly having personalized education. So those are students could work with the technology and work with their teachers in a way that they learned that. And so if you, even, if you have a class of 25 or 30 students, there might be actually 25 or 30 different learning styles in the classroom, all being met by the teacher and that technology, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. It's such an amazing opportunity for students and teachers to really do the job we've wanted to do for such a very long time. So yes, absolutely. It's opened the door wide. And , um , now that the flood gates are open, we're seeing a tremendous amount of growth and just true innovation in the education space.

Nicole Tomassi:

It does really sound exciting. I almost want to go back to school now. Absolutely. Um , never too late to learn. That's what I say. Totally agree. So during your time here at Westchester Education Services, the product development range has expanded beyond the core subjects. And now also includes things such as English, language learning, social, emotional learning, culturally responsive education, and more recently career and technical education. And as well, there's been an expansion of Westchester into the overseas markets with the launch of Westchester Education Services UK. So as we enter this post pandemic phase, how do you think that education content will change beyond the individualized learning? We talked about just a moment ago and how do you think Westchester can help companies be prepared for what's coming?

Dave Bailis:

Well, we know that there is a huge change on the horizon for the way that students learn, not just in the United States, not just in north America, but all around the world. And Westchester has the internal, a team of dedicated academic professionals to develop content and to manage teams of freelance professionals who were also experts in their fields and with this long bench of freelance talent, as well as the internal team. We have people that can help you build your ELL programs and SEL programs. Um, it comes here , uh, responsive education, culturally responsive education, as well as career and technical education. And all of these services that we've expanded into are also expanding all over the world. We simply need to think about the fact that all content can be put into what we call packets. So any of these content packets for any of the students that are out there, that's really what education is going to be about. Piggybacking on what we talked about in terms of individualized learning students come in all shapes and sizes, all ages all around the world with different needs, different goals. And Westchester is a prime example of a content developer that has looked out across the entire landscape and not just thinking about core four not just only working on grades three through five math programs, but to really think about all students and the fact that all of them need to learn in a variety of ways in a variety of content. So whether you're a large basal publisher or a small startup company, ed-tech , uh , supplemental publishers , um , all the way from kindergarten through grade 20, we have the people that you need in order to create a product that you're looking for. And we can do it as a print book and we can do it in digital, video, animation, and we can really deliver the types of content that will most engage your students and really help your teachers do the job that they were hired to do.

Nicole Tomassi:

In the previous episode of Westchester Words, Kevin and I were talking about the ASU GSV conference, which is taking place in person for the first time in a year and a half. Their conference last year was entirely virtual and , and really pivoted to meet the time. Now, you and Kevin are going to be there in person to meet with attendees who, you know, who are education publishers or ed tech companies or startup ventures. And I'm wondering what your thoughts are about finally being at a conference in person. Again,

Dave Bailis:

I know I've used this word a lot here , um, but I am excited. The ASU GSV conference is buzzing with excitement, people meeting each other, you know, investors being connected to people who have startup education companies, maybe even one person working on a , um , by themselves as a company, trying to push and find investment for the type of work that they're doing. So a tremendous amount of innovation, very, very creative professionals, and that type of energy is just, you could feel it when you're, when you're sitting there at a table talking to potential clients, hearing speakers, talk about the things that are really exciting, exciting, new trends in education. I know that Kevin and I are very excited to meet with people to talk about how Westchester can help them develop their content and talk about the teams that we put together that, that can really help deliver what you're looking for. So it's a very exciting place. It just buzzing with activity. And , uh , I'm really excited about being in person again.

Nicole Tomassi:

All right. It does sound very exciting. And you're going to have to tell me all about it when you come back later in August, just to close things out here. I have a two part question for you, you know, if you're to take stock of your time here, which is closing in on four years, can you tell me what you're most proud about? And then looking ahead, what you are to use the word one more time most excited about?

Dave Bailis:

Of course , um, Westchester is, is a very kind company , um , we're employee owned, and so all of the staff feels very connected involved in the work that we're doing on a very personal level, as well as a professional one, but the team that we've created, we've put together inside, um , the staff is just a wonderfully kind and thoughtful group of people. And this is shown in all of the work that we do around the time that I came. Uh , the initial conversation started between Nilofer, for who is our diversity equity and inclusion committee leader, and Kevin Gray . They started to put together guidelines for building a DEI safe and culturally responsive company. So not only would the materials that we create be created in a thoughtful, kind, equitable , um , fashion with a very diverse group of freelance professionals, creating them, but also also a culturally responsive group and a culturally responsive group in the way that we approach our internal processes, as well as our external processes with clients. And so now here we are three years later after that process started. And , um , we have a committee that's reaching out to do wonderful things internally and externally. We have clients who have reached out to us because they know our background . They know our skillset when it comes to , um, CRE reads , but also , um, a lot of work in terms of training and, and working with companies to build their guidelines for their own internal CRE , uh , reads and their own internal DEI, CRE development. And so in this, in this world that could always use a little bit of kindness. What makes me most proud is to be the Senior Director of Operations, of a set of ops people in operations who are incredibly kind. And as I've said before, I really feel like we're at the beginning of something really spectacular in the history of human education. I feel like there's so much information to be learned that students need such an incredible range of skills in order to succeed in the society that we live in today. And that those critical thinking skills can only be taught by truly engaging, personalized education that the new technology can deliver. And as that technology gets better and better as it becomes more and more personalized. And as we learn more about the way that this sort of this group of students who are very digitally educated and they come into school that way, I'm really excited about the new and innovative stuff that we can create every really every day that we hear about new products, I'm excited to learn more and more about it. So that's what really excites me about this industry.

Nicole Tomassi:

I think that's a really wonderful note to end this conversation on. And Dave, I just want to say, it's always great to talk with someone like you who has so much passion and enthusiasm about the work that you're doing. So I want to thank you again for coming on to Westchester Words and for sharing your story and for sharing Westchester story.

Dave Bailis:

Thank you so much for having me, Nicole, I'm always happy to talk about what we can provide to learn

Nicole Tomassi:

More about how Dave and the rest of the team at Westchester Education Services can help your company with your content development requirements. Complete the short form on the contact us page of the Westchester Education Services website at westchestereducationservices.com. And we'll get in touch with you shortly. I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Westchester Words. Follow us on your favorite streaming platform to be notified about new episodes as they become available and to listen to previous episodes that you may have missed. You can also find all of the episodes plus additional content that's been shared by some of our guests on the podcast page of our website WestchesterEducationServices.com. We love hearing from our listeners too. So send us an email at [email protected] to share your thoughts or comments about today's discussion and tell us what content you'd like to hear Westchester cover for future episodes. I hope you'll join us for the next episode of Westchester Words. When Meg Overman senior supervising editor for ELA will be my guest until then stay safe, be well and stay tuned.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible] .