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UW Collaborates on Educational Leadership Effort

July 23, 2014
Three people conversing
From left, Paige Fenton Hughes, coordinator for the State Board of Education; Brian Farmer, executive director of the Wyoming School Boards Association; and Mary Garland, president and chair of the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, were among those participating in Tuesday’s kickoff meeting of the Wyoming School Leadership Collaborative. (UW Photo)

Efforts to improve the performance of Wyoming’s public education system depend significantly upon developing strong leaders to guide teachers in the classroom.

That’s one of the conclusions behind a new initiative to support educational leadership development in Wyoming’s schools. The Wyoming School Leadership Collaborative kicked off Tuesday at the University of Wyoming, involving leaders from UW’s College of Education, superintendents and other leaders from Wyoming school districts, community college representatives, the State Board of Education, Wyoming’s Professional Teaching Standards Board, the Wyoming Education Association and the John P. Ellbogen Foundation.

“Collaboration on challenges facing public schools in Wyoming just makes sense on so many levels,” says College of Education Interim Dean Michael Day. “The college is very committed to partner with school districts, teachers and others to help address immediate issues and concerns. What we’re doing here is a really good step in that direction.”

During Tuesday’s daylong kickoff meeting, close to two dozen Wyoming education leaders discussed the qualities of excellent superintendents, principals and teacher leaders; agreed that more should be done to enhance the pipeline of such leaders for Wyoming school districts; emphasized the importance of mentorship in leadership development; and expressed a need for more professional development opportunities for school administrators. The group proposed development of an educational leadership academy or center in the state and agreed that it should be part of UW’s College of Education.

“This was a great start,” says Dan Stephan, executive director of the Wyoming Association of School Administrators and former superintendent of Laramie County School District 1 in Cheyenne. He pointed out that almost half of Wyoming’s school districts have hired new superintendents in the past few years, and that leadership development is a high priority for districts across the state.

Paige Fenton Hughes, coordinator for the State Board of Education and former superintendent of Fremont County School District 1 in Lander, says having a support system to help school officials foster better instruction is crucial for Wyoming.

“Increasing student achievement depends upon good instruction. Principals and superintendents can support and facilitate good instruction, or they can get in the way,” Fenton Hughes says. “The key is to foster the positives to help teachers do the best job they can.”

The potential to have an impact on student achievement is what attracted the Ellbogen Foundation to support the leadership collaborative, says Mary Garland, the foundation’s president and chair. She sees a need for leadership improvements across the education system, from state agencies to individual schools.

“This is something that is on the minds of people across the whole system,” she says. “And we want to be able to tie it all back to student achievement.”

Following Tuesday’s kickoff meeting, a small subgroup of the collaborative -- led by Mark Stock, new UW College of Education faculty member and former superintendent of Laramie County School District 1 -- will meet to put ideas into writing. Further meetings of the larger group then are expected to help execute the plans.

Day says the College of Education’s involvement in the Wyoming School Leadership Collaborative reflects a desire to become more involved in addressing the state’s public school challenges.

“In addition to graduating excellent teachers and administrators, we want to be a resource for professionals at all levels in Wyoming’s education system,” he says.


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