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UW Moves Ahead with Wyoming Center for Educational Leadership

April 23, 2015
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UW College of Education Assistant Lecturer Mark Stock leads development of the Wyoming Center for Educational Leadership.

While professional development resources for teachers have been strong historically, one critical group in Wyoming’s K-12 education community has not had similar growth opportunities: district and school administrators.

That situation is about to change with the launch of the Wyoming Center for Educational Leadership (WyCel), a major initiative housed in the University of Wyoming College of Education.

Mark Stock, educational leadership faculty member, is providing leadership in laying WyCel’s foundation.

“The mission is to provide professional development for leaders at the classroom, school, district and higher education levels, for the purpose of advancing education in Wyoming,” he says of the center’s purpose.

WyCel’s mission came to life during a summer 2014 planning session that drew representatives from several K-12 education agencies and UW. From that experience came nine priorities. Those priorities focus primarily on providing professional development programming, mentoring and technical support for districts needing assistance.

The UW College of Education long has included academic programs preparing and certifying principals and superintendents, many of whom move to leadership positions in Wyoming schools after graduation. The impetus for establishing additional support, represented in WyCel, comes from increasing calls by Wyoming political and school leaders for greater engagement from UW.

“Those conversations have all revolved around how we, as a university, can be supportive of what’s happening in the field of practice,” Stock says. “Universities are historically teaching and research oriented, but we’re also educating and certifying these practitioners to go out and do the work. The question is, with all the pressure on accountability, who is best positioned to help provide professional development when it comes to administration.”

As efforts to obtain the resources needed to implement and sustain the full scope of what is planned for WyCel continue, Stock is working to initiate five early, high-impact programs targeting administrators:

-- Resurrecting the Maurice Wear School Law Conference, scheduled July 30-31 at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

-- Launching a year-round, distance-delivered professional development and networking group for Wyoming school superintendents.

-- Facilitating a superintendent mentoring program through that network.

-- Launching a Wyoming Principal Leadership Academy, to provide professional development and support for a cohort of 25 school leaders.

-- Creating a mentoring program for Wyoming principals.

Stock draws inspiration for the superintendents development program from a model (ECHOtm Project) developed in the international medical community. Under this model, WyCel would establish a professional learning community for school superintendents, offering regular live video events that participants could attend from their home offices. Each session would open with a brief discussion about a topic of mutual concern to district leaders. That presentation would be followed by a discussion based on a case offered by a practitioner, with feedback provided by an expert panel.

The goal is to provide school leaders -- living and working in underserved rural areas -- with access to regional, state and national experts, addressing topics they are interested in exploring with an opportunity to discuss challenges pertinent to their work.

Accompanying that learning community is the third start-up WyCel initiative.

“We’re hoping to leverage that with a personal mentoring program that goes with it,” facilitating follow-up with experts participating in a session to support individual administrators facing specific challenges, Stock says.

The Wyoming Principal Leadership Academy offers a similarly supportive opportunity for school leaders. About half of the participants will come via recommendations from schools categorized as “does not meet expectations.” The other half will be recruited from other interested principals in the state.

Academy programming will include a mix of face-to-face meetings and synchronous, online discussions. The focus will be on real problems faced by school leaders.

“The goal of the academy would be to provide action-type research, where they have to go back to their schools and implement things,” Stock says. “It’s designed to be a blend of theory and practice.”

A mentoring program, similar to the one proposed for superintendents, will provide additional support and technical assistance to principals.

“It’s essentially a one-stop shop for professional development in administration,” Stock says of WyCel’s larger, long-term purpose.

Primary financial support for WyCel’s startup phase is provided by the Ellbogen Dean’s Excellence Fund, provided through an endowment from the John P. “Jack” Ellbogen Foundation. The launch also is supported by proceeds from contracted technical assistance and consulting, provided by Stock, with funds going to WyCel.

For long-term sustainability, Stock foresees the need for a mix of funding sources. Ideally, that mix would include an endowment, much like the one that funds the UW Literacy Research Center and Clinic. Additional support could come from private, public and contract sources.

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