Instructional Leaders Focus on Leadership for Excellence in Cotsen Schools

More than sixty Cotsen alumni and current principals, teachers and district office administrators from across Southern California gathered at The Centre at Sycamore Plaza for a working breakfast meeting. The instructional leaders came to explore the wide range of supports available to them as administrators of Cotsen schools.

The four-hour breakfast meeting was the first of several gatherings and professional development opportunities for administrators that will be offered throughout the 2017-2018 school year. Cotsen administrators will have access to professional development sessions on Cognitively Guided Instruction, Writing Workshop, Reading Workshop, and Instructional Technology Integration. Additionally, they can enhance their skills and knowledge through attending Cotsen-sponsored visitations, Institutes, and coaching opportunities, and participating in the ART of TEACHING’s innovative Principals’ Technology Network, (PTN).

On hand at the meeting were the PTN teacher facilitators, and Dr. Sharon Sutton, who serves as the ART of TEACHING’s 21st century learning consultant. The talented team sparked tremendous interest among attendees during the discussion of the professional growth opportunities that will be offered this year to enhance principals’ work in the area of digital learning.

In addition to exploring this year’s professional development opportunities, attendees also learned about the Foundation’s competitive grant opportunities. Highlighting the discussion were presentations made by two past grant recipient districts. Staff from Whittier City School District and Tustin Unified described for the group the impressive work to enhance the teaching and learning that took place in their districts as result of the Cotsen Strategic Opportunity Grant funds they received. Strategic Opportunity Grants provide up to $17,000 for projects involving four or more schools within a district, or $4,000 for individual school projects. The grants fund projects that strengthen and improve teachers’ professional practice, and further develop professional learning communities.

A significant portion of the meeting was dedicated to administrators focusing on the art of leading. Their work was anchored in analyzing and discussing Pamela Mendels’s article, “The Effective Principal: Five Pivotal Practices that Shape Instructional Leadership.” The activity culminated with each principal identifying specific practices that they planned to incorporate into their work during 2017-2018.

For a program like the ART of TEACHING to have a lasting school-wide impact, it is critical that principals and district administrators understand and support their mentors and fellows’ work towards instructional excellence, even after the two-year fellowship cycles have ended. Equally important however, is the intentional and strategic expansion of this work to non-Cotsen staff. The goal of the ART of TEACHING’s work with principals is to provide tools and support that assist administrators as they engage in making instructional excellence a school wide reality.

Jerry Harris, Executive Director of the ART of TEACHING commented after the meeting, “If enthusiasm and engagement are indicators of the potential for and trajectory towards excellence, then the administrators who attended the breakfast meeting are definitely off to a phenomenal start to a productive 2017-2018 school year.”