OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego’s program leading to a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership has grown more than 30 percent since 2011. About nine in every 10 CAS participants have started jobs in school administration within two months of graduation.
The CAS program’s leaders and graduates credited, among other things, real-life collaborative projects aimed at actual improvements in school districts around the region; future-oriented and evidence-based deep dives into trends in education; and a loyal and nurturing network of faculty, fellow graduates and established school administrators.
“We believe in authentic learning,” said Angela Perrotto, chair of the educational leadership programs in SUNY Oswego’s School of Education. “Our curriculum is filled with real issues in real schools and real people with real data, working with real administrative teams and teachers on improving student achievement.”
She added, “Although our students are learning about researched best practices, they are learning about them by applying them inside schools.”
Perrotto’s own data show that the vast majority of Oswego’s CAS students each year take administrative positions by Oct. 1, less than two months after graduation. This fall, for example, eight became school principals and 10 were hired as assistant principals; at the district level, four are directors, one assistant director, four coordinators and one dean.
Tim Filiatrault moved into the principal’s chair at Sandy Creek Elementary School in July 2017, completing the yearlong CAS program, including an internship, this August. He valued the graduate experience highly. “The coursework, the professors, the staff — they’ve been there, they’ve had the experience, they’ve been in those (administrative) positions themselves,” he said.
Perrotto said the program makes its students a promise: “We promise we’re going to have 30 to 35 practicing administrators working with them: new ones and veterans; anywhere from a director, an assistant superintendent, a principal, an assistant principal; representing urban, rural and suburban districts.”
Filiatrault worked with CAS program colleague Dan Hammond and administrators in LaFargeville Central School District on an initiative to place Chromebooks in the hands of every ninth- through 12th-grader. “We did the background work, the legwork, we worked with the technical people,” he said.
In the end, the top administrators and board of education accepted the proposal and scaled it up to seventh- through 12th-graders, said Filiatrault, who noted that his own children were in the district. “LaFargeville is in the second full year of implementation and I hear that it’s going very well.”
Following her August 2016 CAS graduation, Melissa Perkowski began as Honeoye Central School District’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. “I had multiple opportunities in the program for authentic learning — real-life, real-time experiences engaging with leaders in the region who were already working in administration,” she said.
Perkowski specifically mentioned an action research project in one district to find root causes and options for overcoming difficulties in literacy assessments; another assignment, in one of her final courses, involved preparing a strategic plan and having the data and other research ready to garner support for the plan among her peers.
Pam Michel, dean of SUNY Oswego’s School of Education, said she’s been delighted to hear from school district administrators about the CAS program’s collaborative projects.
“The superintendents tell me our students come into their schools and work with a team to solve a serious challenge in the district,” Michel said. “The superintendents are very respectful of that. The students come up with a plan for addressing the situation, and it seems like in almost every instance it’s utilized. That’s something that I think sets us apart.”
Eva Williams, principal at Van Duyn Elementary School in Syracuse, graduated with her CAS six years ago, but she keeps in contact with the program’s leaders and her cohort of graduates and still takes value from the program that enabled her to move into administration. “We all came with such diverse backgrounds and experiences,” she said. “There was a lot to learn from each other.”
“I am an outgoing person, but at the time I didn’t see myself in a leadership role,” Williams said. “I became more confident (during Oswego’s CAS program) in my ability to lead. That comes from a lot of support and engagement from peers and faculty in the department.” She added, “I’m so grateful to Oswego for my education and having that support and belief in me.”
Williams said her CAS network and contacts have helped a lot over the years, especially as Van Duyn emerged several years ago from state-imposed receivership. “One of the things we’ve benefited from is the partnership with Oswego — the (Field) Placement Office, the MAT (master of arts in teaching) students, Project Smart (a collaborative professional development program). We’ve shown significant growth,” she said.
Sherri Monell, who moved directly from the classroom into her role as director of pupil personnel services in the Waterloo Central School District’s Office of Special Education, called the CAS program’s job-shadowing opportunities and other real-time interactions “huge.”
“It teaches you to think in different ways and to work in this district with people from all backgrounds,” Monell said. Since there is a lot of regulatory work in her office, it also taught her how to work with officials from various levels. “The program was fantastic, for sure,” she said.
Oswego’s educational leadership department also has several other initiatives: a Teacher Leadership Academy for educators who want to remain in the classroom but become teacher leaders, expanding their impact in their schools and districts; a Leader of Leaders Program for educators who want to improve their ability to supervise and team with others to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s challenges in education; and the state’s original Superintendent Development Program.
Perrotto said education is “a calling,” one that needs strong, diverse, thoughtful and caring people both in the classroom and out. “We need great people helping our children, because children need good advocates in education to do the work that has to be done for them to be OK today and tomorrow,” she said.
For information on any of the more than 40 graduate programs at SUNY Oswego, visit oswego.edu/graduate or contact the Division of Graduate Studies at [email protected] or 315-312-3152.