OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego has received an annual $300,000 grant — for up to three years — to help develop teacher leaders for school districts in greatest need. Oswego’s School of Education received the highest of six grants awarded by the state.
“The success of any student is always based on the quality of teacher he or she has had in the classroom,” said School of Education Dean Linda Rae Markert. “Teacher quality is significantly impacted by exceptional leadership at the building level in our school districts.”
The Educational Leadership Program Enhancement Grant through the state’s Education Department and the Wallace Foundation will provide free tuition for eight teachers with leadership potential to take the first two educational administration courses in Oswego’s certificate of advanced studies program. To address the range of districts with highest needs, the cohort will include four from the Syracuse City School District, three from Oswego County districts and one from the Onondaga Nations School.
Markert said she and Suzanne Gilmour, chair of Oswego’s educational administration department, will use the grant to spur Project BLEND — Building Leadership Excellence for Needs-Based Districts. The effort will dovetail with Oswego’s Project SMART and other ongoing collaborations to develop and support socially conscious teacher and administrative leadership.
The grant draws on the School of Education’s strengths and network in professional development. Markert said several outstanding national consultants, including Dee Grayson, Carol Blunt-White and Giselle Martin-Kniep, will collaborate with regional experts, Oswego faculty and adjunct faculty on such issues as building learning communities, organizational change, diversity and educational innovation.
“New York State is looking to tap teacher leaders who will become leaders in high-needs schools,” Gilmour said. “We’re looking to the districts to identify aspiring professionals with great leadership capability,” based on current and potential leadership involvement, demonstrated initiative and interest in this field of work.
Their grant-supported courses are EAD 601, “Fundamentals of Administration,” and EAD 610, “School Principalship.”
“In the first core course, students interview a superintendent, identifying key and timely issues the superintendents are focusing on, as well as collaborative solutions,” Gilmour said. “They’ve had to, in the past, develop a school improvement plan: address the gap areas, develop budgets, blend needs of programs with recommended course of action.”
The “School Principalship” class looks at data, budget, planning and leadership skills. With all of Oswego’s educational administration courses, “the focus is always on how we can make this as real as we possibly can,” Gilmour explained.
Leadership in action
The introductory courses prepare teacher leaders by exploring such topics as dropout rates, school violence, curriculum development and cultural diversity. “We’ve earned a very good reputation for developing accomplished and successful leaders in education,” Markert said.
The grant also is expected to support one full-time administrative internship in a high-needs district.
“The best teachers are often your natural teacher leaders,” Markert said. Project BLEND looks “to inspire aspiring leaders to recognize that they can become instructional leaders and still be part of the teaching and learning process,” she added. “We really want to see exceptional instructional leaders in all levels — top administrators, building leaders, department chairs.”
Professors from SUNY Oswego’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences also will share how to infuse their content areas into developing coursework and collaborations.
Project BLEND will provide a great opportunity for aspiring leaders from urban and rural settings to collaboratively address challenges and enhance student success, Gilmour said.