Shippensburg University professor recognized for work on pilot program to improve educational leadership
By AMBER SOUTH
A Shippensburg University professor was recognized this month for leading the development of a program to better prepare future educational leaders for the jobs ahead of them.
Gerald Fowler, associate professor of educational leadership, received the Outstanding Faculty Award from University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s Mid Atlantic Region for his work on a pilot program for students to achieve a Superintendent Letter of Eligibility, a requirement to be considered for a position as a public school superintendent in Pennsylvania.
The award was the culmination of a busy year for Fowler. He and his fellow department members – William Cowden, Phillip Diller and Corinne Eisenhart – developed what they believe is a one-of-a-kind program in Pennsylvania to provide future public-school administration leaders with hands-on training to help them become top notch leaders who push the state of public education into the future.
There are a slew of state-approved educational leadership programs in Pennsylvania, but the pilot program developed by Fowler and company takes a different route. The UPCEA cited the creativity of the program as one reason for choosing Fowler as the award recipient, the creative aspect being the trade of classroom learning for actual practice in the field.
While students in more traditional programs may still have some job training to do once they get into their positions, students in Fowler and company’s program would have already had plenty of time to carry out such tasks.
“I think people will have an increased potential for hitting the ground running,” Fowler said.
Traditional educational leadership programs consist of classroom time plus 360 hours of field experience that are typically tacked on at the end, Fowler said. In the SU program, students complete 600 or more field hours in school districts throughout south central Pennsylvania and 20 to 30 hours of classroom activities that include seminars, concentrated workshops and expert interviews. Students can choose where those activities take place — and can even tune in via Skype, Facetime or other online communication device — meaning time on campus is not needed.
“(Students will) be less prone to on the job training after they get the position. On the job training is occurring as their doing (the program),” Fowler explained.
The program involves students participating in an intensive series of residency experiences over six semesters. According to Fowler, he, Cowden, Diller and Eisenhart based the sections on courses taught in the traditional program at SU.
The residency experiences are, in order: Intro to Strategic Leadership in Executive Governance and Community Relations; Ethical and Legal Decision-making at the Executive Level to Influence Student Learning; Strategic Instructional and Technology Leadership; Optimizing Financial Resources to Impact District Programs; Applying Negotiations Strategies and Personnel Strategic Decision Making to Influence Student Learning; and the Impact of Facilities and Plant Management Decisions on School Effectiveness.
“In a traditional program you study about concepts in finance and facilities and instructional leadership but you do those in the classroom,” Fowler said. “This is a project-based program, you’re in the program and you’re already solving real problems.”
The first program kicked off this fall, after about a year of going through processes to get approved by the state, university and many other organizations. It could change in the future based on the outcomes this time around, Fowler said.
Fowler, the superintendent of Carlisle Area School District from 1992 to 2004, sees the program as a way to push educational leadership to satisfy the changing needs of public education that have shown themselves more and more, a trend that will continue as the future becomes the present.
“I think it’s important that as we look to train future leaders that we look at, I think, multiple options rather than single options today,” Fowler said. “If you look at what we’re training them for, in terms of need of school districts are quite diverse — large, small, urban etc. As I learned as superintendent, what you have to learn is there are many right ways of doing things.”
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.