Public Education Leaders Hone Skills and Make Connections at Broad Fellowship
By Meredith Crawford
As the pandemic deepens existing inequalities, it’s more vital — and harder — than ever for public education officials to be “mission-driven,” said Los Fresnos Schools Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar. in Texas. “There are so many things that could distract us from our mission – it’s important that we have a laser-like focus, but I know I can’t do it alone.”
Being part of the inaugural cohort of the Broad Center at Yale SOM’s Fellowship for Public Education Leadership provides Salazar with a new source of training and support. He was one of 15 senior public education leaders from across the United States who gathered at Edward P. Evans Hall for a week of classes, workshops, and discussions with SOM faculty, practitioner leaders, and peers at the end of October. The week-long module was the second of four that fellows will take during the 10-month programme, and the first held in person.
The Broad Fellowship (TBF) is a tuition-free executive leadership program for high-level public education leaders, including superintendents and CEOs of public charter networks, from across the country who are dedicated to strengthening public school systems and the communities they serve. Fellows drive transformational work that advances equity and excellence for students in urban school districts, charter networks, and state and federal education agencies.
During the week in New Haven, Fellows shared their own experiences and challenges in daily sessions; heard from leaders in the field on topics such as establishing an equity agenda, developing anti-racist pedagogies, and engaging with parents and families; participated in workshops based on real case scenarios; and engaged with Yale SOM faculty in lectures and discussions designed to introduce them to management concepts that can be applied to the education setting.
“It was so powerful to see fellows engage with faculty members, practitioner leaders, and each other,” said Hanseul Kang, Associate Dean and Executive Director Anita and Joshua Bekenstein ’80 BA of the Broad Center at Yale SOM. “I love seeing the times when a new idea during a class session sparks a fresh idea of a way to approach something they’re stuck on in their school system, or hearing how their thinking and practice has been pushed.”
Countrywoman Juliana Worrell, Head of Schools at Uncommon Schools, said she was already applying the new skills she learned through the two modules of the programme.
“Very often in our schools we make complex decisions and there are a number of stakeholders who should be involved in those decisions. Learn about a framework rooted in research and best practices we can draw from” to inform that the decision-making has been invaluable, she said.
Fellow Kinnari Patel-Smyth, president of the KIPP Foundation and a veteran in the field, said she found TBF to be “inspirational, challenging and many thought-provoking moments”. She added that she was particularly invigorated by the program: “Just yesterday we learned about a new concept, it’s really exciting for me as someone who has been studying for 23 years.
As important as these management tools are the connections fellows make with each other, they said.
“Being a superintendent is a lonely job,” said Steve Zrike, who holds the position for Salem Public Schools in Massachusetts. This past year has been the toughest of Zrike’s career, he said, but the relationships he’s built through TBF will help him navigate the future.
“It’s a group of people that I know I can count on and that I can engage with and that I’ve been thinking about partnering with, who are facing similar issues…It’s a time very difficult in public education right now to be a superintendent… It’s going to support me as a leader,” Zrike said.
Worrell agreed, “We’re building some really deep, meaningful relationships right now that I know I can draw on, not just today, but well beyond the end of this program. It’s incredibly encouraging. It makes me feel like I have a team of people I can reach out to and ultimately it’s better for the kids when you have a number of adults, especially senior leaders in the system, working together to really think about how we can do this job better.
Watch a video featuring Fellow Juliana Worrell