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ODU-Developed Program Grows Education Leaders from Within in Remote, Eastern Shore School District

A unique partnership between Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education and the Northampton County Public Schools on Virginia's Eastern Shore has the potential to revolutionize the way educator leadership is nurtured in far-flung locations.

The partnership was made possible by a $655,969 grant last fall from the U.S. Department of Education to Assistant Professor Karen Crum. It was one of only 22 DOE school leadership grants awarded nationally.

"It provides ODU with a great deal of national leadership exposure, and an opportunity to interact with our peers on a national level," Crum said of the grant.

She and Co-Principal Investigator Steve Myran, also an ODU assistant professor, have used the funds to create a tailored master's of education program for two groups of 10 educators identified as potential leaders among the ranks of Northampton County Public Schools educators. The five-year grant will see the two groups of teacher-leaders through an accelerated, 18-month master's program, while they continue to work in Northampton County.

"The overarching goal of the project will be to build internal district capacity that will allow Northampton County Public Schools to 'grow their own' leaders in the context of the school culture being served," Crum wrote in her DOE grant proposal.

Myran said attracting and retaining leaders is a challenge in remote school divisions. By training educators who already live and work in the region, there is a better chance of retaining them where they're needed.

"And they're also attuned to the particular challenges they face working in that rural school division," Myran noted.

In addition, being working educators, the educators can discuss the very real issues they face during their individual and group learning sessions with the ODU faculty.

Crum said part of the grant funded the purchase of technology tools that allow for remote learning, but still provide the individualized opportunity for feedback and group work with the educator leaders.

The first group of master's students in the program will graduate in August 2010. The next group starts its studies in January 2011.

The Northampton County Public Schools believes the program will ultimately give the district a highly qualified pool of new teacher candidates to draw from when filling leadership positions.

On a larger scale, "I think, too, we're seeing how this program transforms our educational leadership program," Crum said.

"We really are establishing a platform to look at school leadership in a whole new way."

Crum and Myran believe the lessons learned in the application of this grant could be used in tailoring education leadership instruction in remote school divisions all over the state.

This year, Crum and a team of ODU educators have also received a $150,000 grant from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to "build on existing collaborative efforts between ODU and both Norfolk Public Schools and Northampton County Public Schools."

The one-year SCHEV grant, which takes effect July 1, extends and expands existing programs designed to further quality education in mathematics in middle schools, providing teachers and administrators resources to help fill the "theory to practice" void.

Teachers and administrators will have an opportunity to see how theory applies to their classroom experiences through professional development activities focused on "actionable" teaching strategies.

This article was posted on: June 5, 2009

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