Do you remember your favorite teacher? The one who stayed after class and helped you understand fractions with patience and a smile? Now imagine that your favorite teacher was given the opportunity to mentor other teachers and become principal of your school.
For the past 10 years, the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) has given exemplary instructors the opportunity to reach more students, manage and grow schools across the country, and create a working environment where all teachers are given the tools and support needed to grow into school leaders.
Ten years ago, Alan Bersin, then Superintendent of San Diego Schools and current Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the Department of Homeland Security, and Paula Cordeiro, dean of SOLES, worked together to create the Aspiring Principals Program, now known as the Educational Leaders Development Academy (ELDA). The program provided a year-long mentorship between a principal and teacher, giving that teacher firsthand, invaluable experience to learn how to be an effective administrator.
Cordeiro says the program was created because a dearth of leadership in education. “ELDA was meant to prepare teachers and schools for equity in education, achievement and advancement. It was a wonderful partnership with the San Diego School District initially, and it has grown throughout schools districts across the state of California.”
This dire need for school leaders was highlighted in a January 2010 report issued by the Regional Educational Laboratory at West Ed. The report showed that the 10 largest counties in California in terms of student population — Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Alameda, Fresno and Kern — will need to hire an estimated 2,924 administrators over the next 10 years after losing between 22 to 34 percent of their principals and vice principals to retirement. These 10 counties accounted for 73 percent of the state’s student population in 2007-2008.
The program has grown into its current name, ELDA, and now features several different programs. The Aspiring Principals Program is now a two-year course of study and includes apprenticeship with a current mentor principal, as well as university coursework at SOLES.
A second ELDA program began in fall 2002 called the New Leaders Program. This program helps new principals who need continued training, mentorship and support as they work toward achieving the California Professional Administrative Services credential.
In 2005, ELDA began the Leaders Exploring Administrative Possibilities (LEAP) program. LEAP encourages exceptional teachers to explore the possibility of taking on leadership roles within their schools, and to examine whether school administration is an avenue in which they could give more to their students and school. LEAP students can then apply to the Aspiring Principals Program.
Under Cordeiro’s stewardship, ELDA has become a national standard in leadership education. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently spoke of ELDA while addressing the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education conference, hailing USD’s programs with those of Harvard and Stanford universities.
As ELDA celebrates its 10th anniversary, Cordeiro looks back on the progress made and the road ahead and she is wistful about the challenges teachers and administrators face in their classrooms, and in Sacramento and Washington D.C.
“Fewer students are going into teaching. With the low pay, shrinking budgets and lack of leadership in many school districts, it’s very tough to attract and retain quality teachers. What ELDA does is invaluable. It helps train dedicated teachers who are shaping the future. We’re just giving them the resources they need to be effective leaders.”
— Melissa Wagoner
A reception will be held to celebrate ELDA’s 10th anniversary, 4 to 7 p.m. on June 9 at USD’s Mother Rosalie Hill Hall. Alan Bersin is scheduled to attend. For more information or to RSVP, click here.
Photo of Ann Van Sickle (above), a former ELDA director, provided by SOLES.