Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of leadership experiences, cohorts, and fellows’ programs. Each one provided me with a diverse community to connect with, and unique perspective from that organization. As I entered the ACTE New Fellows program, I reflected on my responsibility of shifting from participant to facilitator, for my own program to respond to the leadership needs of Baltimore County Public Schools. Before I started the ACTE New Fellows program, I considered the strengths and opportunities from my previous programs, while reviewing the plans for the ACTE New Fellows program. Having had challenges the past few years of filling leadership vacancies – largely due to our leadership bench – I recognized that time was of the essence.
As I prepared for my first ACTE New Fellows program, I challenged myself to offer a comparable program within Baltimore County Public Schools. I crafted an application and posted it through multiple venues, to ensure all 400 of our Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers were afforded the opportunity. For the first year, I opened it up to 15 individuals who had at least 5 years of teaching experience and had, or were currently serving, as Department Chairs. I chose this as the group to work with, as anecdotally I have noticed attrition among this group. The have shared they need a passion project, community, and partnerships to move work forward.
I decided to meet monthly with and enact a number of activities for the year. We chose to also read The Leadership Handbook by John Maxwell. I did encourage the fellows to decide how they wanted to summarize chapters. We collaboratively agreed on using a tool that could be used to directly align back to our work with questions that considered CTE and the systems in BCPS. Another activity that I discussed from on the onset was idea of two-year long projects. The first was using the ACTE Quality CTE Framework to assess and improve their program. The second project was a collaborative approach to addressing a county wide issue in BCPS. Some of the opportunities identified, thus far, are equity, professional development, curriculum, community building, and business partnerships.
As we meet each session, we unpack the chapters of the book, as well as a short article that I choose ahead of time, or that is shared with me by the group. We have structured, yet ample time to check in, around topics that are coming up for participants. To build community, I created a unique pin, and encouraged each fellow to attend a conference of their choice, which I covered. The program has been as beneficial for me, as I believe it has been for participants. They provide specifically, timely, and candid feedback on how our programs are going, and what we can do better. It has also allowed me to provide feedback to my team, not from my perspective, but from teachers they supervise. As I look to the leadership pipeline, and improving our programs, I’m confident that this program will aid in ensuring the highest quality of CTE in BCPS!