Faculty advisors for the Graduate School of Education’s Initial Administrator Licensure (IAL) program had an enviable problem: too many students. Current enrollment was at 75 students for the one-year program, which prepares aspiring leaders for equity in our K–12 schools. The solution? Find strong school administrators to serve as co-teachers. But IAL professors Susan Carlile and Deborah Peterson also realized they had a unique opportunity to draw specifically from a pool of current administrators who had exceptional competence in cultural diversity.
“Superintendents and human resources administrators have let us know they love how we’re preparing the school leaders they hire. As a result of our students’ success, our enrollment increased significantly this year,” said Program Coordinator Susan Carlile. “The number of qualified teacher leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to equity and social justice expanded, and we wanted to ensure that each student we enrolled had a personalized, high-quality experience.”
One-third of Oregon’s K–12 students are culturally and linguistically diverse, and that number is expected to increase. While Oregon’s racial and ethnic student population continues to grow, the teaching pool struggles to attract and retain teachers of color in numbers that reflect the students they serve. The same holds true for Oregon school administrators. Out of 4,400 school administrators working in Oregon today, only 447 individuals, less than 10 percent, identify as administrators of color. These demographics indicate the need for all administrators to be strong allies for equity and for universities to increase the diversity of future teachers and administrators.
PSU is the most diverse college campus in Oregon and is positioned to profoundly change school administrator demographics and increase the numbers of culturally competent education leaders. The GSE is addressing this issue with new focus.
The Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP) department set a goal of ensuring they are meeting the leadership needs of superintendents and our increasingly diverse student population. Last year, Solid Ground Consulting met with dozens of highly successful superintendents, principals, central office administrators, and educational leaders to find out what the principal preparation program is doing well and what they can improve. Solid Ground reported back that the program and its professors are held in very high esteem, providing relevant and current preparation that meets their high expectations and that our partners in the schools want to increase their partnership with PSU.
“Knowing that our principal-preparation graduates want to give back to the community and to PSU, we sought out those leaders who are getting results in schools, who are highly respected by other administrators, and who are also strong leaders for equity. We asked them to join us as advisers and adjunct faculty, and we are off to a great start!” said Deborah Peterson, a cohort leader.
The IAL program runs three cohort groups, two in Portland and one in Salem. Each IAL cohort is led by a PSU professor who co-teaches, with three adjunct professors, a cohort of 30 students. With this group of faculty, the program provides a 1:10 ratio of coaching and mentoring, with each student receiving in-depth coaching from a team of four: a university supervisor, a site supervisor, a cohort leader, and an adjunct professor.
Experienced school administrators Lisa Aguilar, Larry Becker, Paul Coakley, Jorge Meza, and Johnna Timmes, all jumped at the chance to be teachers and mentors of new school leaders.
Lisa Aguilar is the principal of Orenco Elementary School in Hillsboro. Formerly an English Language Development Facilitator at Echo Shaw Elementary School in Forest Grove, Aguilar has also been actively involved in Forest Grove’s Summer Success Academy since 2008. Aguilar is a published author and frequent speaker on the topics of multilingual and multicultural education and culturally responsive teaching. In 2011, she won the Civic Engagement Award for Excellence in Community-University Partnerships from PSU.
Larry Becker, MS ’94, is an adjunct faculty member in Educational Leadership and Policy who also coaches for the Chalkboard TeachOregon project. He was a former principal in North Clackamas School District and is a national presenter at conferences. In 1997, he was named Teacher of the Year in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
Paul Coakley, BS ’00, MEd ’01, IAL ’06, CAL ’12, EdD ’13, is the assistant superintendent and the human resources director of Centennial School District in Gresham. He began his career in 2000 as an elementary teacher in Portland. Throughout his educational career he has held multiple roles: teacher, literacy coach, student management specialist, principal, and assistant superintendent.
Jorge Meza, BS ’01, MEd ’02, IAL ’14, is an assistant principal of Sitton School in Portland. He is a proud product of Portland Public Schools, PSU, and the Portland Teachers Program; the youngest of six children; and the son of Mexican immigrants. He taught elementary Spanish dual immersion for 11 years and was a student management specialist and school improvement specialist. He is an assistant principal and is dedicated to being an academic leader for equity.
Johnna Timmes works for the Oregon Department of Education as interim director of operations, data, and planning in the Office of Learning. She is a teacher, consultant, and leadership coach who has served as a strong equity advocate in Oregon, Virginia, and Illinois. At ODE, she was also the administrator of the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning, responsible for distribution of $45 million in investments statewide.
All three IAL cohorts are partially online, meeting face-to-face four to six times per term. Students are off to a great start this year, with one student recently sharing these comments after a PSU Leadership for Equity Institute:
“[Before] the one-day Leadership for Equity Institute, I was very anxious about the day. However, I left the institute in awe of the substantial support, dedication, and experience that exists among the program participations. I greatly enjoyed collaborating with future administrators, particularly regarding our current assignments, expertise, and hopes for the year. Being afforded the opportunity to build professional relationships within the whole IAL program was of great value to me and put me at ease. On a practical note, I walked away with a greater understanding of what the year will hold, potential struggles that I may run into, and a desire to get started.”