On the Road

Reflections from Jackie Wilson

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The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road
The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door
–The Beatles
It has been a while since my last Blog post. Like most of you I have been working from home in a virtual environment.  I have found myself busier that ever–maybe not spending time in airports or train stations, but lots of time on Zoom. I must admit that this new way of doing  work has been challenging and unexpected. Each day brings a new challenge and opportunity to re-imagine DASL’s work with district and school partners.  I think about it as navigating a “long and winding road” —lots of turns, detours and obstacles, but no final destination. None of us know how long the pandemic will continue and what schools will look like in the Fall for our students and educators. The map we followed before March must be adapted to include some additional pit stops. Why pit stops on the long and winding road?  Just like a race car driver, we must sometimes pull over, get some gas, change a tire, or replace something that is not working.  I have found myself needing to refuel, re-energize, and to repair as the DASL staff continue to support school leaders at this challenging time. One thing I know for certain is that there has never been a time when effective school leadership matters more.
As we approach Fall and plan for school reopening, educators will be expected to provide a safe environment for students to engage in learning. Just as school leaders pivoted in the Spring, they will continue to adapt the school environment in order to serve students. This is going to require creativity in designing new processes and procedures for schools. The staff at the Delaware Academy for School Leadership has been thinking about our work and how we can best support education leaders as they navigate the twists and turns of this new road they are traveling. We have used the summer to explore new technology, participate in our own professional learning, and to test some new ideas. I would like to share some of our summer learning.
DASL’s Principal Preparation Program has always been a face-to-face program. We believe that when preparing principals it is important to bring the cohort of students together for discussions, role plays, case studies, and document-sharing. But we have learned that the program can be delivered virtually without jeopardizing quality. Cohort 5 students finished Course 2 with Dave Santore in the Spring and they are now taking Course 3 with Mark Holodick. They use the CANVAS platform to access all course materials and Zoom for weekly class meetings. They are assigned breakout groups for discussions. This summer we welcomed Cohort 6 for the IGNITE Orientation. Although not as much fun as being in a room together  to get acquainted, we spent two half days learning  from one another and preparing the students for the 18-month program. Thank you to DASL faculty for maintaining a quality learning experience for our PPP students.
When educators were adjusting to stay -at-home work, the DASL team was busy accessing resources from our national partners. Every week DASL Leadership Specialists were participating in webinars with Digital Promise, https://digitalpromise.org/webinars/education-leadership-for-a-digital-world/ Learning Forward, https://learningforward.org/webinars-2/ the American Association for School Administrators, https://www.aasa.org/webinars.aspx the National Association for Secondary School Principals, https://www.nassp.org/professional-learning/online-professional-development/webinars/ and the National Association for Elementary School Principals https://www.naesp.org/career/webinars.  We found the webinars to be informative because they were led by practitioners with expertise that was useful and applicable to the needs of our partners. Most of the webinars have been recorded and can be accessed using the links I have provided. DASL applied what we learned from our partner organizations and hosted a DASL Town Hall series for Delaware educators. Over 150 educators participated in the Town Hall and shared resources, tools and strategies they were using to support students, families and one another.  If  you were unable to attend one of DASL’s Town Hall meetings, please go to the links below. Each meeting was unique because of the participants who were sharing resources.

Finally, we were determined to host the 18th Annual Policy and Practicehttp://www.dasl.udel.edu/annual-conference/  with our collaborators, the Delaware Association for School Administrators and the Delaware Department of Education. On August 5th over 400 registered educator will participate in our firs virtual conference. We have an outstanding keynote speaker, informative breakout sessions–some live and some pre-recorded. We are testing a new technology with the Whova  app so we are taking a risk.  I hope that you will be joining us for this exciting event.

So where does this long and winding road lead to as we approach Fall 2020?  You have my commitment that the road will lead us to the places where we can best support school leaders. We will be partnering with the DEDOE to provide the Year2 Induction Program for Assistant Principals. We will be collaborating with the DEDOE and the UDEL School of Education Faculty to bring the Governor’s Institute for School Leadership–a third year induction program for Assistant Principals. And we are in the development of a new program for Superintendents.  We will continue to provide ASPIRE http://www.dasl.udel.edu/aspire/ and STEP-UP http://www.dasl.udel.edu/step-up-program/–our principal pipeline programs. We will continue to support districts with 21st Century Grants, Professional Learning Networks for Special Education Leadership http://www.dasl.udel.edu/dasl-professional-learning-networks/, and certification programs for Jobs for Delaware Graduates and the Special Education Administration Leadership Program (SEAL)  https://www.cds.udel.edu/seal/. 

The road always leads me here. Enjoy the rest of your summer.


Beatles Songwriting Academy: 11:5 The Long And Winding Road (pt.1)

Then and Now

Song of the Open Road

By Walt Whitman

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road. …….

How quickly things can change . As an educator for over 40 years I have learned to adapt to change . I can actually say with certainty that it is the one thing I can depend on. Change will happen whether we want it or think we need it. I am used to change. I have experienced the change that comes when a new superintendent or principal is hired in the K-12 system.  New leaders bring with them new ideas. They establish their leadership team and set new goals and priorities.  New priorities often include new initiatives valued by the leader, The new initiatives my include  revised processes for day to day operations, the adoption of new curriculum,  an adapted schedule, or new financial priorities.  These are things we can depend on when working  in K-12 education. These changes are inevitable and tend to  spark creativity, collaboration and a renewed focus on the core mission of the organization. The changes can often create stress, self-doubt, confusion and lack of trust. Changes in our work life often impact  our personal lives as well. Our work worries follow us in the front door of our homes and sometimes impact our interactions with family and friends.  This is often unavoidable.  Of course there are also the normal change events we all experience in our personal lives such as the birth of a new baby or the death of a family member. There are marriages we celebrate, divorces we don’t understand, illnesses that create fear, and new job opportunities that we celebrate.  We know these events will occur and we expect them.  They are the events that we celebrate with friends and family. They are the challenges we deal with personally and professionally.  What we have never experienced is the world as we know it today–March 2020. Today we are experiencing an international health crisis as a result of the coronavirus–a pandemic.  I never expected to become familiar with terms like “social distancing,”  “shelter at home,”  and “pandemic.”   These terms are now part of my every day vocabulary with friends, family and colleagues. These are times of uncertainty, confusion, and fear that are unlike any I have ever experienced. And what makes this worse is the health crisis is also fueling an economic crisis and an educational equity dilemma.

In the past, my blog has focused on the work I do with local, state and national partners in K-20 education  policy. I learn so much working with districts, schools, universities and professional organizations in Delaware and the many other locations where I am fortunate to travel. The theme of my blog is the Road Less Traveled. Each blog post in the past has been about the roads I have traveled and what I have learned. Today the theme is the same. I will share where I have been before social distancing —I call that Then—and I will conclude with my new reality—-my Now.  I hope you will react to this blog with your new reality. There is so much we can learn as we adapt, support, and learn from one another.


In September 2019 I presented to the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)  School Leadership Development Collaborative in St. Louis, MO. The purpose of the collaborative is to bring state policy leaders from different states together to collaborate and share their work.  I was fortunate to work with 10 states focused on the adoption of school leadership standards and the alignment of their induction programs, professional development, university preparation programs, and  performance evaluation systems to the newly adopted standards. Delaware has been a leader regarding the adoption and alignment of the Professional Standards for School Leaders (PSEL)  so I was able to share some local examples. It was nice to see DE policy leaders in attendance at this important national meeting.

Another important event also took me on the road in September 2019. I was invited to participate on a panel at the National Governors’ Association (NGA) Fall Conference for Governor’s  educational policy advisors. The topic of my panel was “Why States Should Invest in Principals?” Approximately 38 states were represented at the conference and I was very pleased to connect with Governor Carney’s Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan, to talk about DE’s investment in principal pipeline initiatives.  Governor Carney and DE’s Secretary of Education, Susan Bunting, have been supportive of policies and practices to support the working conditions of education leaders in DE. It was exciting to talk about some of this work.

October 2019 was a great month because I was able to co-facilitate a site visit for state teams, urban school districts, and university faculty to visit and learn from the University of Denver who collaborate with the Denver Public Schools to prepare principals. Dr. Susan Korauch (Univ  of Denver)  and Dr. Dana Williams (Denver Public Schools) were wonderful hosts and provided the visiting teams with a busy agenda where we could learn from experts about the benefits of collaboration in the preparation of principals. A panel of assistant principals and principals who were graduates of the Ritchie program talked about their experiences in the preparation program and answered questions from the state/district teams who were visiting. My favorite event was when we visited an elementary Spanish Immersion PK-5 elementary school where everyone spoke English for half a day and Spanish the rest of the day including the Assistant Principal and Principal-both who were graduates of the University of Denver Ritchie Program.  I came back with lots of ideas to improve our partnerships with DE school districts. Thanks to the Wallace Foundation for including site visits as one of the learning opportunities for districts, states and universities participating in the ELLC and UPPI initiatives.

As the trees started turning orange and yellow in November 2019, I was on an airplane to New Orleans to present at the national conference for the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). UCEA is professional organization whose members include  university faculty researching and teaching in educational administration programs. Most of the faculty are preparing assistant principals, principals and superintendents in their masters and doctoral programs. Dr. Michael Saylor, Education Associate for School Leadership at the DEDOE, and Dr. Lauren Bailes, Assistant Professor in the SOE at the University of DE, presented with me on the topic of Delaware’s Performance Appraisal System that has been aligned to the Professional Standards for School Leadership (PSEL). I also co-presented at a second session with colleagues Dr. Michelle Young, Dean at Loyala Marymount University, and Joan Aucter, Program Coordinator for the National Policy Board Educational Administration’s CAEP Accreditation educational leadership programs.   Both sessions were well received and confirmed for me the importance and value of adopting national standards for preparation and the profession. The best thing about attending the UCEA Conference is that I was able to attend  several sessions led by researchers whose work influences my work as the Director of the Delaware Academy for School Leadership.

December 2019 I found myself on an Amtrak train headed to one of my favorite places–New York City. I was asked to facilitate work groups where  university faculty from seven universities who are redesigning their curriculum  and internship requirements for the principal preparation program shared program changes with policy leaders from ten states focused on state policy related to principal pipelines. This University Principal Preparation Program (UPPI)  and the Educational Leadership Learning Community (ELLC) are two initiatives funded by the Wallace Foundation. I have been fortunate to be involved in supporting this work as a facilitator for several years. The learning that takes place  during the professional learning community is extraordinary and exciting.  Consider the value of sharing a program syllabus for a course titled Leading for Equity or comparing your program competencies to another university’s competencies. The collaboration and exchange of ideas is the best way to create exemplary programs for principal preparation.

January 2020 should have been cold and boring, but I must say it was mild and motivating. I was asked to facilitate a Principal Pipeline Self-Study for three large urban districts in South Carolina. These districts are involved in the 90 district Principal Pipeline Learning Community sponsored by the Wallace Foundation. They are participating in a self-evaluation of the district’s work to develop a pipeline of principals for their schools. Districts are reviewing policies and practices related to standards, pre-service preparation, selective placement, performance evaluation and support, principal supervisors, leader tracking systems, and sustainability.  Each district convened a team of stakeholders to work on the self assessment including documentation and early wins. I have once again learned from the districts I worked with and find myself bringing strategies and ideas back to my own state for consideration. I am looking forward to sharing the Self Study Tool developed by Policy Studies Associates once it has been tested, edited and approved for sharing by the Wallace Foundation.

My final road trip this winter was on February 2020, Valentine’s Day, in the city of San Diego.  I served on a panel with a group of colleagues at the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Conference for Education.. The panel included facilitator, Max Silverman from the Center of Educational Leadership (CEL) at the University of WA, Gary Bloom, author of Blended Coaching, and two principal supervisors, Sito Narcisse from DC Public Schools and Michael Lord from DesMoines Public Schools. The topic for the Thought Leaders Session was Investing in Principal Supervisors to Lead School Improvement.  Once again I learned so much from the panel members and the comments and feedback from participants.



In February 2020 I was scheduled to attend a two-day meeting in New York City with 200 educators representing 90 school districts from 30+ states . The goal was to provide district teams the opportunity to share what they learned by participating in a facilitated self-study to to assess policies and practices that support the districts’ principal pipeline. Because of the coronavirus, the meeting  changed from a face to face convening to a virtual meeting. DASL was working as a sub-contractor to the National Association for Secondary School Principals and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. Fortunately, we are  experienced working with Zoom technology and breakout rooms. We assisted NASSP,  NPBEA, and the Wallace Foundation by managing 17 breakout sessions for three different topical sessions and two whole group sessions. My personal thank you to Alison Travers, DASL Associate, who worked the magic to make the transition so district teams could work and share information virtually. Lots of learning took place over two days. Districts were able to share their plans and early wins and discuss next steps to develop a work plan.

Several meetings have been cancelled for March and April 2020. I am relieved. It is critical at this time that all of us do our part to “shelter in place” as we combat the coronavirus.  We will figure out ways to do our work using technology. We will reschedule meetings, deliver professional development, coaching and teaching using new technologies that we will be forced to learn and use in new ways. We will acknowledge the educational equity issues  that we must resolve.  As educators we will figure this out because students are depending on us. The University of Delaware faculty and staff are working from home but classes for undergraduate and graduate students resumed online this week. Leadership Specialists at the Delaware Academy for School Leadership are working from home as well. All are checking in with school and district partners to finds ways to support school leaders at this challenging time. We will continue to support school leaders by providing virtual PD, coaching, and technical assistance. This is our NOW.  We are adapting and using this time to connect, create, and support one another. Stay well and healthy. Connect with a friend or colleague this week.  Read a good book.




I’m Not Lost, I’m Exploring

I have to admit that I love to travel.  I do not particularly love the process it takes to get to my destination such as planes, trains, and taxis, but I do love arriving at the destination. I am eager to learn about the history of the town or city.  I want to explore the schools, museums, and restaurants so I get a better sense of the place. Most of my travel is work-related so the time for exploring is limited. I have found that if I plan well, I can arrive early, before dark and explore the town. I have found this very helpful when I am working with groups of educators because I can incorporate my observations as part of the discussion the next day. I learn a lot about the people I am working with when I demonstrate a genuine interest in the culture and community that they call home.

In the Spring I was invited to work with the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance in Nashville. The TTLA is a consortium of universities who are working collaboratively with the Tennessee Department of Education to improve principal preparation programs. This work is led by two colleagues I love working with, Paul Fleming and Hank Staggs from the TNDOE. They are doing extraordinary work in Tennessee to support school leaders.  I learned that faculty traveled several hours to attend the meeting and many arrived the day before in order to participate in the meeting. I forget how easily DE educators can gather for a meeting. It was fun getting to meet faculty from so many different principal preparation programs. Some serve rural districts and others work primarily with aspiring leaders in districts such as Nashville and Knoxville, TN which are urban school districts.The interesting things is that whether urban or rural the preparation programs need to include similar content and experiences.

My contribution during the meeting was to talk about the Professional Standards for Educational Leadership (PSEL) and the National Educational Leadership Preparation Standards (NELP) as the Executive Director of the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. I believe it is important that preparation programs align their curriculum and clinical program to national standards since the standards are based on empirical research on school leader effectiveness and included input from over 1000 practitioners. I also shared DASL’s Principal Preparation Program (UDELPPP) which is non-traditional principal preparation program aligned to both PSEL and NELP.

My visit to Nashville took less than 48 hours but I did have the opportunity to reconnect with my mentor, Joe Murphy, Professor from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, who picked me up from the airport. Joe and I had the opportunity to talk about our work and reconnect as professional colleagues who have supported one another for over 15 years. I also met 50 passionate and committed faculty from 11 universities that serve educators in Tennessee. I learned how they were redesigning  principal preparation programs and providing support to students as they participate in district internships. I also explored Belmont University where the meeting was held. I had never been to Belmont but knew it was where many aspiring musicians go to school. I was not disappointed as I walked around this beautiful campus exploring buildings and student areas. I talked with several students who provided me with directions. Several students asked me if I needed directions and my response was, “I’m not lost, I am exploring!”

I also traveled to Macon, GA in the Spring. This was my first trip to Macon and I found it fascinating.  DASL  was asked to provide professional development to faculty from 15 universities serving hundreds of aspiring principals. Dr. Dave Santore and  Gary Bloom,  author of the book Blended Coaching, collaborated with me to provide the two day workshop., which took place at Mercer University. We learned from our workshop participants that Macon, GA has a rich history. For a Southerner I appreciated learning that Macon was the home of “southern rock” and  the Allman Brothers Band. It is also the home of country superstar Jason Aldean. Downtown Macon is charming with walk-around streets and great “soul food” restaurants. My shrimp and grits was exactly what I needed to comfort me after a day of role playing in our coaching scenarios.

Working should always be an adventure. It should include opportunities to engage with educators who are passionate about improving schools and the skills and knowledge of those who lead schools. Work should also be about making connections with new colleagues who share information and resources This blog series is titled The Road Less Taken. This post is about the joy of learning and  exploring new places, new people, new ideas. I hope you will take the time to explore this summer and share your adventures with others. Learning should always include sharing with colleagues. Happy exploring!


Explore. Dream. Discover

I just returned from two national meetings. The first was the national conference for the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education.  AACTE is the professional organization for faculty, instructors and program administrators who are responsible for academic programs that prepare teachers. The national conference was held in Louisville, Kentucky this year which is a lovely location for a conference.  I was invited to present on the topic of professional standards for educational leaders with my colleague Dr. Michelle Young, Executive Director of the University Council for School Administrators,  and Dr. Daniel Reyes-Guerra, Program Director for Florida Atlantic University’s Principal Preparation Program.  Michelle Young presented information about the National Standards for Leadership Preparation (NELP) and I shared information about the Professional Standards for Educational Leadership (PSEL). Daniel Reyes-Guerra provided examples of how Florida Atlantic University is redesigning their principal preparation program in collaboration with three local school districts and aligning the curriculum and clinical activities to the national standards. Participants were excited to learn more about the standards and to see how one university is redesigning  course content and the internship experience to the new standards.

Now just a word about Louisville, Kentucky–home of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. I have visited Louisville for several work-related occasions and I love it more each time I visit. The southern hospitality is wonderful, the barbecue and cornbread is delicious, and if you like to drink bourbon–this is your city.  My rule is that work should be fun so I try to explore and discover as much as I can. Eating dinner with colleagues who are passionate about school improvement and leadership makes a long day of travel memorable.

My second national meeting was attending the national combined convening of the Wallace Foundation’s Educational Leadership Learning Community and the University Principal Preparation Initiative in New York City.  Educational leaders from 18 states and 10 universities worked collaboratively to share ideas, challenges and success stories. The USDOE Deputy Secretary of Education, Frank Brogan provided remarks regarding the importance of educational leadership. One of my favorites sessions was when participants registered in advance to attend a session on a particular topic of interest. I facilitated a session on the topic of trauma informed leadership. This was such an informative session and I learned so much about what university faculty are doing in prepare principals for leadership in schools where trauma may include of such things as weather related tragedy, gun violence, and social and emotional trauma. It is important for school district leaders and university faculty to collaborate as we find solutions to the problems that interfere with student learning.  My attendance at this meeting provided me with lots to think and dream about as I rode the train  home to Delaware. I have been sharing the ideas I learned with the DASL team and Delaware school leaders. It is so important to step outside your district and state and explore, dream and discover new ideas and possible solutions to school improvement.

I love attending meetings in NYC.  The meetings are held at Baruch College which is a great location with space for large and small group meetings. On the night before our meeting I have the privilege of taking the NCState University team out for dinner. This time we went to dinner at the Wilson—and no I did not pick the restaurant. I must say the food was delicious. They actually had a Jackie Wilson sandwich and a Mr. Wilson dessert.  What a nice surprise!


Oh, The Places We Can Go!

My work provides me the opportunity to travel. Sometimes the travel is up and down our state visiting schools, attending professional development, or participating in a meetings. The size of Delaware makes it possible to be in all three counties in the same day. This is a an advantage when you want to bring people together for professional development or a meeting. The opportunity to collaborate with outstanding educational leaders across this state is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work at the University of Delaware.

Recently I have been engaged with several important partnerships which have required a new roadmap for my travel. The Delaware Academy for School Leadership has partnered with the Delaware Center for Disabilities, the Delaware Department of Education, and 20 schools from Delaware’s three counties to participate in a Professional Learning Network (PLN) focused on improving services for special education.  The PLN includes statewide face-to-face meetings with guest speakers,  differentiated break-out sessions, cross-school collaboration, and team time. There have also been virtual sessions to provide on-going opportunities for collaboration and learning. This is the first year DASL has traveled this road and we are excited by the response and engagement of the school teams. We are planning site visits to schools in the spring. I have my GOOGLE Map ready to go.

I hope you were able to attend DASL’s Women Leading DE Conference on January 24 at Dover Downs Conference Center.  DASL collaborated with the Partnership for Public Education to host a conference focused on women leading education in Delaware. Dr. Margaret Grogan, Professor and researcher from Chapman University in California provided the keynote address. She provided national data regarding the percentage of women leading districts and schools in the United States compared to men. She also provided information about the challenges and opportunities. I met Dr. Grogran a year ago on another road trip when I was working with the American Association for School Administrators. I am so glad I made that trip and met Margaret. Her knowledge of the research regarding women in education leadership roles is noteworthy. Over 250 women and men attended the conference which provided opportunities for collaboration and learning. One of the most popular sessions was the morning panel of Delawares’ former and current Secretaries of Education–Valerie Woodruff,  Lillan Lowery and Susan Bunting.

I must admit that I never expected to travel to Athens, Greece this year. To quote Dr. Seuss–“Oh, the places we can go!” I was invited    to provide two days of professional development to new teachers at the prestigious Athens College in Greece.  Athens College is a K-12 school. I invited Dave Santore, Leadership Specialists for DASL to join me for this work. Dave and I were asked to provide 32 new teachers with professional development on the topics of lesson planning and classroom management. We enjoyed working with the new teachers and school directors. The teachers were able to read and speak English as well as Greek. All  have a master’s degree in their content or specialty  area in which they are teaching. While visiting Athens, we were provided a guided tour of the Acropolis Acropolis Museum,  and Parthenon  We also visited the town of Plaka with  the school directors who took us to lunch or dinner while providing Dave and me with wonderful history lessons about the school, the city and  and the culture.  The experience of traveling and working with educators in Greece has reaffirmed fort me the importance of providing our students with opportunities for a global education. Oh, the places we can go!!

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