National Institute for Urban School Leaders



I am so thrilled that I was accepted into the National Institute for Urban School Leaders for this summer.  I believe that this opportunity will allow me to serve students and schools with even more skill and experience.  I have always desired to travel to Boston so I am excited to see the history throughout the area in person.  Most importantly, this was a goal of mine to accomplish in the next three years in order to further my capabilities in order to make the world a better place.  I am honored to be an active participant in this week long learning opportunity.

Here are some excerpts from my application:

School Description

Valley View Middle School is a high-poverty, diverse, suburban middle school with a dedicated staff.  Our mission is to move from a good traditional middle school to an outlier in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area community.  As a staff we decided that Learn, Inspire and Connect would be our vision.  Our staff is dedicated to the turn-around effort of our school.  About 30 percent of our teaching staff are probationary teachers in their first three years of their career.  We have a strong support staff of administrators, social workers, counselors, and behavior specialists.

We have focused on individual student progress as our measurement of academic success.  We are fortunate to have quality longitudinal data that predicts what individual students future college opportunities will be without any intervention.  This allows us to be very intentional in one-to-one goal setting conferences and our Response to Intervention program.  We leverage this during our Falcon Focus and Academic Seminar time every week to meet students needs in addition to a “buffet” of research-based, high quality interventions.  Our students are breaking the odds with our high leverage teaching strategies and intentional response to intervention.

Valley View Middle school is a unique high-poverty school.  I have worked in urban schools my entire career, but never worked in a school with this climate and culture.  Last year we became an award-winning middle school by being honored with the: MASSP Bronze Award for Innovation and MinnCAN Top 10 Middle Schools for Latino Achievement.  This year a local news station highlighted our new gifted and talented program, Nobel, which is a humanities focus for creative students.  We also made a grading switch to Standards Based Grading, which is now in full implementation. In the fall our school will have a 1:1 technology program for all students.  Previously we had a 1:1 program only in the 6th grade.  I am very proud of our school and pleased that our staff and students are starting to receive outside recognition for their work.

Professional Challenge

Professionally, I am very curious about my generation of educators.  I know that sustaining and retaining school leaders (teachers, staff and administrators) is going to be of utmost importance to our society.  It is evident when a high quality teacher or leader retires or moves and the varied struggles that occur for different amounts of time.  At Valley View we have had teacher turnover due to external factors outside of our control.  In my previous schools teachers have burnt out and left for other professions at exceedingly high rates.  Administrators are not immune to this challenge either.  It is important to me to help teachers/leaders grow and stay in the profession.  I have worked in schools with high turnover in leadership and teachers, and this makes it nearly impossible for students to learn and be prepared for their future.  I believe that I provide and lead relevant and supportive professional development to counteract these phenomena but I want to discover how to broaden my influence to be a part of the change in education with regard to teacher/leader retention.



Harvard Graduate School of Education

National Institute for Urban School Leaders

This information is directly from the Harvard GSE website:

What You Will Learn

Refine your leadership skills and broaden your understanding of effective teaching and learning. You will examine successful practices from urban settings, set high expectations for achievement and explore strategies that promote student engagement.

Program Overview

In today’s high-stake environment of accountability and limited resources, school leaders must be able to address urgent challenges from multiple constituencies. Research on effective schools continually points to the important role leaders play in creating the right conditions to increase student achievement.

National Institute for Urban School Leaders brings educators from urban contexts together with Harvard faculty and top experts in the field to examine best practices and research-based techniques that support student achievement. It provides an in-depth exploration of the leadership skills necessary to enhance and sustain learning outcomes.

You will examine schools in relation to the broader community contexts—exploring race, culture, equity, socioeconomic status and social justice in today’s diverse urban classrooms. You will focus on strategies for improving teaching and learning and building community support for the work of schools. When you leave, you will be better prepared to transform your learning landscape to support higher student achievement and successful outcomes for all students.

Program Objectives

  • Identify leadership roles and styles required to improve teaching and learning in the instructional core
  • Examine the beliefs, cultural changes and teaching and learning strategies required to promote high student achievement
  • Consider the effects of race, class and culture on the learning community
  • Learn effective approaches for ensuring the inclusion of all students
  • Explore practice-based techniques for closing the achievement gap

Who Should Attend

  • School leaders and teams working in urban settings
  • Principals, assistant principals, department heads, directors of curriculum and instruction, and other central office administrators that support urban schools

Testimonials: What People Are Saying

“This was a grand slam, great!” —2012 participant

Amazingly forward-looking program. I am leaving more informed and able to help my community and my students. It has become a valuable part of my decision-making process, especially in my new assignment as CFO.” —Stanley Dobbs, CFO, Hayward Unified School District, Hayward, CA 

I absolutely love Harvard. I always leave feeling motivated, inspired and full of new ideas. I sent two of my principals at the end of June to the Art of Leadership because I wanted them to experience a career-changing opportunity like I have. You are making a difference in our practice. Thanks so much.” —Ina Fournier, Superintendent of Education, Peel District School Board, Mississauga, Canada

“Powerful! Excellent. This program has given me a new perspective on inclusive education and the sense of ensuring that all students feel like they belong.” —Lolita Vaughan, Principal, Paterson Public Schools, Paterson, NJ