Jun 22, 2020

Yearlong Fellowship to Train Next Generation of Special Education Leaders to Improve Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

BATON ROUGE, La. - Fifteen Louisiana special education leaders have been selected to participate in the inaugural "SPED Fellow Academy," a yearlong, comprehensive development program for aspiring and novice special education leaders across the state. The program will provide in-person training, coaching and a community of practice that will instill the knowledge and skills the next generation of leaders needs to lead and sustain change to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. 

View a list of the participating leaders by school system.

"Not only does this innovative program invest and build capacity in these educational leaders, but it will serve our students and families who need our support the most," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. "One of my main goals is to lead with an equity agenda. This expansion of our fellowship programs is a step in that direction."

In October 2019, the Louisiana Department of Education secured a five-year, $1 million federal "Special Education Leadership Grant" to launch the program. The program is designed to build upon the state's existing and successful fellowship programs for educators and administrators, such as the Principal Leader Fellowship Program and the Content Leader pathway.

A competitive process to select the first cohort of Fellows began in early May. The process was run by a selection committee comprising members of the Department's Diverse Learner Supports Division and experienced special education leaders across the state. 

In the first round, interested special education leaders were asked to submit a thorough application and a recommendation from their local superintendent. 32 special education leaders applied, and 19 advanced to the final round. In the final round, applicants were interviewed by the selection committee. Ultimately, 15 Fellows were chosen based on their past experience in special education, their dedication to providing high-quality educational programming to students with disabilities and their potential to create lasting positive impact for students in their school systems.

The program will kick-off in September 2020 and run through June 2021. During that period, there will be 10 day-long training sessions and six supplemental online collaboration sessions. All day-long sessions will take place in Baton Rouge. 

Participants will also receive coaching from four experienced special education leaders with extensive leadership experience and track records of improving outcomes for students with disabilities. These coaches represent a diversity of experiences in public and charter school systems across Louisiana. The mentor-coaches include Dr. Sheila Lockett from Caddo Parish Public Schools, Cheramie Kerth from St. Bernard Parish Public Schools, Amanda Baram from FirstLine Schools, and Emily Waterfield from KIPP New Orleans.  

"Being selected as a mentor-coach for the SPED Fellow Academy is a tremendous honor," said Kerth, special education supervisor for the St. Bernard Parish Public School System. "Our network team will provide a solid foundation of evidence-based leadership practices coupled with a wealth of resources to build and maintain a well-rounded program where the focus is to put policy and principles into instructional practice.  I am looking forward to building relationships with our fellows and providing meaningful educational opportunities for our diverse learners across the state, as well as individual communities."

At the conclusion of the program, Fellows will complete an executive learning project. Fellows will design and implement a plan to address a problem of practice that is relevant to their school system. Fellows will incorporate skills learned in the fellowship with guidance from mentor-coaches.

Fellows must participate in all aspects of the program to complete it.

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