Leaders prepare for future of education

Amanda Pollard

At around 5:45 p.m. on a Friday night, a classroom is alive with the sounds of conversation and laughter and the smell of pizza. It’s not a party, but students involved in the first doctorate program at Sacramento State. The Educational Leadership Program is home to a small group of 15 students who have received undergraduate and master’s degrees, and many are already working in education.

This is only the second year in which Sac State is offering an Independent Education Doctorate. Carlos Nevarez, director of the program, said the mission of the program is to prepare executive educational leaders that will lead K-12 schools as well as community colleges.

“Our intention is to develop not your typical traditional leader, but a leader that leads with a transformational leadership approach,” Nevarez said.

The way the program aims to perfect the student’s leadership skills is to educate them on policy analysis and informed decision-making.

“Once we provide them with these areas of knowledge we feel these leaders will lead our schools and colleges in an effective way,” Nevarez said.

The program utilizes group settings in order to foster a better understanding of how to work as a team. Each year a group of 15 students make up a cohort. Throughout the three-year program, this cohort stays together through classes and research work. Sac State welcomed its second cohort this year.

Elk Grove High School’s principal and student in the program Hasan Abdulmalik feels that the cohort helps develop an understanding of others’ views because the students are not segmented. In addition, Abdulmalik feels the program is able to compete on a level with other programs at what may be viewed as more prestigious institutions.

“One of the things about the programs in the University of California system is they are research based. We are practitioners. We are going to come together and work with hands on knowledge. That’s going to contribute to the educational leadership,” Abdulmalik said.

In addition to fostering leadership, Nevarez said the program is about developing change in education.

Students in the program come from a variety of backgrounds. Teachers, principals, superintendents, and politicians are enrolled and hoping to learn more about a new approach to education.

Willie Armstrong, chief-of-staff for Assemblywoman Anna Caballero D-Salinas, is a student in the program and feels that this opportunity will allow a better understanding of those in education and what they need to achieve.

“I want people to understand we cannot legislate in a one size fits all fashion. What may work in a Los Angeles-type division may not work here in Sacramento,” Armstrong said.

Nevarez said his hopes for the program include the students developing research that makes a difference.

“That’s going to be bold. To come up with innovative practices and have a visionary mindset is going to increase the educational output of our students,” Nevarez said.

Milton Rosa, math teacher from Encina High School and a student in the program, said in addition to integrating leadership and policy issues, the students are learning about diversity.

“You have to learn to accept all different points of view. We had a class on diversity. People come from different places and have different values, so we have to understand all these things to work together,” Rosa said.

Nevarez said the program uses faculty members from the Public Policy Administration department and the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department.

“A unique part of this program is the faculty from throughout the campus. Students tell us that bringing in faculty has helped them develop their own critical analytic fields. That adds to developing the prospective educational leaders,” Nevarez said.

Rosa also said the program is helping him to see the educational world on a larger field which enables him to apply what he learns in many areas.

“This helps me to see the whole school, not just my classroom. I can see the big picture more clearly and even see the school district as a part of it all. I want to apply what I’m learning to not only my classroom, but everywhere,” Rosa said.

The students all have high hopes for their time in the doctorate program. Students like Carolyn Nichols, assistant superintendent of Instructional Services at the Loomis Union School District, feel the program will not only benefit the students but in turn benefit the various communities they return to.

“I want to be the best I can be. And that means having a wealth of knowledge and bringing it back to the district. I am a huge fan of this program and all it’s going to accomplish,” Nichols said.

Amanda Pollard can be reached at [email protected]