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What does EmpowerED look like? UCPS administrators identify ways to transform learning environments during annual leadership conference

ELI Why is UCPS, one of the leading school systems in the entire state, so focused on connect, collaborate and create?

That’s a question UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan posed to principals and assistant principals gathered at this year’s rebranded EmpowerED Leadership Institute, the annual three-day professional development session for hundreds of school leaders.

Kicking off the conference on June 19, Dr. Houlihan said being complacent and compliant with the status quo is not how UCPS will continue to be the best school system in the state.

That’s why the EmpowerED framework for Tier One instruction – which hinges on meaningful experiences that allow students to connect, collaborate, create with digital leadership -- has been the overarching theme for instructional practices and professional development in UCPS for the past two years.

“Connect, collaborate and create – that’s what our students are going to be doing in the workplace, in college and the military,” he said. “Our job is not to prepare them for the next day or for the EOG, EOC, SAT or PSAT. It’s to get them ready for success when they graduate.”

In years past, the annual summer leadership institute has looked similar to any other professional development environment. Facilitators hosted dozens of workshops, guiding school leaders through plans that would help them create and implement new programming in their school.

But this year’s activities turned the annual conference on its head, surprising all of the attendees who found out they would be the ones to connect, collaborate and create.

First, the school leaders were tasked with a scavenger hunt activity, where they had to work with other schools in small groups to create what they felt an ideal EmpowerED school should look like. For nearly an hour, the school leaders ran from room to room at Piedmont High, asking questions and gathering resources needed for their EmpowerED school.

“I was a bit apprehensive at first, but I think that’s what is appropriate. This is a different way to think about leadership meetings,” Porter Ridge Middle Principal Dr. Brian Patience said with a laugh. “Students are comfortable, especially in the middle school because they’ve been in classrooms for seven and eight years by that point. Making us be creative, uncomfortable and step outside of the box is a great connection to making us think about we want for our classrooms.”

Following the scavenger hunt, the school administrators found out they would spend the next two days working on the Problem of Practice at their schools. On Friday, they would participate in a Shark Tank activity and present those plans to a top secret guest panel of “Sharks.”

As he prepared to meet with his school staff, Wingate Elementary Principal Maxie Johnson said he loved the opportunity to work so closely with other school leaders. At only two hours into the conference, Johnson’s head was already buzzing with innovative ideas that he plans to bring back to his school.

“I was pleasantly surprised and excited when I found out what was in store for this week. What we’re doing ties exactly into what we want our teachers to do in the classroom,” he said. “I love to see us collaborating, sharing and working together. Meeting like this allows us the time to work together in ways we haven’t before, which will ultimately make a world of difference.”

Want to see the school leaders in action at the EmpowerED Leadership Institute? Watch the video below and follow #ELI2019 and #EmpowerED on Facebook and Twitter for more updates throughout the week.


Posted: June 19, 2019