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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

May 4, 2005

Targeting urban school leaders

A Sacramento State program for urban school leaders has been so successful it is being replicated in Southern California.

The urban leadership program started in fall 1996 and already a majority of graduates are in administrative and leadership positions. They include the first Hmong principal in California, a deputy superintendent in Boston, and three former students who were accepted into Harvard's superintendent's program, says program coordinator and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies professor Lila Jacobs.

It may be the only program of its kind in the state, Jacobs says. Though the program requires a substantial commitment-classes meet all day, every Saturday for a year-it draws students from all over Northern California. And Jacobs has been asked to re-create the program in the Los Angeles area even though the region has nearly a dozen universities.

Students complete coursework leading to the preliminary administrative credential and may continue on to a master's degree, while continuing to teach in their districts. Seven groups of 22 to 25 students have graduated so far. The group experience builds bonds that go well beyond the classroom.

"I have formed many priceless relationships with both experienced administrators and my fellow students that have allowed us to call on one another for support and mentorship," says Shelly Jones, an urban leadership graduate and assistant principal says. "The urban cohort changed my professional life as I knew it. Not only was I able to hone my skills as a teacher while in the program, it also provided me with the necessary connections to be a successful administrator."

A mixture of educators from Sacramento State and area school districts teach the courses. In the first semester students develop a field-based project for school improvement that they implement in their schools in the second semester. Coursework includes research, educational leadership, special education programs, legal issues, finance, supervision and evaluation, school-community relations. The students also shadow an administrator who has graduated from the program.

The program is designed for people who want to serve urban areas, and many are drawn by their own school experiences. "We prepare students to be change agents," Jacobs says. "Many have experienced turnarounds in their own lives because of someone they identified with."

That may be part of the reason the students who are drawn to the program tend to match the demographics-African American, Latino, Hmong, Punjabi, Filipino-of the urban districts they serve. "Usually in urban districts there is a mismatch between staff and students," Jacobs says.

The program has proven so successful that it is currently impacted. "We can't take everyone who applies. At this point, we don't even advertise it-it's mostly word of mouth," Jacobs says. But Jacobs says they are continually making improvements.

"We evaluate it every year and ask students for ideas. The job-shadowing component started three years ago from a student suggestion," Jacobs says. Some shadowing relationships have evolved to the point that the person who was shadowed has become the student's mentor.

For more information on the program or to enroll, contact the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies department at 278-5388 or Jacobs at jacobsl@csus.edu.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu