Empowering school leaders: CFA provides executive leadership training for northern Arizona principals

The Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) is expanding its Beat the Odds School (BTO) Leadership Academy to northern Arizona.

“The program originated with the idea that demography is not destiny,” Sybil Francis, president and CEO of CFA, said. “So much of educational outcomes can be predicted by zip code and income level…this first [is] a belief that every student can succeed and secondly that we need to find out what type of leadership schools need in order to make every student have not only access to, but master an excellent education.”

CFA is expanding its academy through a partnership with LAUNCH Flagstaff — a community-owned and driven collaborative that supports educational professionals in producing world-class education experiences — and Northern Arizona University (NAU). CFA which is focused on bringing Arizonans together to advance the state’s future — is providing an executive training opportunity to principals at both district schools and charter schools.

The BTO Academy is designed to enable school transformation through facilitators delivering a “rigorous professional development” program for the enrolled participants because a strong principal is a critical link for student success.

“When you have a visionary, committed and empowering leader, teachers and staff are naturally going to dig a little deeper [and] pursue greater degrees of excellence…because of the quality of that leadership,” Paul Kulpinski, LAUNCH Flagstaff partnership director, said. “Culture in any organization starts at the top and that principal is the key person to set the tone of that culture. If that culture is a culture of high expectations and world-class education, then teachers rise to that level of expectation and they then expect that same degree of performance from students.”

According to the National Institute for School Leadership, CFA’s partner in administering the BTO Academy, principals account for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement.

“That’s a huge impact on student outcome. It’s very important to have a school leader prepared to lead in a way that helps all students succeed,” Francis said.

CFA reports that the BTO Academy benefits Arizona schools by preparing school leaders to lead for excellence and equity; closing student achievement gaps and creating a culture of high expectations; and enhancing teacher recruitment, retention and quality.

To show the advancement of education in Arizona, CFA measures achievement through the Arizona Progress Meters.  

“Ultimately everything we do is about the students,” said NAU College of Education Dean Ramona Mellott. “We shouldn’t be driving change for the sake of change, we want our kids to have a world-class education, we want them to succeed.”

Participants in the BTO Academy are also incentivized by the ability to receive credits towards a graduate degree in education from NAU and the cost of tuition being reduced by half with scholarship funding from GEAR UP, a U.S. Department of Education grant administered by NAU.

“I think that becomes a game changer for administrators or potential leaders when they’re trying to weigh in whether they’re going to invest in this type of educational leadership professional development or some other education development,” Kulpinski said.

The first cohort has 25 educational leaders and aspiring leaders in the Flagstaff area. Starting in May, the leaders will participate in a 14-month executive leadership professional development program.

For more information, click here.

Emily Richardson

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