Program training for future school administrators

Mar 18, 2015

The University at Buffalo and North Tonawanda City School District are partnering to create better feature school administrators. WBFO'S Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley says the program is called Leadership Initiative for Tomorrow's Schools or LIFTS for short.

Megan Lundgren & Laurie Burger in the WBFO studio.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"Becoming an administrator was always kind of a goal of mine," said Megan Lundgren, 5th grade elementary special education teacher in the North Tonawanda City District.  

Lundgren is currently enrolled in the LIFTS program learning about administration in education.

"My instructors are local administrators, which is nice, and I just feel like it's not only enriching me as a teacher, but it's giving me great perspective for a future in administration," said Lundgren.
The North Tonawanda city district was able to partner with UB through a state education department grant called Strengthening Teacher Leader Effectiveness.

"Because we see in Megan, as a teacher leader, a future administrator," said Laurie Burger, Director of Personnel with the North Tonawanda City School District and a graduate of the LIFTS program.

"Like the investment through the grant and in the partnership with UB that we are getting something out of our investment and that's the program for Megan," stated Burger.

"Being a younger teacher, I think that it really their support and belief in me has made me want to pursue this even more," said Lundgren. "Many people that decide to go into administration do so because they care about their district and they want to effect positive change in their district."

The LIFTS program encourages the future administrators to apply for jobs within their districts they are working in.  Burger said as teachers they understand the real learning experience for students making them better future school administrator.

"We are faced with so many mandates from the state and federal government that the LIFTS program, being a collaborative model -- a cohort model --  allows Megan to work along side of anywheres from 15 to 20 aspiring leaders to help problem solve and address the changes that are coming at us at leaders," said Burger.

"We know what we live everyday, so I think that there's always that want to better where you are at now," said Lundgren.

Lundgren plans to stay in the classroom for a few more years, but someday would like to be considered for a principal position. Still, she as a very strong interest in the area of special education.

"Half of our students are special education students and right now our day to day focus is closing that gap for them, and letting them make as many improvements as they can," said Lundgren. "We're definitely seeing more of a need in that area."

And as Lundgren continues through this LIFTS program, we asked her about the rigors of Common Core Learning Standards happening directly in her classroom and how it is effecting her students. Surprisingly she does not thing students are being over tested.

"My answer may surprise you, but I'm going to say no," said Lundgren. "While we all as teachers feel this pressure with the state testing  you don't necessarily have to pass that on to your student."

There are a little more than 38-hundred students attending North Tonawanda City Schools. According to state education data  the gradation rate is at 78-percent. 

"With the STLE grant we're able to take our teacher leaders and restructure courses and course offerings at the high school in an effect to increase the advanced Regents diploma rate and give the kids the support they need to graduate on time," said Burger.

A program like LIFTS is developing teachers into the next school principals could have a major impact on future classroom learning for students.