SMU District Leadership Fellows Mark Halfway Point in Fellowship

A year of adversity has brought 20 school leaders from four states closer together.

As school districts continue to weather the economic, political, and public health impacts of COVID-19, a cohort of school leaders have reached the halfway point of their year-long fellowship at SMU.

The 2020-2021 cohort of the District Leadership Fellows, made up of 20 school leaders from four U.S. states, has met exclusively online since it first convened in September. “The pandemic presents us with an unexpected leadership opportunity – to strengthen our leadership skills while building lasting support networks with other leaders we would never have met otherwise. Crises are like that,” said Dr. Eric G. Bing, the cohort’s leader and a professor of global health at SMU. When the pandemic hit, Bing made the decision to move the District Leadership Fellows program online and to offer the program to leaders throughout Texas and the surrounding states.  Bing and his team at the SMU Institute for Leadership Impact will offer the program to leaders in additional states in the 2021-2022 cohort year.

During the first half of the 2020-2021 cohort, Fellows built and refined Impact Models to help spur change and innovation in their districts, and spent time developing their coaching skills.  At a typical meeting, Fellows are divided into small teams and work collaboratively. Sherry Phillips, a Fellow from Danbury ISD, remarked that “I think it’s nice to know we’re all in the same boat. We all have similar struggles we’re working through in our districts, not only in COVID but just in general. These activities help to keep us focused and accountable.”  Building peer networks, another important component of the program, has continued in the online environment.  Peer groups made up of Fellows with complementary strengths have been meeting regularly throughout the semester.

Leaders will continue to meet online with the full cohort and with their peer groups in the spring.  Fellows will also receive support and guidance as they begin implementing their district projects.

Applications for the 2021-2022 cohort of the District Leadership Fellows program will open in January.

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