SPOKANE – In an effort to achieve academic success for each student in Spokane Public Schools, WSU College of Education faculty members are partnering with school district administrators to ensure the school system is socially just.
 
Their Leaders as Learners project will begin this spring with a $200,000 grant from the Stuart Foundation. The project is particularly concerned with closing the “achievement gap” between students of color and their peers. Its goal is to develop the capacity of administrators to help students who have not shown improvement despite previous efforts to raise their level of achievement.
 
“Our university and school district team will be looking at the kind of support principals and central office administrators believe they really need as leaders,” said Joan Kingrey, Spokane academic director for the College of Education.
 
WSU faculty members involved with the project are Kingrey, Professor Gail Furman and Associate Professor Gordon Gates, all of whom teach in the educational leadership program.
 
“We’re really enthusiastic about this opportunity because it’s a new model of partnership between university faculty and a school district,” Furman said, adding that Spokane school administrators have already made substantial efforts to support students of color.
 
Spokane school district representatives on the project team include Executive Director for Teaching and Learning Tammy Campbell, and Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Karin Short, as well as other district administrators still to be chosen.
 
“We welcome the opportunity to engage in a reflective examination of our current practices for the purposes of confronting institutional racism, eliminating the achievement gap and boosting achievement for each student,” said Campbell.
 
WSU and Spokane Public Schools have outlined a three-year partnership and project. The Stuart Foundation grant may ultimately be renewed for a total of $800,000.
 
The San Francisco-based foundation was established by Elbridge A. Stuart, founder of the Carnation Company, to continue his charitable giving after his death. The Foundation focuses its work on supporting children and youth in California and Washington, the two states in which he spent most of his life.
 
The Leaders as Learners project appealed to the Stuart Foundation staff because it involves “a deeply committed school district and a community-focused university partner dedicated to examining education leadership in the context of place,” said Rhonnel Sotelo, vice president for Program & Operations. That differentiates the project from leadership programs that the foundation supports at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Washington.
 
Sotelo also noted the project’s location outside of the Puget Sound region, where so many education initiatives are focused. “We were deeply attracted to the idea that really outstanding education work also occurs and must be recognized on the eastern side of the state,” he said.
 
This is the second initiative in which the WSU College of Education is working with Spokane-area educators. The college facilitates the Riverpoint Partnership for Math and Science, in which high school math teachers, community college math instructors, math education faculty and mathematics faculty are working together to prepare high school students for college-level courses.
 
More information on WSU College of Education programs is available at http://education.wsu.edu.