EPFP Alumni Stories
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Welcome to the EPFP Alumni Stories! Here we highlight the work of EPFP alumni around the country by featuring guest blog posts about our three pillars: Policy, Leadership, and Networking. For more information or to report abuse of this feature, please contact the EPFP national program staff at epfp@iel.org.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Virginia B. "Ginny" Edwards (NJ EPFP 87-88)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Monday, August 3, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Virginia B. "Ginny" Edwards
(NJ EPFP 87-88)

Virginia B. “Ginny” Edwards is the president of Editorial Projects in Education and the editor-in-chief of Education Week and edweek.org. Before joining EPE, she worked at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and was an editor and reporter at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY. Edwards is a board member at the Center for Teaching Quality and a member of the advisory board of TeachingWorks at the University of Michigan.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

Education is all about working and leading across boundaries; it equally involves policymakers, practitioners, funders, and thought leaders. We sometimes think that one specific thing is the “essential ingredient” that will change everything, but all of these pieces work together so it’s important to be able to work with these different groups.

Data and Information Challenges

People often talk about wanting good information, research, and data to do their work better, but there is a lot of evidence that, even when it is available, they do not use it. I feel that the supply side of that is well-attended-to; there is a lot of good information out there about what works, as well as research and data to inform policymaking and practice. I think the real challenge is whetting the appetite of the demand side so that people use good information grounded in research and data.

Another challenge regarding data is that many people use biased data and self-select the information they want to use and that aligns with what they are trying to do. This self-selected information doesn’t just pertain to research data—it includes news and opinion journalism. We tend to default to following information that we believe in or agree with and this creates an echo chamber, calcifying what we think and why we think that way. It can be disheartening to see situations where honest conversation is encouraged, but people talk past each other and are sometimes disrespectful because there is a difference of opinion.

This is also related to the notion of media and digital literacy. Everyone—both kids and adults—need to be able to discern and make sense of what they’re reading, whether it’s in school or out of school, and judge it as an opinion or straight reporting.

Social Media

One of my clichés here at Education Week is “get hip or die.” Over the past 10-15 years, newspapers and magazines have been completely disrupted by the internet, just like music and TV and movies have been. Ed Week specifically was incredibly upended at the beginning of the 21st century, and so we worked to reimagine what we could do to remain relevant and useful. Now a majority of our business is digital, in addition to our print editions and live events.

We see ourselves as students of new-media opportunities and how to use such new approaches as social media to further promote the work we are trying to do. We still believe in improving schools and outcomes for kids, families, and communities, and we are just now doing the work with different tools, like social media and digital storytelling. One benefit of social media that we don’t have with print is that it’s an interactive two-way street and allows us to connect with each other and with our readers and users. Social media has also become a strategy for disseminating news. People don’t go to news website homepages as much as they used to; they prefer to sample and scan their news via social media, blogs, and email. This change in how our audience receives their news led us to change how we share it with them.

Education Media Changing Over the Years

Education Week launched in the early 1980s, when I was in Louisville covering education for the local newspaper. Back then, people didn’t know what was going on in other parts of their state, much less across the country; education news tended to be very locally focused, except for occasional association magazines and newsletters.

When Ed Week came along, it changed that dynamic pretty quickly. Before it launched, the initial market research indicated that no one cared about national education news and only wanted to know what was happening at the local level. Ron Wolk, our founder and first editor, ignored that research and saw the potential for Ed Week, particularly after major national education policy work like the A Nation at Risk report. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, it became much clearer that education was a national conversation and that states could learn from each other, and it was during this time period – in 1997, actually – that we launched Quality Counts to help provide that state information.

Now, largely because of the internet, education media is much more widespread and typically of high quality. There’s more competition in the niche education market and capacity in daily markets is increasing again, although unevenly, around the country. The downside to having such a large media market is that users need to have media literacy to differentiate between factual news and opinion because it tends to all be out there together.

Leadership Lessons Learned

As a leader, it’s important to be intentional about having a vision and building capacity around that vision. Leadership is an everyday activity—it is part of how you run meetings, how you create culture, and how you interact with your colleagues. Creating an organizational culture that you want to be a part of is a big part of this. I often say that our organization is an extremely humane place to work because we care about and support each other and our work. When colleagues care about each other and feel that they matter, work will be better and employees will be more productive and creative.

EPFP Experience

My experience as an EPFP Fellow was very significant for me and my career. At the time, I was working at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on early childhood issues, and EPFP helped me be able to connect the dots and think about it in the context of what we were all doing across sectors and inside and outside of schools. It was a great opportunity to step away from my day-to-day responsibilities and think with others about our work in different ways. For me, it reinforced the importance of context and remembering that issues are not just black and white. Instead, we need to celebrate the messiness and cross-sector nature of our work.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Robert Barr (DC EPFP 69-70)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Thursday, July 16, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Robert Barr
(DC EPFP 69-70)

Dr. Robert Barr is an author and education consultant for Boise State University, and is one of the nation’s leading experts on teaching minority and low-income students and improving high-poverty schools. He has served as dean of the Boise State University College of Education and the Oregon State University College of Education, and professor and Director of Teacher Education at Indiana University. Dr. Barr has authored or co-authored 12 books, including Building a Culture of Hope: Enriching Schools with Optimism and Opportunity, which he co-wrote with Emily Gibson and was selected as Learning Magazine’s 2015 Teacher’s Choice Award for Professional Development and as a finalist for the REVERE Distinguished Book Award.

Career Challenges

My entire career has been in colleges of education at universities, and throughout the decades I’ve been working in this area, not much has changed in our teacher education programs. This is a great disappointment. I spent a lot of my time trying to make teacher education more effective, and I found working with state legislators had the greatest positive impact. I think that the most effective way to change teacher education is to change policy. For example, a simple but powerful idea I support is that no one should be certified as a teacher who has not worked in a classroom with a teacher and students over a period of time and document their impact on student achievement.

When I was dean of the Oregon State University College of Education, I went about trying to improve teacher education in a different way. In an effort to ensure our graduates would be effective teachers, we introduced a value-added teaching program. With the help of the Teaching Research Development at Western Oregon University, we developed a list of knowledge and skills that were essential to effective teaching. We developed this checklist of outcomes as a quality assurance component: We promised schools that, if you hire our graduates, we guarantee they can do what is on the checklist. This “warranty program” gained us national attention and led to important transformations in our programs. It became clear to our faculty that there wasn’t a way to offer that guarantee for all of the students in their classes, so we raised the admission standards for teacher education programs. The end result was stronger students coming into our programs, a stronger instructional program, and better screening of students as they passed through the programs.

Leadership Lessons

The biggest leadership lesson I learned was from my experience as an EPFP Fellow. While in the program, a group of us were traveling in San Antonio, Texas, and heard about the need for poll workers at a school board election in a nearby city. There was a slate of Latino candidates in a small community who were trying to make positive changes, but they were met with a lot of resistance from their neighbors: a candidate’s home was burned, families and voters were threatened, and federal marshals were at voting locations for fear of further violence. The Latino candidates won the election, but when asked what they planned to do, they had goals like paving school parking lots. They had gained power but had limited knowledge about what they could do in their new roles. Later they secured funding to visit effective schools and school districts to learn what their potential for improvement could be. The lesson I took from the experience was that it is critically important to see the context of people across all agencies, organizations, and communities—public and private—and use those experiences to expand our perspective.

EPFP Experience

My year in EPFP changed my life and my family’s life. When I participated, it was called Washington Internships in Education (WIE) and Fellows from across the country would move to Washington, DC, for a year and intern at an education organization or agency. I had started my career as a high school teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, and loved it, and after five years I thought the natural progression was to become a school administrator, but I was then offered a fellowship at Purdue University, which I took and moved there to finish my doctorate. I focused on social studies education and was considering a career in teacher education when I saw an advertisement for the WIE program and sent in a form for more information. Soon after a rigorous interview progress, I was selected as one of 20 Fellows in the program.

Being a Fellow changed my cultural world. Our cohort included an incredible, diverse group from all around the country, and many became my closest friends. The program was a transforming experience for all of us, and we were able to travel around the country visiting schools and talking to policy makers.

For me, my EPFP network remained strong after my year in Washington. I maintained contact with a number of Fellows for several years, and after I moved out of Washington, I relied on my contacts at the U.S. Department of Education to stay informed of federal policy.

Leading Across Boundaries

It’s important to work across boundaries and engage multiple groups to affect change. My work has focused on supporting low-income students and a big part of helping them is involving the community to better understand poverty. Poverty doesn’t only exist in urban cities; it is present in places we wouldn’t think of, like Boise and Salt Lake City. Harnessing the power of the neighborhood school and the involvement of parents and the community is key to helping low-income students. You have to realize that public education is not an island and that you have to reach out to different audiences and groups to make a positive change.


School Culture

Early in my career, I did research on alternative schools and why students and teachers were so committed to them. We interviewed thousands of students about why they liked these smaller alternative schools more than big schools with lots of amenities. They said that at larger schools, they felt like no one cared about them and they felt invisible. At the alternative schools, they said, they felt that people really cared for each other and were like a family. The single concept that seemed to emerge out of these schools where poor students succeeded was the idea of a surrogate family. Many of these students live in rough neighborhoods with struggling families, and the concept of a school where teachers and students care about each other makes a huge difference to them.

Developing a school culture focused on caring also changes the sense of helplessness many poor students seem to acquire. They often feel that no matter how hard they work in life, things won’t get better, and they enter school far behind their peers and believe they cannot learn. Schools that foster a strong, positive culture understand that high-poverty schools can also be high-performing schools when they build a family atmosphere, and support and high expectations can have a transformative effect on kids. Effective school culture can transform despair into hope and have a powerful positive impact on our schools’ neediest students.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Anthony Carnevale (DC EPFP 72-73)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Monday, June 29, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Anthony Carnevale
(DC EPFP 72-73)

Dr. Anthony Carnevale is the founder and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Prior to this role, he was Vice President for Public Leadership at the Educational Testing Service, Director of Human Resource and Employment Studies at the Center for Economic Development, founder and president of the Institute for Workplace Learning, and Director of Political and Government Affairs for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Dr. Carnevale was appointed by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush to serve on national and White House commissions, and was also a senior staff member in both houses of Congress. In 2013, he received the Harry Truman Award from the American Association of Community Colleges and the Morris T. Keeton Adult and Experiential Learning Award by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. Dr. Carnevale co-authored the principal affidavit in Rodriguez v. San Antonio, a U.S. Supreme Court action to remedy unequal tax burdens and education benefits. This landmark case resulted in significant fiscal reforms in education funding in a wide variety of states.     

EPFP Experience

I was a tax economist that fell into EPFP and an education-related career accidentally. At the time, in the early seventies, I was finishing my PhD in public finance economics in New York. Data developed by myself and colleagues was being used as part of a heated policy debate in Texas on education funding. Lawyers were taking the state of Texas to court using our data to show that the Texas school financing system was unfair to low-income and Latino students. We won our case before the Texas court overturning the state taxing system. The state of Texas appealed the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. When the Supreme Court decided to hear our case, the Ford Foundation quickly scooped me and bunch of my colleagues up, whisked us off to Washington, and funded us to sue other states on the principle that a child’s education funding ought not to be determined by the wealth of their parents or the wealth of the jurisdiction in which they live.  


In those days there was a close connection between the Ford Foundation and IEL, which was how I became an EPFP Fellow. Participating in the program opened my eyes to how the education world worked and the many great opportunities within it to leverage my own youthful commitment to economic and racial justice. I learned a lot from the leaders of the program; Sam Halperin, who was president of IEL at the time, was a very good mentor. I particularly enjoyed interacting with the other Fellows in my cohort. Everyone had diverse backgrounds but we had the shared EPFP experience and similar values and interests.

One way that EPFP informed my career trajectory was that it helped me discover that there was a lot of meaningful work to be had in the education sector. I was considering a job as a professor at the time, but because of EPFP, I decided to go a different route. EPFP gave me a sense of the lay of the land and reaffirmed my work values and what I wanted to get from my career.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

A big part of leading across boundaries is listening to different points of view. For any given issue there are many right answers. In the end, the first leadership test is the ability to live with that ambiguity and act anyway. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, leadership across boundaries is the ability to hold many equally valid but opposing ideas in your mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function and make difficult choices among equally valid alternatives. Everyone in an argument tends to have a point of view and a valid point to make. A leader understands that and learns how to negotiate and find common ground among the valid perspectives and competing principles involved

Career Challenges

I have experienced different perspectives and learned the ability to find common ground by working in many different types of jobs—private sector, public sector, nonprofits, government, and academia—and through those diverse experiences I’ve learned that there is an enormous value in finding agreement by empathizing with differences in points of view and managing relationships, although it can be difficult to do. The best way to learn cross-boundary leadership is to cross those boundaries yourself in your career, and the best way to learn the diverse perspectives at the public bargaining table is to sit in as many of the different chairs at the public bargaining table as you can. This requires a career where you never settle in and are always ready to leave a comfortable career seat when it gets too tight for comfort.     

Aligning Education with Workforce and Labor Demands

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which I founded and lead, subscribes to the view that the enduring mission of educational institutions is to allow people to live fully in their time. At the same time, we believe that you can’t live fully if you’re living under a bridge; that is, education and institutions need to pay attention to what people need to get jobs. If you’re unable to get a job, the institution you attended can’t live up to its broader role in preparing you for life as a productive person and a citizen. Ours is a society based on work. Those Americans without the proper education to get and keep jobs rarely live fully in their time. Getting a job is a major way that people are connected to society; if you can’t get a job, you likely won’t be a lifelong learner, won’t be a productive citizen, and won’t form a successful family.

The Center works to help balance the economic reality and the broader education agenda. At the moment, that balancing act is under a lot of stress. For many educators, their core mission is to educate people to live fully and be empowered citizens free of public dependency or debilitating poverty. But the increasing demand that education leads directly to a job creates a lot of tension between education’s traditional cultural and civic mission and its newer economic mission. The world has changed a lot over the last few decades; no longer can you have just a high school degree and still be middle class.

Leadership Lessons Learned

One big leadership lesson I’ve learned is how difficult it is to know when to stick with a position or compromise. There are rare moments when you feel strongly enough about an issue to part company with your institution or community. It may not always be the winning role or be the most popular idea or the best pathway to promotion or employment security but occasionally it is the only way to go. Recognizing and acting on those moments with grace is difficult and costly and it the ultimate test of a person’s ability to negotiate boundaries between realism and idealism. Building networks across institutional boundaries is one way to escape a place you know when it’s time to go.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi (DC EPFP 77-78)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi
(DC EPFP 77-78)

Dr. Antoine Garibaldi is the president of University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), the largest Catholic university in Michigan. Prior to joining UDM, he was president of Gannon University in Erie, PA; senior fellow at the Educational Testing Service; Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Howard University in Washington, DC; and served as Chairman of the Education Department, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana. He was also a Research Associate at the National Institute of Education in the U.S. Department of Education, where he was a staff member of the National Commission on Excellence in Education that produced the landmark report, A Nation at Risk. Dr. Garibaldi serves on the board of several national higher education organizations, is the author of 11 books and more than 85 research articles and chapters, and holds honorary doctorates from four universities.

Higher Education Leadership in a Transitioning City

After receiving my doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota, I began my career working for five years at the U.S. Department of Education, but most of my career has been in higher education administration and leadership. I have been at Xavier University of Louisiana, in my hometown of New Orleans, as well as my alma mater, Howard University in Washington, DC; Gannon University in Erie, PA; and now University of Detroit Mercy. There are common parallels among these cities: they all have significant challenges in their educational systems; serious economic issues with respect to the employment of adults and youth; high rates of crime; and declining population.


Being at universities in each of these cities has made me appreciate even more the expectations communities have for institutions of higher learning and the role they play working with local entities and organizations to help improve the community at large. This collaborative model has proven successful in the universities and communities where I have worked.

It is important for the university administration to connect with the community to provide help and support, which is what I have tried to do in my leadership roles. For example, UDM’s largest campus is in northwest Detroit, where there are six different neighborhood organizations that work closely with the university; and each of them has expectations of us. So I began to meet with each of these organizations within my first few months to hear their expectations and discuss how we might fulfill them. In a city like Detroit, with bankruptcy, declining population, and shrinking public school attendance, we have a responsibility to work closely with the local community, and everyone — students, faculty, staff, alumni — is involved in the revitalization efforts.

Student Completion Challenges and Opportunities

The primary way for a college or university to attract more students is to prepare them for college early; thus working directly with K-12 schools and organizations benefits all who are involved. To address higher education access and completion, UDM collaborates with local schools, which includes a mixture of public, charter, and private schools. We invite students to visit our campus to see what life on a college campus is like. We also offer and host several programs for elementary, middle, and high school students, including the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), which for nearly 40 years has been holding Saturday STEM classes on our McNichols Campus for students in grades 4-11, as well as summer camps and SAT and ACT prep courses to ensure more students are prepared for college and to help them understand what they need to do in high school to get ready for college. UDM staff also go to schools and provide workshops about careers and expectations for college for students and parents. For our current students, we have student academic support programs that provide personal support, such as study skills and time management, peer tutors in almost every undergraduate subject, and counselors who work one-on-one with students who want to improve their academic averages.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

Taking the first step and meeting with organizations and other institutions to develop partnerships has been an important part of my experience as a cross-boundary leader. When I came to Detroit, I immediately began contacting many education leaders in the area, including community college presidents and K-12 leaders, as well as foundations and local government officials, to ask how we might work together or enhance our existing partnership. I believe that asking individuals to work together allows everyone to create opportunities that are beneficial to the community and to the institutions within them. And for UDM, that outreach has paid off. Colleges and universities are often seen as the “ivory tower,” but that misperception can be changed. And if the president leads that charge, then deans, faculty, staff, and students will follow.

Career Challenges

One challenging aspect of collaboration is that people can sometimes be reluctant to partner because they are unsure if they will get credit for their part of the work or if it will be beneficial to them. But if the desire to work together to improve the community is genuine and sincere, they will respond. For example, UDM is part of a partnership of four universities that received a National Institutes of Health grant in October 2014 to increase the number of underrepresented students in biomedical sciences. If the four presidents of these universities did not agree that this was a good thing to do for all of our students and for the community, then our respective faculty might not have been as enthusiastic about working on this important, and now successful, grant.

Leadership Lessons Learned

One of the most significant leadership lessons I have learned is the importance of setting clear and reasonable goals. Often, you have to assemble a good team of colleagues who will collaborate closely to achieve those goals. Only through effective teamwork will good outcomes be produced. I have also learned that it is important to not only work with your colleagues but also to treat them well. I have always believed it’s important to learn how to do as much as your colleagues do, which means everyone should know how to answer the phone and use the copy machine. Sharing in the work and being able to do the most mundane task are very important to success.

EPFP Experience and Value

I really enjoyed my EPFP experience. We had a group of about 35 Fellows in my cohort, and I quickly learned that education policy can be made informally and done anywhere—over breakfast, in the hallway, or on the phone. When a few people get together and start talking about a particular topic, they can make something happen. EPFP also made me really learn the value of networking and meeting people and learning a great deal more about them. I often think of the people who spoke with us during our weekly luncheons—Dr. Ernest Boyer, who headed the Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Leon Panetta, who was a young Congressman at the time—and how they all brought different experiences and proved that leaders come from all different walks of life.

I think the value of EPFP is as strong today as it was in the 1970s, when I participated. The program has had a significant impact on my career because of what I learned there. Through that experience, I was able to meet a larger group of people focused on national efforts and I have had good mentors throughout my career. I highly recommend experiences like EPFP to many of my students because it helps you really think more seriously about what you want to do in your career.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Lou Fabrizio (NC EPFP 79-80)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Friday, May 22, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Lou Fabrizio
(NC EPFP 79-80)

Dr. Lou Fabrizio is the Director of Data, Research, and Federal Policy for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI), where he is responsible for federal reports, management of the state’s K-12 longitudinal data warehouse and the federal grant for a P-20W statewide longitudinal data system, research, and federal policy. He also serves as the DPI federal liaison on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) issues with the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to his role at DPI, Dr. Fabrizio was a testing consultant at CTB/McGraw-Hill, led the Head Start program in Wake County, North Carolina, and was a teacher in Washington, DC. A longtime supporter and alum of North Carolina EPFP, Dr. Fabrizio has attended 31 of the last 33 NC EPFP graduation ceremonies.

EPFP Experience

The 1979-80 cohort was North Carolina’s first EPFP class. At the time, I was a Title I evaluation consultant at DPI, and I read about the EPFP program being launched in Raleigh that year. I was still at a relatively early point in my career and thought it sounded like a great experience, so when I was one of about a dozen people selected for the cohort, I was pleasantly surprised. We had a great mix of Fellows in the group—people from DPI, the governor’s office, the Department of Health and Human Services, school districts—and we enjoyed the program’s focus on networking and hearing different perspectives.

EPFP reinforced what I had been experiencing in my career until then. I started out as a teacher at a private school in Washington, DC, and then moved to North Carolina, where I was the education director, and later, the director, of Wake County’s Head Start program. My role there helped me to better understand education policy at both the state and federal levels. I worked with Congressman Ike Andrews, an advocate of Head Start and early education, to ensure he was aware of the work we were doing in Wake County. Because of my background in science as a physics major and my attention to details, I seemed to be one of the few people I knew in the Head Start programs statewide who had read through and understood the federal government’s new Head Start regulations at the time and was able to work with other folks at the state level on the implementation. By the time I started at DPI and became an EPFP Fellow, I had experience working with members of Congress and leaders across the state and in Washington, so EPFP was a natural next step for me.

I was one of the youngest Fellows in my cohort and was able to interact with people at much higher levels in organizations, which was very exciting to me. I looked forward to our weekly sessions and our national meetings, which were intellectually stimulating and allowed us to continually meet important individuals. I especially enjoyed being able to meet Fellows from different states at the national meetings; in fact, at a meeting in California years later, while I was working for CTB/McGraw-Hill, I ran into another alumni whom I had met at one of our national EPFP events!

To me, the biggest strength of EPFP is that it brings together individuals from different areas of education and government who otherwise might not have the opportunity to interact. Any time you bring together individuals with different backgrounds, skills, and orientations, you make conversations much more interesting. In North Carolina EPFP, it has been great to see how many alumni stay involved and engaged with the program over the years. Many of them present to Fellows during the weekly sessions and attend graduation and other events year after year because it is such a rewarding experience.

Data at the State and Federal Levels

Data is getting more attention now than ever before because of the technology and capabilities we now have to collect and analyze it. When I was working for DPI in the early 1980s, there were only two kinds of computers that were used for analyzing data: a huge mainframe or a large desk top computer system. When I was at CTB/McGraw-Hill, we each had a “mobile” computer which we called a “luggable,” which was as big as a sewing machine, to work with data. Later, when I returned to DPI as the head of statewide testing and accountability, we were using laptop computers. The technology changed tremendously over a relatively short amount of time and made it much easier to make use of data.

A large part of my work at DPI involved oversight of the statewide testing and accountability systems, working with members of the state legislature and state board of education, and meeting the requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/ESEA. As part of the creation of the federal NCLB regulations on standards and assessments, I was selected as the only state test director to serve on the U.S. Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking committee, which involved working with the Department’s staff and attorneys to develop the regulations. It was a fascinating experience and involved the policy skills I had begun developing at the beginning of my career at Head Start and in EPFP. In my current role, as Director of Data, Research, and Federal Policy, I continue to build and use those skills every day.

Leading Across Boundaries

Throughout my career, I’ve interacted with different types of people but also those who work at different levels—from local to state to federal. I always try to be respectful of other people; I don’t find that being antagonistic pays off, and if it does, it’s only a short-term victory.

Something I’ve learned throughout my career is that communication is key. Having ground rules for communication and being willing to listen to other people’s perspectives is important, even if you don’t necessarily agree. I always felt that people should have access to all of the information that they need, but I quickly learned that, at the state level, there wasn’t always good communication among people and departments. In my work, I’ve always tried to go as in depth as I can on a topic during meetings and be open and willing to share the information I have to offer. Communication has the ability to make a big difference and bring people together.

Leadership Lessons Learned

One lesson I learned early in my career was how to delegate. I would often feel like I had to do everything, and when I found myself unable to be as effective as I wanted to be, I started realizing that I had staff who could help me. Delegation makes a huge difference; a team works better when its members can have input on the collective work.

Another leadership lesson I’ve learned is to listen to others before jumping into the conversation. When working on my master’s degree at North Carolina State University, the dean of the school of education, Dr. Carl Dolce, taught me, among other things, that it’s much better to listen to others talk and get the lay of the land before saying what you think. The process of listening before jumping in has been a real benefit to me over my career.

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