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Charlotte County Schools reputation for advancement grows

Charlotte County Schools reputation for advancement grows

By Robert L. Burns is the executive director of FGCU, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.

Charlotte County Public Schools’ reputation for outstanding advancement (despite the overwhelming tasks it continues to deal with post-Charley) grows in stature again as it enters a new joint program with Florida Gulf Coast University.

The School Board and school administration are planning for a bright future by educating tomorrow’s leaders today with FGCU’s Educational Leadership Graduate Program.

This new program in Charlotte County demonstrates exceptional effort by the school district to encourage and partially fund graduate study by current employees. FGCU is providing Charlotte a fast-track version of this needed graduate degree program.

A select group of Charlotte school employees will work hard to complete their heavy load of courses while continuing to teach full time. This FGCU and Charlotte school cooperative effort provides the county with a group of highly educated teachers with credentials to apply for leadership roles as the need for new principals and other administrators arises.

It is another case of the school district and the university working together to “grow our own.”

This approach is a model for other programs in Charlotte and for other parts of southwestern Florida. Cooperation among the potential graduate students, FGCU’s College of Education, the Charlotte School Board and administration has been exceptional. This is a model for getting things done quickly and with excellence.

Current district studies report that retirements and natural attrition soon will leave Charlotte County schools needing principals and district officials.

Qualified applicants for these important positions will be required to hold the Master of Science in Educational Leadership degree. School district officials Rene Desjardins and Chuck Bradley worked with me to develop and implement a fast-track cohort for the university’s graduate degree in Educational Leadership. Interested Charlotte school employees first were screened by the district for a variety of characteristics from length of service to leadership potential and abilities. Those identified then applied to the university in the usual way.

Early discussions estimated that the program could operate with as few as 10 students. However, the school district’s identification process produced 20 qualified applicants, and now the enrollment limit has been set at 30 to maintain university quality standards.

FGCU senior professors Tom Valesky and Cecil Carter will teach the courses in Charlotte County. Classes begin in January and will meet at the Charlotte district headquarters.

This degree program will require hard work on the part of its students and faculty, but the effort will be worth it. And the School Board has shown support by agreeing to provide tuition support for the students who came successfully through its identification process. It is a smart investment on all sides.

FGCU-Charlotte also offers an elementary education cohort model in Charlotte. Other convenient models include the Reading Endorsement program, which provides all of the required graduate course work online (via computer) for the convenience of working teachers. Reading education is a top priority for Charlotte County schools and for Florida Gulf Coast University.

Robert L. Burns is the executive director of FGCU

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