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This is just the beginning of the journey…

By: Anthony Kim on October 21st, 2015

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This is just the beginning of the journey…

Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  Innovative Leadership

LELA fellows met with Richard Culatta at the US Department of Education in Washington DC

Last week on October 14, the first cohort of the Lexington Education Leadership Awards (LELA Fellowship) met in Washington D.C for a final celebration and showcase. Each of the ten superintendents and assistant superintendents had to give a pitch on their vision for personalized learning in their district, visited a school, met with the US Department of Education, and spent time learning from us and each other. It was a day of sharing strategies from across the country, building lasting relationships, and developing next steps to realize the vision.

LELA Cohort 1 at the Personalized Learning Summit, May 2015

The fellowship kicked off in May at the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit held at The Tech Museum of Innovation, where the district leaders were introduced to keynote speakers like Jaime Casap of Google and Adam Pisoni of Yammer. They also had the opportunity to visit some of the leading Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and Coursera.

The goals for the participating districts of this six month fellowship were to focus many of the initiatives at each of the districts around personalized learning, create a concise vision for personalized learning, and present a graphic that will represent the vision in a meaningful way to their stakeholders.

Working with superintendents and district leadership is complicated. They are often pulled in many different directions and time is very limited. We had to understand and respect the work these districts were already undertaking. We had to convince them that this deep dive into personalized learning would be worth their time. And finally, we had to build trust and relationships with each of the district superintendents and their teams.

 The personalized learning vision of Oxnard Union High School District (CA)

 The personalized learning vision of Westside Community Schools (NE)

As we learned more about each superintendent and the district leadership team, I found several common threads in all of them:

  • Each superintendent and assistant superintendent was very committed to their work and very careful not to add more work to their teams, who are already taxed in making every school day better.  They prioritized constantly.
  • The day-to-day life of a superintendent is incredibly challenging. Many show up to the office very early in the morning to get stuff done before they are pulled into back-to-back meetings throughout the day. Once the school day ends, they attend district and community activities through the evening. Taking the time for a call every other week was difficult and yet most weeks each came to the phone, ready to work and engage.
  • Personalized learning matters to each of these leaders.  While other people talk about personalized learning, each leader in the fellowship is committed to making it happen, and to doing so for the right reasons.  
  • Most importantly, each of the district leaders wants to be part of building a better future for this nation and their communities.

In our work with these districts, all of them have many things to be proud of, yet they continue to strive to be better. They are all thinking about the student who needs to be globally prepared. And they recognize that their teams and teachers are critical to getting the work done. All of them consistently recognized that they need to invest in their people and in professional development. Each of the LELA fellows is constantly thinking about how to communicate better, collaborate with others, and get the buy-in for personalized learning to make the work sustainable.

So, I’d like to say to each of the LELA fellows listed below that I’ve been truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with each of you. In working with you and your teams, I’ve evolved and developed professionally as I think about how we can help districts move the needle to realize their vision for personalized learning.

Lexington Education Leadership Award - Class of 2015:

  • Theron Schutte, Superintendent, Bettendorf Community School District, Iowa;
  • Dr. Victor P. Hayek, Superintendent, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional, New Jersey;
  • Rich Merlo, Superintendent, Corcoran Unified School District, California;
  • Dr. Ross Kasun, Superintendent, Freehold Township, New Jersey;
  • Christine Lay, Assistant Superintendent, Gettysburg Area, Pennsylvania;
  • Nancy Allen-Mastro, Superintendent, Independent School District 197, Minnesota;
  • Rick Robins, Superintendent, Juab School District, Utah;
  • Gabe Soumakian, Superintendent, Oxnard Union High School District, California;
  • John F. Albrecht, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, Wayne-Westland Community Schools, Michigan, and
  • Blane McCann, Superintendent, Westside Community Schools, Nebraska.


And I’d also like to ask you to honor the following four commitments:

  • Continue to cultivate a positive mindset around personalized learning at your district. The Personalized Learning Playbook and your graphic footprint can serve as your guide.
  • Share and motivate your peers in other districts to think about personalized learning the way you do.
  • Fine-tune your message and amplify the collective voice for personalized learning by speaking at regional and national events.
  • Take the next steps to move to implementing personalized learning so that others can see how it meets the needs of today’s students and evolves the culture of a district.

I remind the LELA fellows that personalized learning is a journey and not a destination. The goal of the Lexington Education Leadership Award was to get you to the starting line of this journey. I am looking forward to watching you take the next steps.

Education Elements Personalized Learning District Framework



About Anthony Kim

Anthony Kim is a Corwin Press bestselling author, with publications including The New Team Habits, The New School Rules, and The Personalized Learning Playbook. His writing ranges the topics of the future of work, leadership and team motivation, improving the way we work, and innovation in systems-based approaches to organizations and school design. Anthony believes that how we work is the key determinant to the success of any organization. He is a nationally recognized speaker on learning and his work has been referenced by the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, EdSurge, CompetencyWorks, Education Week, District Administration, and numerous research reports. In addition to his writing, Anthony is the founder and Chief Learning Officer of Education Elements, a trusted partner and consultant to over 1,000 schools nationwide. Anthony has been the founder of several companies across multiple industries, including online education, ecommerce, and concerts and events.

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