"It's imperative that you have supervisory administrators who actually are...

"It's imperative that you have supervisory administrators who actually are role models," said Brandy Scott, executive director of the Long Island Black Educators Association. Credit: Barry Sloan

A $700,000 grant recently awarded to an educational leadership program at Stony Brook University aims to add more diverse educators to the top ranks of K-12 schools as well as prepare them to lead with a focus on equity and inclusion.

The award from the State Education Department was announced last week and will go to Stony Brook's Educational Leadership Program, which launched a pilot program last year. 

Funding will go toward enrolling qualified teachers in a graduate program to prepare them for leadership roles and offer professional development for current and future school leaders. It will also provide for regional town halls on Long Island and statewide to identify challenges related to recruiting and retaining diverse leaders.

"I'm elated," said Dafny Irizarry, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association. "It does speak to the goal that diversity needs to increase and this is one way we can do this. I am glad we are talking about a solution and not just a problem."

Dafny Irizarry, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association,...

Dafny Irizarry, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association, in 2020. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The need for more diverse school leadership was detailed in New York State’s 2019 Educator Diversity Report, which published statistics showing that while most school and district leaders are white, the majority — 56% — of P-12 students are not.

The grant, Strengthening a Diverse Leadership Pipeline Through Leadership Preparation and Development, arose as a result of a collaboration among faculty from five downstate colleges and universities — Stony Brook, City College of New York, Fordham University, Hofstra University and St. John's University.

The program started last year with a pilot that a small group of educators will complete next year.

The program is still taking applications for the fall and has spots for about 18 educators who earn their graduate degrees virtually, said Ken Forman, assistant director of the Educational Leadership Program at Stony Brook.

Another part of the initiative is setting up a virtual training program for new leaders that will include Long Island assistant principals and teachers, he said, "all with the hopes of increasing the pool of diverse applicants."

This virtual leadership development program will be implemented statewide for assistant principals and teachers to encourage them to move up in their educational careers. These virtual seminars include about 25 to 30 assistant principals and teachers. 

Representatives from several stakeholder groups as well as staff from Eastern Suffolk BOCES served in advisory roles to help set the program up.

The state grant funds a slate of professional development programming for current school leaders at every level — from assistant principals to superintendents.

"It's not just not just aimed at recruiting more diverse candidates or candidates from more diverse backgrounds, which is important, but it's also making sure that all candidates come out of this leadership preparation program with an idea of how to better lead through an equity lens," said David Wicks, superintendent at Eastern Suffolk BOCES.

He also said that part of the initiative includes research and analysis of what other school systems have done to address diversity, equity and inclusion.

Joylette Williams is a trustee on the Hempstead Board of Education and a tenured professor at Nassau Community College. She is earning her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Connecticut with a focus on equity and diversity in education.

"We must as a community embrace diversity, especially ethnic and racial diversity in our school systems," she said.

Having diversity in leadership in a school system can help students see themselves as leaders as well as expand employment opportunities for people of color, she said. Also, hiring school leaders who speak the languages of the community can lead to greater trust from the public in school officials, she said

Brandy Scott, president of the Long Island Black Educators Association, was elated that the state's grant money will enable the program to move beyond its pilot phase. 

The demographic profile of students in the public schools on Long Island have changed, she said. In order to keep up with the changes and meet the needs of diverse students, she said "it's imperative that you have supervisory administrators who actually are role models. That's key."

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A $700,000 grant recently awarded to an educational leadership program at Stony Brook University aims to add more diverse educators to the top ranks of K-12 schools as well as prepare them to lead with a focus on equity and inclusion.
  • Funding will go toward enrolling qualified teachers in a graduate program to prepare them for leadership roles and offer professional development for current and future school leaders.
  • It will also provide for regional town halls on Long Island and statewide to identify challenges related to recruiting and retaining diverse leaders.

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