UB builds better school administrators with LIFTS development program

Meg Lundgren (left) and Laurie Widman in a classroom.

Megan Lundgren (left) and Laurie Widman will start the LIFTS program in May. Image: Nancy J. Parisi

Release Date: March 3, 2015

“Research shows that, next to teachers, principals have the most impact on improving student learning. Our school leader program focuses on preparing leaders to leverage their potential to make a difference.”
Thomas Ramming, clinical associate professor, Graduate School of Education
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Megan Lundgren and Laurie Widman believe in the power of public education. Both feel a pull to the students they teach in the North Tonawanda City School District and aspire to influence their students “beyond the four walls of the classroom.”

Through a Strengthening Teacher Leader Effectiveness (STLE) grant from the New York State Education Department, the North Tonawanda school district has partnered with the University at Buffalo to give the women the opportunity to achieve their goal as aspiring school leaders.

In May, Lundgren and Widman will enter UB’s Leadership Initiative for Tomorrow’s Schools (LIFTS) program, an administrative education-and-mentoring program designed to reach out to local schools in a very real way: by training better administrators and encouraging them to return to their home districts to put their new skills to use, all for the sake of the students.

The two future administrators see their LIFTS admission as the boost they need to put their passions into practical use.

“All of us in LIFTS want to embrace the further knowledge of a district leader and get that knowledge under our belts,” says Widman, who has taught business courses for 11 years, the last nine at North Tonawanda.  

“This grant provides us the opportunity to shadow a district administrator and we are pulled out of our classroom one day a week. Other administrative candidates will have to wait for their internship to have that opportunity.”

Lundgren, a special education teacher in North Tonawanda for the past five years, wants to stay in the classroom a few more years. Her future plan is to be like those “wonderful” school principals she knows who help make learning easier for staff and students.  

“The fact some of the program’s instructors are local administrators adds another layer,” says Lundgren. “It makes what you are learning more ‘real.’”

They have received nothing but support from their home school district. Laurie Kay Burger, director of personnel for the North Tonawanda City School District and recipient of the STLE, reached out to Thomas Ramming, clinical associate professor in UB’s Graduate School of Education and LIFTS coordinator. This paved the way for Lundgren and Widman to become sponsored candidates in the LIFTS program.

“I know that both candidates are going to experience a rigorous program at UB that prepares leaders to solve problems and be reflective,” says Burger, a UB LIFTS graduate herself.  “The reputation of this program is unbelievable.”

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to partner with North Tonawanda in developing leaders for tomorrow’s schools,” Ramming says. “Research shows that, next to teachers, principals have the most impact on improving student learning. Our school leader program focuses on preparing leaders to leverage their potential to make a difference.”

Ramming explains that admission to the LIFTS program takes place after a thorough review of application materials and an interview with two LIFTS faculty members. The selective admissions process and rigorous program requirements have resulted in more than 70 percent of LIFTS graduates securing positions in school leadership. Applications for the LIFTS program are due by April 1.

“I have no doubt we are sending teachers that can be future administrators for the North Tonawanda City School District,” says Burger. “It’s a great investment for us to take teacher leaders and grow them for administration through UB.”

Additional information about LIFTS can be found on the Graduate School of Education’s website. http://gse.buffalo.edu/programs/edadmin/lifts.

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