“I had been teaching for 11 years in another district, and I was very disheartened by the lack of leadership at my school,” recalled Kristina Brubaker, Administrator in Residence (AIR) at Green Dot Public Schools. Brubaker was no stranger to the complexities and challenges of being a school leader, and she understood that despite her time in education, she didn’t have all the answers. But Brubaker also recognized that she had good ideas and a strong desire to help students and teachers succeed, which couldn’t fully come to fruition in her former role. She found the opportunity she was looking for in the Green Dot’s AIR program, a paid leadership training and administrative credentialing program.
Throughout the year-long program, each cohort follows a rigorous curriculum that covers key aspects of successful school leadership with a focus on closing achievement gaps between students from underserved communities and their peers from more affluent communities.
Program training covers three key areas: instructional leadership to ensure school leaders can effectively coach teachers and improve instruction; distributive leadership to develop the instructional leadership of team members; and importantly, school culture to foster a college-for-certain mindset, as well as a safe environment.
The AIR program seeks to increase the number of highly effective school leaders at the helm of Green Dot schools and successfully turning around the country’s most persistently low-performing schools.
“I decided to be the change I wanted to see. To choose a path that would allow me to support teachers and help them thrive and refine their craft so they have the capacity to better educate, develop, and inspire the future leaders of tomorrow,” said Brubaker.
Though Brubaker already has her administrative credential, she felt applying for the program would provide her with an invaluable experience that would support her in becoming an effective school leader.
“I wanted to make sure that I had the capacity to be a great leader and I saw the AIR Program as the best opportunity to do that,” recalled Brubaker. “In the AIR Program you learn from experts, receive ample support, feedback, and coaching all of which serve to help you become an effectual school leader.”
School Leaders Are Vital to Student Success
It’s no secret that great school leaders can drastically improve the performance of a school. In a recent study, Education Next found that the impact of highly effective principals on student achievement is equivalent to up to seven months of additional learning each school year, highlighting the importance of having the right leaders in schools. Green Dot’s entire model seeks to help transform public education and accelerate student learning.
With thousands of public schools across America in need of highly effective leaders, supporting a program that further moves the needle and contributes to better student outcomes and higher performing schools is a priority for Green Dot.
For Ashlyn Ramos, the AIR Program has provided her with knowledge and invaluable experiences that have shaped the way she views leadership. “I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the best leaders in education,” said Ramos.
Learning By Doing
The program provides the opportunity to study and analyze educational leadership theory and take part in 35 four-hour seminars. In fact, one of the most important elements is the required residency rotations that expose participants to both turnaround and independent school settings at middle schools and high schools.
As part of their quarter-long rotations, participants receive coaching and feedback from current Green Dot school leaders. “Residents are under the mentorship of an attending principal, who supports the residents as they are immersed into the role of a school leader,” said Xochitl Avellan, AIR Program Director, “Kind of like a medical residency program.”
These rotations provide residents with an opportunity to put leadership theories into practice while receiving hands-on experience interacting with students and educators as a school leader. “Of all my years in education, my most fruitful year of growth was in the AIR program,” said Michelle Ahn, Principal at Ánimo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School.
“Through the AIR Program, I was able to participate on various school leadership teams and be coached by willing, experienced mentors through practice,” said Ramos. “Seeing the way leadership plays out at different schools and communities has been an invaluable experience, because I don’t feel that many aspiring school leaders get that type of mentorship and exposure from their programs.”
The Green Dot Difference
For Edward Rodriguez, who is going on his fourteenth year in education, it wasn’t until he came to Green Dot that he truly felt empowered to grow inside and outside of the classroom.
“Being in education for so long, I’ve taught at smaller and larger districts, but it wasn’t until I came to Green Dot that I saw so many opportunities for teachers to grow and demonstrate leadership potential,” said Rodriguez, Assistant Principal at Ánimo Phillis Wheatley Charter Middle School. “The skills I developed and the projects I undertook as an AIR have truly helped me be effective in my role as a school leader.”
To date, the AIR Program has trained and placed over 50 school leaders and is seeking to increase the number of highly effective leaders in education.“The work we are doing is about creating a domino effect,” said Avellan. “The AIR program is meant to get the best leaders in schools so they can motivate and develop educators who have the aptitude to better support students in their learning. All this ensures students have the knowledge and resources necessary to succeed in college, leadership, and life.”