64 Teachers Dive Into Leadership Boot Camp

Melissa Bailey PhotoWith just four days until the national championship, the varsity crew team was falling apart, getting beat by JV.

What should Coach P. do?

New Haven teachers debated the scenario at Yale Law School on the second day of a training camp aimed to prepare them for new leadership roles in their schools—including testing a new approach to teaching immigrants English at Fair Haven School.

The debate took place Tuesday in Room 121 at Yale Law School at 127 Elm St. There, 64 teachers from New Haven public schools are gathering this week to undergo training by the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE).

In the process, they’re participating in a new part of New Haven’s evolving school-reform drive: retaining and further developing great teachers without forcing them out of classrooms and into administrator offices.

The goal of the week-long camp is to train teachers become “facilitators” in their schools, leading small groups of their peers in a new kind of grassroots, teacher-run training that rethinks traditional “professional development.” Sixty-four teachers will get an extra $500-a-month stipend to serve in the new leadership role. It’s part of a quest to create new ways to let teachers lead without leaving the classroom, according to Dave Low, a teachers union vice-president who’s involved in the effort.

New Haven hired NAATE for $160,000 to run the week-long training. That marks the first money disbursed so far of a $53 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant New Haven received from the Obama administration last year to improve the way the school district grades, rewards and develops educators.

On Tuesday, the second day of the training, teachers streamed into the ornate wood hallway at Yale Law School with packets of homework. At 10 a.m., they sat down in two classrooms for a second-period class. In Room 121 they encountered Tony Klemmer, founder and president of NAATE. Klemmer joined the education field after two decades running tech startups in Boston. He had led a Catholic school in Rhode Island as assistant principal, and also has a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Klemmer led a discussion on a case study created by the Harvard Business School.

Here’s the scenario: Coach P., aka Colonel Stas Preczewski, coaches the Army crew team at West Point, N.Y. His varsity team—the eight fastest, strongest and most coordinated rowers—are performing so poorly that the junior varsity team—the bottom eight rowers—routinely beats them in practice. While the varsity players are individually skilled, they are plagued by infighting and poor morale.

Just four days before the national U.S. Army championship, Coach P. has a decision to make: Should he switch up the teams? Whip the varsity players into shape? Or promote the JV team to the championship?

Teachers first dissected what was going wrong with the team: No trust. Poor teamwork. Poor communication.

Kimberley Georgia-Steele offered an analysis: The eight people facing backwards, the rowers, were getting scrutinized for poor performance, but the one coxswain, who faces forward, wasn’t doing his job.

“It’s who you put in front of them that matters,” she said.

Maggie Stevens-Lopez (pictured) said the varsity team lacked a “synchronicity of spirit” as well as of physical performance.

The team lacked “shared accountability” for their goal of winning the race, offered Low.

Teachers offered a range of solutions. Stevens-Lopez suggested taking both teams out of the water until they synchronize their spirit. Kristin Mendoza suggested blindfolding the players during practice so they couldn’t see who was messing up and point fingers at each other.

Vin Sullo of Hillhouse High proposed promoting the JV team because those players had shown better character: “What wins races, what wins championships, is character.”

Scott Raffone, an instructional high school math coach, suggested making the varsity team play childhood games, such as dodge ball, to “get their joy back” before the big meet.

Another teacher asked a key question: “Is four days enough to change a mindset of a team?”

The answer, it turned out, was yes: In real life in 2002 at West Point, Coach P. took his varsity players out of the water and forced them to wrestle each other one-on-one, slamming each other on the ground. His rowers were reluctant to do so. By the end of the exercise, the rough combat turned to laughter and solidarity. The team got its act together and excelled at its meet.

The point of the exercise, said Klemmer, was to get teachers thinking about the dynamics of a team.

He asked the group if the case study connected to their lives in school.

Stevens-Lopez said yes: It hit home the need to step back and “get other people involved” instead of doing the heavy lifting as a leader.

Teachers discussed how they’ll go about building their own teams once they return to their own schools. Each of the 64 teachers will go back and form a new group of five or six teachers who will work on a specific area of education. The topic—such as how to differentiate instruction to kids of different levels, or how to get kids ask their own questions—is up to the teachers.

Dave Low suggested teachers choose their groups not based on personality, or who they have good relationships with, but on the ability to evolve and build skills.

Low has been involved in crafting the new initiative in teacher leadership through his role as a member of a new iPD (“innovative professional development”) Committee. The panel, comprised of five teachers, two administrators and one district central office staffer, initially formed in response to a challenge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has been awarding money to districts to do more peer-to-peer, individualized teacher training, including using technology to do so.

Gates tapped New Haven in January as just one of a handful of school districts to receive a planning grant, with an offer to pay $3 million to $5 million to fund those plans. Gates has held off on awarding New Haven the full grant until after Garth Harries officially became superintendent. In the absence of the Gates money, the iPD committee has used the federal TIF money to fund this new experiment, Low said.

Low said the iPD Committee chose NAATE out of six applicants interested in training New Haven teachers. Then a subgroup of the iPD panel reviewed 113 applications from teachers across the district and chose 64 to become “facilitators” in their schools. The applications were reviewed blindly, with teachers’ names redacted. Not every school ended up with teacher facilitators. The teachers get $1,000 for participating in this week-long session, then $500 a month for training small groups of teachers.

Klemmer said he founded NAATE in 2010 because he saw no advanced training program in the country for “experienced, high-performing” teachers looking to improve their trade. The group runs an intensive, two-week summer training program in which several New Haven teachers have participated. NAATE aims to teach teachers not just “tricks of the trade” but the bigger-concept principles behind instructional practice and leadership.

Teachers who signed up for the NAATE boot camp have a range of plans in mind for their schools. Three teachers from Fair Haven School—Stevens-Lopez, Mendoza and Chrissy Bowman—approached the training with a daunting task ahead of them. They’re part of a new team of teachers who united in March to restructure how their K-8 school handles English-language learners and newcomers from foreign countries. Over 50 percent of students there speak English as a nonnative language—a fact that has overwhelmed some mainstream teachers without special training in ELL (English-language learning). The school’s principal and assistant principal don’t have a background in ELL, so teachers with expertise in the subject have stepped up.

“We created the leadership roles for ourselves,” said Stevens-Lopez, who’s entering her eighth year teaching at the school.

The teachers have designed a number of changes, including creating separate classrooms for students who have been in the U.S. for less than 10 months. They’ve also designed a new literacy block for English-language learners in the 5th and 6th grades.

The teacher facilitators will support teachers on how to make sure they’re meeting the needs of their ELL kids. The goal, said Mendoza, is to make sure every teacher is aware of the needs of English-language learners.

“We’re hoping to be a resource for people,” Bowman said.

Fair Haven Principal Margaret-Mary Gethings said the trio will observe other teachers and offer feedback (not as part of the official formal teacher evaluation). The school will look for new ways to measure students’ progress besides the state standardized tests, which kids have to take at grade level, and in English.

Gethings said she’s confident the teacher-led effort will meet a warm reception in the school.

“I’m excited for their empowerment,” she said.

“Our teachers at Fair Haven who don’t have the background in ESL—they’re asking for this.”

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posted by: Brutus2011 on August 21, 2013  11:46am

Very interesting article.

NHPS really needs an initiative to effectively inform the citizenry of its plans and operations.

Hopefully this will be seen as a positive suggestion rather than as a negative.

posted by: NewHavenPublic on August 21, 2013  3:01pm

This is a great opportunity for teachers!


“Gates has held off on awarding New Haven the full grant until after Garth Harries officially became superintendent.”

Did money from Bill Gates influence the selection of Mr. Harries as New Haven Public Schools Superintendent?  In other words, if you don’t pick Garth Harries, you don’t get the money?

posted by: Hooker Mom on August 21, 2013  3:29pm

I believe physical education teacher is the preferred term. The irony that the coach solved the teamwork riddle is lost on me.

From the article I understand these monies come from grants, but I am left wondering how the effectiveness of this week’s training (price tag $160,000) will be measured?

Did the Gates Foundation ever make a public statement as to why they wanted a specific candidate to succeed Superintendant Mayo?

posted by: Raffoneforpresident on August 21, 2013  6:16pm

Dear new have independent,

Scott Raffone is NOT a gym teacher he is best math coach to ever walk the planet. For the record this training was over $160,000. I wonder how all those other gym teachers at this training will review his overly priced AFT-union and Harvard endorsed program. Yale forever! Bring back the real union! Transparency must be real!

posted by: Megan on August 21, 2013  9:02pm

You mean that tenured teachers are skilled professionals who have the firsthand knowledge necessary to improve instruction and change schools for the better? What a refreshing idea! Now if only administrators were compelled to listen to the ideas of these teachers. That would be refreshing indeed.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on August 22, 2013  8:56am

Has Professor Klemmer been certified to teach public school teachers in CT.?

posted by: Teachergal on August 22, 2013  9:11am

Fair Haven Principal Margaret-Mary Gethings said the trio will observe other teachers and offer feedback (not as part of the official formal teacher evaluation).

I feel strongly that observations not be part of their responsibilities unless asked for. NHPS have enough people observing teachers. Let observing be the job of principles and vice principles, God know NH has enough of them. Let these leadership trainees go in and model/coach teachers. All schools have coaches now and they also observe.

Before retirement I considered myself a great teacher and never, ever received written feedback from any evaluator that showed up, clip-board in hand to evaluate me. I guess it was because they had nothing bad to report
BUT as a career teacher it would have been really nice to receive a thumbs
up or comp,iment on something they saw that they liked. I certainly worked many hours at school and at home to create the learning environment and lesson plans to promote excellence for my students.

Just saying…..

posted by: Teachergal on August 22, 2013  9:14am

NewHavenPublic…....hmmmmmm, I was wondering the same thing.

posted by: Brutus2011 on August 22, 2013  10:14am

Our old and absent friend has asked if the good Professor is certified to teach teachers in Ct?

This could be a veiled criticism of the certification regulations imposed by the CtSDE—or not.

Assuming it is not, then I would venture to guess that the Prof is not but it does not matter because teachers are not public school students—but then, that should be obvious.

Then assuming it is, then I would venture to say that regardless of whether you think public school teachers should be certified or not, the current law is that they must.

So, my question to you is: why do you think, if indeed you do, that just anyone (with a degree) can teach?

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on August 22, 2013  10:25am


Your’s is an excellent question and it should not be considered a rhetorical one, by the School Board nor by this publication.

How long has the NHI known that Bill Gates was dangling money over the head of the BOE with the enticement that they hire a particular candidate?  Even if the Board appointed Harries for reasons other than securing the Gate’s funds, it was incumbent on them to reveal to the public that this potential incentive was there while the selection process was still in effect, failing to do so cheapens the selection process even more than it already had been, and is quite possibly unethical.

The failure of the press (this publication in particular*) to reveal this information represents a failure of its commitment to serve as that forth wall of government and erodes our ability to trust it as independent in anything but name only.

*If the NHI did not know about this situation before now, you guys should reveal that in print.  Otherwise you look complicit in a cover up that you are subtly trying to make up for by revealing the information now, after the fact.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on August 22, 2013  2:09pm

“Old”?!  (Et tu, Brute?)

And, why do I think that anyone with a degree can teach?  I don’t!  That’s the point.

Theoretically a degree is a validation that the individual scholar has attained some level of achievement in a particular discipline.  And yet we all know that a certified teacher is not necessarily a qualified teacher.  Isn’t that why private and parochial schools pay no attention to state certifications?  They are meaningless as it relates to quality.

In reality, certification has become merely a way for the current public education complex to maintain control of the labor market for teachers and also to keep charter schools out. 

Bottom line is that if you told an accomplished law school professor that he had to take a year of basic education courses at SCSU before he could enter a public school classroom, you couldn’t pay him enough to become a public school teacher.  (Why not at least offer a “test-out” option as an alternative?)

Before all my “old” friends start to fire up their keyboards and respond with probing thoughtful follow-up questions in an attempt to hoist me on my own logic petard, this entry will be my last post for at least another five to six years. 

“Just when I thought I was out…They pull me back in…” 

- Michael Corleone as portrayed by Silvio Dante.

posted by: Brutus2011 on August 22, 2013  3:27pm

to “Jeff Klaus:”

I, for one, miss your posts and actually agree with some of your views.

Please accept my apologies for offending you.


posted by: David Low on August 22, 2013  6:22pm

Lots to agree with above. If Gates were hanging money over the superintendent decision, that would be a problem.

I would like to clarify a few things:
1) The Gates Foundation never said it was withholding funding the iPD grant until Garth Harries was named superintendent. In fact, New Haven has not been awarded any funding at all.
(see: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2013/07/_httpcollegereadygatesfoundati.html )
The Gates people simply did not want to award money to a district that was in transition, as the application was due in May, decisions were rendered in June, and our superintendent decision was not made until July, they were uncertain as to whether or not the proposal would be followed through after the change in superintendent.
New Haven is trying to make professional learning meaningful and embedded in the teacher day and profession, and the iPD proposal that we put forward sought to address our needs. As such, when we didn’t receive full funding from Gates (we already had the planning grant back in January), we still felt the program we put together was worthwhile enough to pursue in any case. Hence this week’s training (I would choose the word “training” over the words “boot camp”, as training connotes a more professional vision of the teaching profession, and we are attempting to professionalize teaching in New Haven)

2) The total expenditure for the NAATE training is $161,000. A good chunk of that (significant five figures) is to pay for the legal printing (i.e. copyright costs) and use of the excellent materials we have been using during the week’s work.

3) Jeff isn’t old in spirit, which is the only part that matters… :-)

I, too, would love to see a more public communication out of NHPS to the public at large about plans moving forward, and would not be surprised if we see it before long.

posted by: timshortty on August 22, 2013  7:14pm

As a teacher involved in the cohort this week, I have even learned how to improve my own learning, personal development, and reflection of my own practice.  I was able to reflect on my own practice as part of every activity we were engaged in, very powerful.  We have been treated as professionals the entire week, I’m sure many would agree.  I am also grateful for the many opportunities to collaborate with so many great educators.  I just wish all New Haven teachers could have had the same experience we all had.

posted by: True that on August 22, 2013  7:44pm

Seems to me that these folks would have gotten more leadership development if they had the opportunity to work with highly effective school leaders during the school day.  I doubt that anyone training these likely outstanding teachers has ever led a public school.  These teachers don’t need theory, they need research, mentoring, ongoing supports, and an opportunity to lead.  New Haven seems to be having trouble finding ways to spend this money.  Why doesn’t the superintendent supplant three million dollars in New Haven’s operating biudget with 3 million from this 53 million for professional development?  The 3 million dollar surprise deficit would be eliminated with the stroke of a pen.

posted by: nhaventeacher on August 22, 2013  8:53pm

As a teacher here for over a decade, I have been waiting for an opportunity like this one for a very long time.  I feel honored to be a part of it.  Developing opportunities for teachers to develop other teachers is incredibly unique and this training will allow us to create a collaborative culture in our district, which is in the best interests of teachers and students.  THANK YOU!

posted by: Po Etry on August 22, 2013  8:59pm

I’m proud to be one of the teachers in this program, and I applaud the efforts of the iPD committee for bringing this to New Haven. The professional readings and interactive lessons have been engaging and challenging, but nothing has been more rewarding than being among such thoughtful, bright and reflective colleagues. I’ve learned so much from the dynamic discourse of my peers, and I feel better prepared to bring together the colleagues at my school who are thirsting for meaningful and relevant professional learning.

posted by: Tom Burns on August 23, 2013  1:56am

Does anyone really think that Bill Gates knows who Garth Harries is? Of course not—but if he did he would know that he isn’t in the same league with Garth and he would hire him immediately to run his company—this man has proven his mettle over the last 4 years and we are blessed to have someone of his ability willing to lead our school district—following a legend—like Dr. Mayo—meet the man and then decide—not many like him and he wants to meet ALL you parents—so say hello and join the movement—cause we need you and you need us-but we are a team—no blame—just results—such an exciting time—Tom

posted by: TESOL101 on August 27, 2013  8:06pm

Unfortunately,these pilot.teachers have no been in the district long enough to know they are not reinventing the wheel. Many years ago, the NHPS had the traditional ESL coaches. We have literacy and math coaches, yet the district did away with a coach that is needed the most based on student identification.