By Paul Dobbyn
CALIFORNIA’S Echo Horizon School, with its 10 per cent population of deaf and hard of hearing children, provided a valuable learning experience for 23 Catholic education leaders from across Queensland and New South Wales.
The leaders visited the Los Angeles Apple Distinguished school in May as part of a five-phase program organised by Brisbane-based Queensland Education Leadership Institute (QELi).
The benchmarking study tour formed part of the QELi Executive Development for Educational Leaders program, customised for Catholic school leaders and hosted by Brisbane Catholic Education.
The 10-day tour, as well as stopping at several learning institutes in California, also visited Ontario, Canada.
QELi’s tour arranger Tom Robertson said the educational leaders had reported two key issues coming out of the visit to Echo Horizon School.
“First Echo Horizon’s ethos of integrating students with a disability permeated the very fabric of the school – it was written into its charter,” he said.
“Also the remarkable extent to which technology permeated the school was frequently commented on.
“For example, every fifth and sixth grader at the school is provided with a laptop computer for use at school and home.
“This technology is used for such exercises as making iMovies to present research findings, sharing information globally with video-conferencing and reporting on school events with podcasts.”
Program facilitator Phil Billington described the tour as “an amazing and rewarding experience, both professionally and personally, for participants”.
“We were overwhelmed by the hospitality and the generous sharing of time and expertise from all of our hosts and their teams,” she said.
“Our delegates had the unique opportunity to observe different approaches to a range of educational challenges, and discuss specific strategic priorities, and successes across teaching, leadership and faith initiatives with teachers, school leaders and regional teams.”
During the United States leg of the study tour, delegates also spoke with education leaders from prominent schools and universities, including University of California and The School of Arts and Enterprise (The SAE).
One of the highlights from the group’s time in Canada was a workshop hosted by eminent author and educational leadership expert Dr Kenneth Leithwood, researcher Catherine McCullough and Assistant Deputy Minister of Leadership and Learning with Ontario Ministry of Education Dr John Malloy.
The study tour was the third phase of a five-phase educational leadership program.
Phase 1 and 2 involved reading, preparation and workshops in February and March in the lead-up to the tour.
The education leaders are preparing position papers incorporating learnings from the tour.
An overview of the position papers will be delivered in a wrap-up of the program from August 31 to September 2.
QELi was formed in 2010 under the State Government to build better leadership capacity in the current and future group of leaders in Queensland schools.
A major push in 2015 has been the rolling out of leadership programs in Catholic schools throughout Australia.
QELi chief executive officer and program designer Dr Stephen Brown said the institute was “delighted to be working in partnership with Catholic education on this ground-breaking, year-long executive leadership development program”.
“We are confident that, over the course of the program, each of these leaders will solidify their leadership capabilities and apply their learnings to independently researched position papers that will shape significant complexities within their schools and dioceses,” he said.
“The bottom line is we have to have the best programs and best leaders if our kids are going to get the best opportunities.”