Highlighting the Perronze-Sizer Institute: Megan Bird

Between now and May 15 (the deadline to apply for next year's class at the Perrone-Sizer Institute) we'll be highlighting some of our fabulous PSI graduates and partners! Next up is Megan Bird, the Regional Executive Director of Citizen Schools in Boston, which is a partner of PSI. Keep reading to find out how PSI has contributed to the development of Megan's program staff.

How has the experience at PSI impacted your program?
PSI has been a transformational professional development experience for two of our emerging leaders. Their work has impacted our model and strategy and has served as a critical talent development and retention strategy. Lydia Cochrane was the first member of my team to participate in PSI. She joined Citizen Schools as an Americorps Teaching Fellow right after graduating from college and when she completed her service she was promoted to be a Deputy Campus Director for our new partnership at the Brown Middle School in Chelsea. Lydia participated in the PSI during her third year as the Deputy Campus Director. Lydia was going into year five in her tenure at Citizen Schools, year three in her current position and we all agreed she was ready for promotion the following year. PSI was the perfect opportunity to push her to the next level. She gained a network of mentors and colleagues outside of Citizen Schools and access to education and civic leaders from the greater boston community. She had built in time and support to reflect on her experience and clarify her values, leadership identity and what was most important to her. She identified a problem of practice that was deeply connected to her school community and aligned seamlessly with the goals and mission of Citizen Schools. I have known Lydia for several years and have always been impressed by her development each year as an educator and a leader. During her participation in PSI I was struck by the great leaps and bounds she made in skill and confidence. She presented her problem of practice and action plan to her school community, our Citizen Schools team and to our national leadership. It has truly been the most impactful professional development experience on any leader at our organization I have experienced in my ten years at Citizen Schools. 

In what ways has PSI prepared your staff for the work they do?
My staff have more tools at their disposal when they encounter a challenge, greater depth of knowledge and understanding of the complex system within which they work and an awareness of the potential and need for partnerships outside their organization. Above all they have greater self confidence and clarity around who they are as leaders. 

Why is PSI an effective way to develop leaders in your context?
PSI creates a community of practice for leaders who are often isolated at their site and burdened by a demanding schedule that leaves little time for reflection or strategic thinking. The very personal investment of the PSI professors is evident. The close relationships the professors have built with my staff have been just as important as the content and classes. My staff gained new mentors and access to some of the greatest leaders and thinkers in Boston through the many guest speakers who join the program. They have a broader perspective and new insight into our city and the complex forces at play in education that profoundly impact their programs and schools. They were forced to delve deep into a problem of practice that was impacting their community, design new approaches to this problem and undergo rigorous refinement and feedback cycles to improve their idea. The end result was an increase in confidence, self awareness and the implementation of an idea that they were personally invested in executing.