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The Lexington Institute, a non-profit public policy think tank focused on education reform, has announced that 10 outstanding leaders from across the country have been accepted into the first Lexington Education Leadership Award (LELA) Fellowship. This esteemed group includes Superintendent Rich Merlo of Corcoran Unified School District.

The LELA Fellowship is an exciting and highly selective six-month program designed to expose district superintendents to personalized learning and facilitate the first steps to implementation.


The first fellowship class was picked from districts of all sizes from across the country. Selected leaders in addition to Merlo include: Theron Schutte from Bettendorf Community School District (IA), Dr. Victor P. Hayek from Bridgewater-Raritan Regional (NJ), Ross Kasun from Freehold Township (NJ), Christine Lay from Gettysburg Area (PA), Nancy Allen-Mastro from Independent School District 197 (MN), Gabe Soumakian from Oxnard Union High School District (CA), John F. Albrecht from Wayne-Westland Community Schools (MI), Blane McCann from Westside Community Schools (NE) and Michael S. Kuhrt from Wichita Falls ISD (TX).


Chosen for the strength of their vision, the existence of key conditions for success and their passion to implement personalized learning, the Lexington Institute is excited about the large-scale impact. Through this fellowship over 100,000 students and 10,000 teachers and leaders will experience learning intended to meet their needs.


“We are honored to work with such a distinguished group of leaders,” said Don Soifer, executive director of the Lexington Institute. “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to support them as they transform their districts.”


The LELA fellowship is an immersive experience to support each district’s vision for personalized learning as well as resources to create a strategic framework for implementation. It kicks off with a specialized track at the Education Elements’ National PL Summit, to be held May 7 and 8, 2015, in San Jose. The program also includes school visits, access to district leaders in the field discussing their work, as well as key personalized learning through leaders sharing perspectives. Leaders will also receive technical assistance and strategic resources and support to develop a custom PL Framework and access to the online LELA Community of Practice forum. The fellowship culminates with a celebration dinner and awards ceremony in Washington DC for LELA Fellows with nationally recognized personalized learning speakers.


LELA fellows will be paired up with experienced personalized learning mentors giving their time to support superintendents to strategize and implement a successful rollout. Among the mentors are Cindy Ambrose, James Bailey and Ken Eastwood. Ambrose, CAO of Horry County Schools in South Carolina currently oversees a transition to personalization ultimately impacting 40,000 students. Dr. Bailey, superintendent of Uinta County Schools in Wyoming as well as Wyoming Association of State Administration president, is moving his whole district to personalized learning. Finally, Eastwood, at Race to the Top district Middletown, New York, is leading an opt-in personalized learning strategy in which most of his elementary teachers have opted in to this innovative style of teaching.


“I am grateful for and looking forward to the opportunity to learn from experts and practitioners in a very relevant topic of personalized learning,” said Merlo. “Our teachers and school leaders have developed an awareness of how technology tools are essential for student learning in their existing and future worlds. Understanding and implementing personalized learning environments for students will help our staff take our students to that next level of learning and achieving academically along with building 21st Century Learning Skills.”


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