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Corcoran Unified School District Superintendent Rich Merlo has joined the inaugural graduating class of the Lexington Leadership Award Fellowship (LELA). Merlo was one of 10 top education leaders from across the nation selected to participate in the fellowship program, sponsored by the Lexington Institute.

The 10 accepted their awards Oct. 14. The award fellowship was designed to support districts in their efforts to personalize learning. Each of the 10 districts made significant strides in developing and codifying their vision and laying out their strategies for moving forward.


The LELA showcase and celebration included a tour of Washington, D.C. public school’s Randall Highlands Elementary School, a meeting at the U.S. Education Department and a workshop held at Lincoln’s Cottage. Each leader shared his or her vision for personalized learning and received feedback from the group.


Selected from over 50 applicants, Merlo and other district leaders represented a cross section of the country. Each leader was selected based on the strength of their vision, their passion for improving student outcomes through personalized learning and their capacity to lead sustainable change at their districts..


“When we started this journey six months ago I knew I would have the chance to engage with some great leaders,” said Don Soifer, executive director of the Lexington Institute. “What happened has exceeded my expectations and I am so honored to be able to graduate from this fellowship such a talented group that is doing such important work for their districts. Without exception, every leader has been incredible to work with.”


The fellowship program was intensive and each leader dedicated significant time to developing, codifying and communicating their vision. Over the course of the last six months, the first class of LELA fellows attended the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit and received support and guidance from


the Ed Elements team through onsite meetings with their district teams, bi-weekly support and coaching calls and cross-district workshops. Fellows also received mentorship and support from pioneers in personalized learning from across the country.


“The LELA Fellowship experience has been a great learning experience for me as a leader on multiple levels,” noted Merlo. “The effects are already evident in its influence on our staff leadership team and how we will be able to provide as an educational institution the type of teaching and learning for students that is relevant and effective.”


The first cohort of LELA fellows will become part of an alumni network and have access to additional professional development opportunities. The second cohort of fellows will be selected in December from a group of 27 finalists attending the iNACOL online and blended learning symposium in Orlando, Florida, in November.



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