District partnerships showcase the power of collaboration
For the twelve years that Lynn Larsen has been a faculty member for Brandman University, the last six as associate dean, she has worked in various ways with the Moreno Valley Unified School District. However, it wasn’t until Dr. Judy White came on board as superintendent and Dr. Martinrex Kedziora took on the role as Chief Academic Officer that the partnership flourished.
“We had always been welcomed to talk about our programs and occasionally provide professional development, but the relationship had never been formalized,” said Larsen. All that changed when White and Kedziora came on board and Christine Zeppos took over as the School of Education dean. The dean’s understanding of the importance of partnerships between Brandman and local school districts led to an emphasis on faculty seeking out opportunities to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), outlining and formalizing these important collaborations.
With the dean’s encouragement, Larsen contacted the MVUSD leadership and found they were very receptive to the idea. After several meetings, it was decided that the partnership would focus on a class sponsorship and professional development for Butterfield Elementary, in addition to providing support for restarting the district’s participation in Odyssey of the Mind, an international creativity competition for which Larsen is the volunteer state director.
In the years since the MOU was signed, the collaboration has provided many unique opportunities for teachers, parents, students, and faculty. MVUSD has had numerous teams compete in Odyssey of the Mind, and teachers received professional development from Dr. Raymond Hurst in inquiry-based learning strategies. In addition, Dr. Nicole Schneider provided two workshops for Butterfield teachers about writing strategies for English Language Learners. Larsen and Butterfield’s principal, Jon Black, presented at the WASC ARC conference about their collaborative efforts, and she also serves on the district’s strategic planning committee, which has provided input for the districts LCAP budget process. MVUSD recently recognized Larsen’s efforts at a school board meeting.
Of the partnership, Kedziora said, “Dr. Larsen has been a wealth of support to our school district. We could not have accomplished our accelerated results in all areas of student achievement without her assistance. Our students are now involved in Odyssey of the Mind and extending their learning due to her vision and leadership. Dr. Larsen was a critical team player in the development of our strategic plan and our LCAP plan. We feel very fortunate to have her knowledge and guidance at every meeting. We cannot thank her enough as she makes an impact every time she associates her skills with our district.”
White added, “When I think about the relationship that Brandman University has with Moreno Valley Unified School District, I am reminded of service from the heart and synergy. The partnership makes us better and supports our areas of need. I am so grateful that opportunities for students, teacher capacity and organizational excellence continues to evolve through our partnership. Dr. Lynn Larsen has helped us to maximize resources and build our gifted program.”
Through the dean’s vision and leadership, and School of Education faculty taking up the charge, these types of partnerships are benefiting students, teachers, parents, and Brandman across the state.
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