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BOCES Holds Leadership Event Encouraging More Female Superintendents

A retreat was recently held in Briarcliff encouraging more women to be superintendents.
A retreat was recently held in Briarcliff encouraging more women to be superintendents. Photo Credit: Contributed

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- The New York State Council of School Superintendents and BOCES would like to see more female superintendents.

According to a survey, 76 percent of teachers nationally are women yet only 27 percent are school superintendents.

Jazz Conroy, general counsel of the New York State Council of School Superintendents and Lynn Allen, assistant superintendent of Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES recently organized a "Supporting Women in Educational Leadership" retreat at the Edith Macy Conference Conference Center in Briarcliff.

Attendees included superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, assistant principals and others. Participants explored best practices for mentoring and being mentored in the workplace.

Deborah O’Connell, assistant superintendent at Croton-Harmon, urged attendees to think about the qualities of a truly good mentor.

“Instead of trying to find and define a mentor, look at the landscape, know where you want to go and look for the resources who will help move you forward,” said O’Connell. “If you excel at defining your goals, the mentor will follow.”

O'Connell also said women have to get better at sponsoring one another. That means highlighting a female colleague’s accomplishments and skills and providing access and opportunity for her to advance.

Frances Wills, superintendent of Putnam Valley, and Diana Bowers, superintendent of Haldane School District, led a session on the critical need for courage in leadership. Wills spoke about taking inspiration from female leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt and Anne Frank when she needs courage to tackle a situation.

Conboy said she was motivated to do something to support women in leadership not only by the lack of female school leaders but by the stories she heard from female superintendents who seemed to face more hostility in their positions than their male counterparts.

“I was hearing from superintendents who required a police escort after board meetings,” she said. “I thought we need to do something to change the landscape. We need to do more to support women in leadership, to identify, cultivate and develop leadership potential in women educators.”

BOCES said a second retreat will be held at a later date.

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