University collaboration with Lowell Public Schools promotes advancement from within

January 18, 2022
Student teaching at McKay Arts Academy

Lowell Public Schools is continuing to build its “farm team,” growing future leaders from within through its long-standing partnership with Fitchburg State University. 

The Lowell Teacher Academy, a collaboration between the Lowell Public Schools and the United Teachers of Lowell, was created in 2005 to support new and experienced educators through mentorship and professional development opportunities. Since its inception, LTA has partnered with Fitchburg State to provide a Masters in Curriculum and Teaching Program to qualified Lowell Public School (LPS) staff.  

Surveys and discussions with staff revealed they were clamoring for a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies Program (CAGS) to be offered through the LTA.

Their wish was granted. This spring, the LTA in partnership with Fitchburg State is offering a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Educational Leadership and Management, a non-licensure program, for Lowell Public School staff interested in becoming administrators. 

“We are grateful to Fitchburg State for this opportunity to allow staff to prepare themselves for future leadership roles within our district,” said Lowell Teacher Academy Director Pina Maggio.

“This program marks another important milestone in our continuing collaboration with the Lowell Public Schools,” said Fitchburg State Dean of Education and Interim Dean of Business Nancy Murray. “The educators who take advantage of this opportunity will be well-prepared for leadership roles within the district and beyond.”

“Lowell school administrators have seen the value of providing professional development opportunities for their teachers, whose classroom experiences will be complemented by the skills they acquire through their CAGS coursework,” Dean of Graduate, Online and Continuing Education Becky Copper Glenz said. “We are pleased we can continue creating these opportunities for Lowell’s educators and students.”

There are two cohorts in the two-year program, each with 25 Lowell Public Schools staff members. The first cohort starts this spring and the other will begin in the fall.

“I have been looking for a CAGS program for many years but they are always so expensive,” said Liz Borrelli, a special education teacher at the Rogers STEM Academy in Lowell, who has been accepted into the program. “I was so excited when Lowell said they had finally partnered with Fitchburg State to offer a CAGS program in house! Ultimately, I would love to become an assistant principal in Lowell. Becoming an administrator would allow me to have a greater reach at supporting students and their families.” 

Fitchburg State University offers a special rate for the program for LPS staff members, who are also eligible for tuition reimbursement from the school district. Courses will be taught by Lowell Public School administrators, in Lowell. 

One of those instructors is Lowell Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Billie Jo Turner, who is looking forward to providing an insight into the day-to-day workings of a school district business office.

“I thought this was an opportunity to teach our district leaders more about school finance in a fashion that would be most beneficial to them,” Turner said.  “Rather than just teach strictly from a textbook that talks about the history of school finance and such, I want to mirror the instruction to what a true-life business office does and how it impacts the district leaders and their roles.  In other words, I wanted to simplify the topic and make it more relevant to the impact of school finance on their roles.”