The Million-Dollar Grant

When Dr. Jennifer E. Dale of Maryland’s Worcester County Public Schools started coursework for her Ed.D. at WilmU, she knew her research would be personally meaningful. What she didn’t know was its monetary value. Now, her work colleagues have a million reasons to thank her.

The Maryland State Department of Education announced in 2014 that it was releasing a competitive systems change grant focusing on narrowing gaps for certain populations in school systems, and one state school system would be awarded $1 million to make a meaningful change. Dale made it her mission to earn it. Thanks to her leadership of the grant writing team, the Worcester County Public Schools claimed the 2014 Bridges for Systems Change grant.

“I decided to use the research that I had already done with my executive position paper (dissertation) to write the grant,” says Dale. “I put that research into practice by devising an implementation plan for my district to narrow the achievement gap and disproportionate placement of African-American students receiving special education services.”

Dale attributes much of her success to the leadership development plan that all Ed.D. students create at the start of their programs, and then tweak as they progress through coursework. “I began this journey as a fourth grade teacher,” she says, “in which I was able to develop my teacher leadership capacity in and out of the classroom. As I gained recognition, the focus of my plan changed to improving myself as a distributive and instructional leader.”

Dale’s plan enhanced her knowledge of collaboration, curriculum, instruction and assessment, and she earned two promotions as a result: as a district-level instructional coach, then as a coordinator of instruction in the special education department.

“I have grown tremendously as a professional over the time I have been enrolled in the educational leadership program at Wilmington University,” says Dale. “I used a combination of rigorous coursework, practical internship activities and a personal improvement plan to help me improve my leadership ability and professional status.

“I plan on continuing the process of improving and adjusting my leadership plan in an effort to further my career and my leadership capacity.” WU