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Education Policy Fellowship Program

Historical Background:  The Michigan EPFP Program

In the early seventies, two prominent educators with the Lansing Public Schools--Superintendent Carl Candoli and Deputy Superintendent Matthew Prophet--identified several critical needs in the area of education. First, they realized that educational institutions in Michigan could no longer afford to operate in isolation. According to Prophet, there was a significant need to start establishing linkages with other institutions, particularly because it was getting harder to distinguish where the responsibilities of schools left off and those of other institutions began. It was becoming clear, said Prophet, that a variety of institutions--not just schools--were responsible for children’s education, health, safety, and well being.

"...educational institutions in Michigan could no longer afford to operate in isolation. "

A second pressing need was that there was a critical shortage of bright and talented individuals--particularly minorities and women--who were prepared to work in urban school settings. This urgent need was brought home to Candoli and Prophet when they arrived in Lansing and found that there were 4,000 Hispanic students in their school district but no Spanish-speaking administrators. It also was unclear whether the state’s colleges and universities were willing or prepared to develop a larger pool of qualified minority candidates.

The third problem was that educators in Michigan and across the country were too parochial in their understanding of what other educational institutions were doing to improve the quality and delivery of education. Absent a mechanism for learning about other programs, school personnel often ended up making decisions in a vacuum. They also had very little understanding of the policymaking process at the national level and, therefore, were unaware of the possible ramifications that policy changes could have on their profession.

In an effort to address these specific needs, Candoli and Prophet met with Keith Goldhammer, then Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University (MSU), and explained the situation. The Dean agreed with the educators’ assessment of the problem but was unsuccessful in persuading the University to get involved with finding viable solutions. Thus, Candoli and Prophet began exploring other avenues. Ideally, they wanted to develop a program that would:

  1. provide promising young people with the leadership training they needed to work effectively in urban school settings,
  2. provide a forum through which the education community could establish collaborative relationships with other institutions, and
  3. provide an opportunity for Michigan educators to network with their peers in- and outside of the state and explore the process of formulating education policy.

Candoli’s and Prophet’s previous affiliations with senior officers at the Institute of Educational Leadership (IEL) in Washington, D.C., proved valuable. When discussing their concerns with Sam Halperin, then Director of IEL, he suggested that they consider becoming a state EPFP site. He explained that the networking component of the EPFP could enhance information-sharing among educators, the collaborative component could be used to open doors with other non-educational institutions, and the leadership component could be focused specifically on preparing young people for leadership positions within the Lansing School District. Candoli and Prophet liked the EPFP concept so much that they decided it would be the ideal program to address their diverse needs.

According to Candoli, the early years of the program were even more successful than he had hoped. Those outside of the process attribute that success, in large part, to the unique skills and experiences of its early leaders. For example, Candoli, who had been instrumental in forming the desegregation plan for the Chicago Public Schools, knew how important it was to create a cadre of qualified educators who were tolerant, able to deal with diversity, and willing to find strengths in all students regardless of their race or ethnic background. This sensitivity was particularly important as Lansing embarked on its own court-ordered desegregation plan in the early 1970s. Prophet, who was in the military and spent most of his career studying effective leadership styles, knew it was critical to have a formal leadership training program for educators instead of allowing them to arrive in leadership positions simply by chance. Together these two were a formidable team, and many believe it was their dedication and commitment to educational development that was responsible for the program’s early success.

The Michigan EPFP site also had tremendous support from some key players, including IEL leaders Sam Halperin, Paul Schindler, Betty Hale, and Mike Usdan. John Porter, then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was another key supporter of the program. Recognizing the importance of staff development, he began signing up Department of Education employees to participate in the EPFP and, thus, cemented the agency’s commitment to sponsoring fellows.

Although the EPFP thrived in the early years under the leadership of Candoli and Prophet, it was inevitable that the two men would eventually move on. The first move came in 1978, when Candoli left the Lansing Public Schools. That year, an EPFP fellow from the 1975-76 class became the third coordinator--Argelio Ben Perez. Perez, whom Candoli himself had recruited from the City of Lansing, agreed as part of his employment with the school district to participate in the EPFP as a fellow and use his skills within the District in an administrative position; thus, he became an early success story on how the program could identify talented young people, train them, and put them in positions of leadership. Three years later, Prophet also moved on and Dan Schultz--an EPFP alum from the 1976-77 class--joined Perez as coordinator of the Michigan program. Today, these two individuals continue to lead the program.

"The program today has a much more diverse group of fellows from a wider variety of sponsoring organizations."

Of course, Perez and Schultz also brought unique strengths and talents to the program which helped it flourish and expand in scope. Like Prophet, Perez spent a great deal of time studying effective leadership styles, team building, and group dynamics. These interests translated into a heavier emphasis within EPFP on leadership development activities and spurred the administration of personality and leadership assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory. Perez also staunchly believed that, while the lecture model was beneficial, fellows should spend more time practicing what they learned and less time listening to others; this belief resulted in more off-site visits and interactive work sessions. In addition, Perez assumed a leading role in the development of IEL’s Leadership Forum embedding these ideas in the annual national conferences.

Schultz's strengths and interests also had a profound effect on the evolution of the Michigan program. Most notably, his experience working in the Michigan Department of Education--a large, complex organization--made him cognizant of the need for collaboration among agencies. In fact, it was his extensive contacts within state government that enabled the program to move beyond traditional education-related organizations and agencies and start recruiting fellows from human services agencies, non-profits, and the private sector. His contacts with policymakers also helped the program broaden the policy issues that were discussed at EPFP seminars and expand the number and kinds of speakers selected. More recently, Schultz’s professional interest in technology has translated into a greater emphasis on the role of computers and telecommunications in building communities and supporting leadership development.

Under the leadership of Perez and Schultz, the Michigan EPFP has continually evolved. The program today has a much more diverse group of fellows from a wider variety of sponsoring organizations. The focus of the program has also been expanded considerably to include not only education issues but also human service and other broader public policy concerns. This trend has continued with the addition of Jacquelyn Thompson as a coordinator in 1998.


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