Gold Medal Awards honor Council for Educational Change
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce last year gave a NOVO award to the Council for Educational Change, or CEC, in recognition of the vision and execution of its Career Awareness Leadership Forum. NOVO awards highlight the best practices of not-for-profit businesses that make a difference in the populations they serve.
This distinction led to the selection of CEC as one of the winners in the Gold Medal Awards for institutions. The ranking of winners within the category will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held when the current pandemic recedes.
The CEC was the brainchild of the late Leonard Miller, co-founder of Lennar and a well-known activist in education, among other causes, says Elaine Liftin, CEC’s president & executive director.
“Mr. Miller believed that principal leadership is the catalyst to ignite school improvement and student success,” she says. “When principals run a successful school, their students benefit.”
More and more, she says, students have very little idea of the diverse options that will be available to them after they graduate, while businesses face a lack of skilled employees to hire. Mr. Miller’s idea was to address the gap between workforce needs and education by engaging successful business leaders to mentor school leaders.
CEC has three primary goals, Dr. Liftin says: to raise the grade level of Florida’s under-performing schools, to enhance principal leadership skills, and to demonstrate how a partnership model involving business executives, principals and educational coaches builds higher-achieving schools.
CEC’s Career Awareness Leadership Forum program forms partnerships between industry experts and schools. The expert shares up-to-date information about his or her field with a team made up of school leaders, including the principal and other faculty as well as student leaders.
School principals receive one-on-one mentoring in such leadership skills as strategic planning, problem solving, team building and innovative thinking. School principals, Dr. Liftin says, are traditionally trained as educators. But in fact, “a principal is a CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation. It’s not just instruction; it’s a whole variety of functions. When you add leadership skills that you get from a business leader and you embed them with that school leadership, you really get successes.”
Guidance counselors learn about emerging job opportunities and the skills that will be necessary for employment.
Student leaders, who may participate in such activities as site visits to see workers in action, are able to go back and share what they have learned with their peers.
In this way, Dr. Liftin says, “whatever the team does gets communicated throughout the entire school. Students don’t listen to parents or teachers, but they do listen to their friends.”
Informed students will be in a better position to take advantage of other opportunities.
“Career fairs are okay,” Dr. Liftin says, “but the timing has to be right. Otherwise, kids tend to look for which booth has the best little tchotchkes to give away. But if they already have some idea of what’s available in the health industry or technology, they have something they can latch onto.”
Over the past 20 years, CEC has established more than 600 business-education partnerships in Florida, interacting with more than 1.5 million students.