Above, EXCeL graduate Mary Lu Camacho with her mentor, Michael Romero, and Superintendent Michelle King.

By Mary Lu Camacho
Strategic Instructional Applications Administrator
My Integrated Student Information System

“Congratulations!  We are pleased to confirm that you have been accepted to participate in the Executive Certificated Leadership Development Program (EXCeL).”

When I read the acceptance letter, I felt like a high school senior getting accepted into college. I was excited, honored, humbled, worried, and anxious.

 EXCeL – which is sponsored by the Human Resources Division, Professional Learning and Leadership Development Branch – provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for worthwhile professional development and true personal growth. This pilot program was the brainchild of Superintendent Michelle King, with the goal of identifying and mentoring the executive leaders of tomorrow.

During the year-long program, participants engage in 40 hours of face-to-face professional development, and 45 hours of reflection activities, readings and shadowing opportunities.

We had the opportunity to hear from District leaders who shared their insights and experience and offered guidance. The following is a list of the top 10 pieces of advice on leadership given by some of the executive leaders supporting this program:

  1. Leave it better than you found it.
  2. Be who you are; be honest.
  3. Do the right thing.
  4. Take time to build relationships.
  5. Communicate, collaborate and connect.
  6. Hold on to ideals and principles.
  7. Always keep the “Why?” in mind.
  8. Believe in the mission.
  9. Be a model, not a critic.
  10. Leadership is about “passionate advocacy.”

Each participant was assigned a mentor, and I was fortunate to be paired with Michael Romero, executive director in the Office of the Superintendent. He provided feedback on my homework assignments and kept in touch throughout the year-long program. I also shadowed him, which gave me the opportunity to participate in the superintendent’s “Listen and Learn Tour,” part of the process in creating the District’s three-year Strategic Plan.

Last summer, I also had the good fortune to spend a day with then-Chief Financial Officer Megan Riley, who shared information about the District’s financial strategies.

One of the assignments required by this program was to create a leadership presentation. Here is an excerpt from my project, Pursuing the Path to Leadership:

In high school, my best friend, Connie, and I took the same college prep classes and competed with each other to get the top grades.  We both had the same goal of going to college.  When it came time to apply, I sought out my counselor for guidance. With my hopes up high I walked into his office and asked him for information on applying to college.  To my surprise his response was, “You don’t have what it takes to go to college!”  I thought to myself “Why not? If Connie is able to apply, why not me?  Was it because of my color?”  I felt like he had taken away all of my dreams with just one sentence. This made me sad and angry and I swore that nothing would stop me. I would research for myself and apply.  This created resilience in me to follow my goals despite the roadblocks. I learned a valuable lesson- don’t always believe that others have your best interest at heart even though they have a position of power.  I developed my first leadership quality – PASSION.

 Although I do not work with them on a daily basis, students are still my passion.  My work today has an indirect impact on students and a direct impact on school staff that work with students.

Whatever my next position of leadership may be, it is my goal to influence others so that they may do what’s best for kids.  My last leadership quality – INSPIRING.

 With the qualities that I have developed:

  1. Passion
  2. Determination
  3. Listening
  4. Principles
  5. Commitment
  6. Communication
  7. Responsibility
  8. Strength
  9. Integrity
  10. Inspiring

 I hope to become a great leader who inspires leadership in others.

I am thankful for the mentors I have had and especially for my current mentor, Diane Pappas, chief executive officer of Strategic Planning and Digital Innovation, who demonstrates the importance of strong moral character and ethical principles.  It is because of her recommendation that I participated in the EXCeL program.

I salute Michelle King, along with former PLLD chief Linda Del Cueto; PLLD Director Ileana Dávalos; and Marilyn Fuller, manager of Personnel Research and Analysis and Administrative Selection. They provided a unique program to help current leaders of today grow into executive leaders of tomorrow.