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Aspiring Building Leader program names second cohort after successful launch

Aspiring Building Leader program names second cohort after successful launch

Aspiring Building Leader groupThe second cohort has been named for the WPS Aspiring Leader Program which aims to create a pool of highly-qualified and well-trained instructional and relational leaders that stand ready to apply for consideration for any future building leader vacancies.

Participants in the second cohort are:

  • Charlie Bartsch, English teacher, Northwest High School
  • Jane Bunn, science teacher, Coleman Middle School
  • Lauren Coston, instructional coach, Robinson Middle School
  • Jennifer Gilstrap, instructional coach, Horace Mann K8 Dual Language Magnet
  • Janet Houk, instructional coach, Cloud Elementary School
  • Shamela Jackson, behavior intervention specialist, Spaght Science and Communications Magnet Elementary
  • Jose Martinez, interrelated teacher, West High School
  • Ashley Mills, math intervention teacher, Truesdell Middle School
  • Quan Nguyen, kindergarten teacher, Dodge Literacy Magnet
  • Baxter Schmidt, fifth-grade teacher, Riverside Leadership Magnet Elementary
  • Zach Sims, data leader, Stucky Middle School
  • Katherine Skinner, ESOL teacher, Christa McAuliffe Academy
  • Christina Swedberg, vocal music teacher, Christa McAuliffe Academy
  • Eric Torres, student success advocate, Curtis Middle School
  • Jennifer Wright, instructional coach, L’Ouverture Career Exploration and Technology Magnet Elementary

The program provides semester-long coursework delivered by district leaders, building leaders and external educational experts.

For the past three years, USD 259 has worked with the Wallace Foundation to create intentional processes for recruitment, selection, professional growth and retention of  building administrators. This collaboration has provided resources and guidance that have been instrumental in the creation of our leadership pipeline.

The first cohort, held in the fall of 2021, resulted in several participants being placed in leadership positions. Nine of the 15 participants are now serving as assistant principals throughout the district; three were placed as administrative interns.

Julie Wilks, who taught at several WPS schools for 19 years and served as an instructional coach at Woodman Elementary School for seven years, is in her first year as an assistant principal at White Elementary School after completing the program.

“Going into administration has been a long-time personal goal,” said Wilks. “Since I completed my master’s in School Leadership several years ago, the ABL program was a perfect fit for me. It provided a great way to gain a better understanding of what goes into being an administrator. The knowledge and information offered, and the relationships we built within the cohort, gave us an advanced knowledge base. Learning what goes into being a leader, as well as the resources and connections within the district that we can draw on if we have questions will be priceless.”

Chris Wendt, WPS executive director of elementary education and a co-leader of the program, says he’s excited about the success of the Cohort 1 participants and is ready to continue the work of the ABL program with Cohort 2.

“We got some great feedback from the Cohort 1 participants,” Wendt says.  “We will use the feedback from Cohort 1 to make adjustments to our program to better serve our future cohorts.

Applications for the third cohort will be open in early 2023. More information on the program can be found at