Erica Bonilla, a contracts analyst, wanted to increase her confidence when presenting bid specs to contractors. Meanwhile Ferdows Fazeli, a planning project manager, sought to improve her communications skills, especially in tense situations.
Both Bonilla and Fazeli say the 56-hour leadership program they recently completed gave them those skills and so much more. The seven all-day training sessions focused on topics such as communications, ethics, customer service, supervision, strategic planning and organizational management.
The pair are among 15 recent graduates of LBUSD Business Department's Leadership Program developed by district executive team members.
Professional development for teachers interested in becoming principals has long been available at Long Beach Unified School District. But it’s only in the last two years that a formal professional leadership program has been offered to Business Department staff.
Among recent graduates were employees from Nutrition Services, Grounds, Purchasing, Duplicating, Technology, Fiscal Services, Operations, Maintenance, Transportation and Facilities.
"One of the most important things I learned was how not to react but to listen and be more attentive to what others are saying," said Fazeli. Bonilla noted that she is now more flexible in her communications style, focusing on how to address different audiences in different ways.
"I started out as a high school Spanish teacher, so I have not had formal training in the business side of things," Bonilla said. "Now that I have some background and new skills, I feel more confident in my job."
To demonstrate their learning, each leadership participant was required to complete a research project and make a brief, concise presentation to the group.
Bonilla's project centered on the many versions of logos, typefaces and colors used by various schools. "I identified how school mascots and names could be standardized so they would have a more readily identifiable and cohesive public identity," she explained.
Meanwhile, Fazeli's project involved surveying 620 students from elementary, middle and high schools to ask them what impact campus facilities have on their learning. The results were then incorporated into the new revised Education Specifications which will inform the way bond projects will be designed in the future.
Fazelli said, "My project provided students an opportunity in the creation of future schools."
Even with 20 years of experience in architectural design, Fazeli said some of what students said surprised her. "Many said they wanted bigger classrooms, more space to move around," she noted. "Their input is valuable to us as we move forward with school renovation and building."
Fazeli holds a master's degree in architecture from the University of Science and Technology in Tehran, Iran. A licensed architect, she worked in the private and non-profit sectors before joining LBUSD’s bond program team two years ago.
A graduate of Cal State Long Beach, Bonilla worked in the district's Business Department for 10 years prior to joining facilities as a contract analyst for companies bidding on bond projects.