A year-end luncheon celebrated the difference that Instructional Leadership Teams — small groups of teacher-leaders — are making at all the schools throughout the district. Above is the team from School No. 2, and below is the Soehl Middle School team.

soehl ILT posing for photo

By Gary Miller

Members of the Instructional Leadership Teams from all the Linden Public Schools gathered for an end-of-year celebration on Thursday, June 21, to reflect on what they’ve accomplished throughout the school year.

The ILTs, which were instituted in the 2016-17 school year, are made up of about 10 teachers from each school. With the guidance of Assistant Superintendent Denise Cleary, Supervisor of Data and Assessment Dariusz Kondratowicz, and Instructional Coach Reina Irizarry-Clark, the teams break down assessment data and study innovative teaching methods, passing the information and techniques on to colleagues at their respective schools.

supervisors posing for photo

Supervisor of Data and Assessment Dariusz Kondratowicz and Instructional Coach Reina Irizarry-Clark

“ILT members are making a difference throughout the district,” Cleary said. “Through professional development, data analysis and sharing best practice, they are establishing cultures within the schools that support collaboration and promote student achievement. Every ILT member is a valuable resource and their work is to be commended.”


The teams have taken part in several memorable programs throughout the year, starting with “Data and Desserts” prior to the start of school, when they studied and broke down assessment data – with some sweet treats to help it go down easier. Throughout the year they had several inspiring professional development sessions, including visits by innovative educators including Dr. Tracey Severns, who met with teachers to discuss the importance of leveraging high impact instructional strategies; Dr. Stefani Hite, who discussed the use of methodologies with the greatest impact on student achievement; and Harvey Silver, who introduced classroom techniques that inspire critical thinking in students.

In April and May, middle school and elementary school teachers took part in “Learning Walks,” in which volunteers from the ILTs modeled new instructional techniques, and their colleagues came into their classrooms to watch them in action, while observing and talking with students.

The ILT approach gives schools instructional leaders beyond just the principal, and allows educators to learn in a collaborative way from peers whom they trust and feel comfortable with.

“We begin our ILT meetings by reviewing the mission of the Linden Public Schools,” said Irizarry-Clark. “It is when we review and reflect on the mission, of ensuring our commitment to instructional excellence so that each and every student achieves their maximum potential, that we consider how we as a team can ensure we are fulfilling the mission.”

ILT year-end luncheon

ILT members listening to Assistant Superintendent Denise Cleary during the end-of-year celebration at the Academy of Excellence.

At Thursday’s celebration at the Academy of Excellence, where lunch was provided by the Linden School Administrators and Supervisors Association and the Linden Education Association, each team member was given a certificate for their participation, as well as either their one-year or two-year pin. The teams also reflected on goals they set for their schools in September.

The ILT members were also treated to a presentation from Gemar Mills, who spoke about how he led a turnaround at Shabazz High School in Newark. When he took over as principal at age 28 in 2011, the troubled school suffered from low test scores and was in danger of being shut down. But he helped improve test scores and school safety, and inspired students to believe in themselves and the school.

gemar mills

Gemar Mills speaks to ILT members about his work in making improvements to Shabazz High School in Newark.