ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A network across fields, orchards, and hills

By Learning Forward
October 2019
Vol. 40, No. 5
“Collaboration with colleagues is an essential component to my participation due to the challenge of being small, isolated, and rural. It takes me out of my comfort zone and challenges me to be the best leader I can be for my children and staff.” — Superintendent of a small, rural school district This reflection came after two years of working with superintendents, district staff, and teachers in a professional learning experience designed for rural school districts. The Rural Schools Network, led by the Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute (now the Welty Center) at Fresno State in California, is more than a network or a series of meetings for superintendents. It is an authentic professional learning community.  An authentic professional learning community has certain attributes, including structural conditions,

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Nancy Akhavan and Marcy Masumoto

Nancy Akhavan ( is assistant professor of educational leadership at California State University, Fresno. Marcy Masumoto ( is a trustee of the Fresno County Board of Education in California.


Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute. (n.d.). Leadership decisions for development of problem of practice. Unpublished raw data.

Chalker, D.M. (Ed.). (1999). Leadership for rural schools: Lessons for all educators. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing.

Curtis, R.E. & City, E.A. (2009). Strategy in action: How school systems can support powerful learning and teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Hartzog, C., Abrams, C., Erbstien, N., London, J.K., & Watterson, S. (2017, January). California’s San Joaquin Valley: A region and its children under stress. Davis, CA: UC Davis for Regional Change.

Hord, S. (2015, June). What is an authentic professional learning community? JSD, 36(3), 38-39.

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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

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