Shasta (NorCal) Regional Academy Spotlight

February 27, 2023

NorCal Educational Leadership Consortium (NorCal ELC) held their third annual Winter Leadership Institute (WLI) January 30 and 31, 2023, with nearly 300 educators across the 11 county Shasta Region. Mike Kotar, Regional Director, welcomed attendees, noting that by the end of Year 3, NorCal ELC will have served approximately 10 percent of the roughly 5000 educators in the Shasta Region. He emphasized that the Winter Leadership Institute provides an opportunity for us to learn from one another, focus on increasing equity, and expanding the capacity of school leaders for school improvement in service of stronger outcomes for students. Abeo School Change expertly managed the complex task of orchestrating a meaningful two day agenda while navigating immense technology considerations.

The Winter Leadership Institute continued the theme of “Habits of Continuous Improvement” as teams were asked to share their continuous improvement journey thus far. The Institute provided a midyear “benchmark” for teams to reflect on their Problems of Practice (PoP) and share their progress with colleagues. A modified consultancy protocol was used:

Through consultancies, participants shared:

  • Where they’ve been and where they are going
  • Progress, strengths, and needs
  • Intentions for moving forward

As always, the NorCal ELC Essential Question formed the anchoring reflection: “How do we collectively transform education to improve access, opportunity and inclusion, especially for students who are historically underserved/historically resilient, so that they can thrive?”

A diverse line up of content sessions were offered. These sessions hosted by local experts included exploration of the California Dashboard, Leading Effective Teams, Universal Design for Learning, Adult SEL, Rethinking the English Learner Label, Leading While Female, and more. One presenter, Roman Stearns, discussed the value of a graduate profile and shared this provocation:

“As educators and society, we’ve become complicit, valuing what we measure, rather than measuring what we value.”

Another session, hosted by Lily Chang and Mele Benz on Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity, (based on the book by that title) left participants in deep reflection. One participant followed up after the session with an email to the presenters stating:

“We focus on setting goals and achieving them, but I can't help but wonder if our core values reflect conditional belonging based on achievement. We think we can crack the code on Hispanic academic achievement with instructional strategies, just like we have done for our socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Our work focused on Hispanic students has us in a loop between steps 4 and 9 in the Dysfunction Cycle. We know we need to develop better vocabulary support and relevance for our students, but I'd love to chat more with you about this conditional belonging idea. We are missing something.”

An incredibly relevant and resource packed presentation on Leading Effective Teams by Kevin Kurtz and Kenny Richards encouraged leaders to look for the “Sweet Spot” between candor and curiosity, lean into the Ladder of Inference, and explore stages of team development.

The end of Institute participant reflections revealed a strong appreciation for the consultancy collaborations, team time and content sessions. Dr. Kotar, observing the cross-team interactions noted, “It was amazing; both fun and engaging. Team members were really into helping each other out.” A poignant quote he shared from the book Sapiens, as a connection to the work of the WLI, said much: “Humans can imagine a future that is different from their present.” Indeed.

For more information about the Winter Leadership Institute, contact Dr. Kotar at

View the recordings from the Winter Leadership Institute here