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LDC 2022 Retreat

woman at ldc retreat

Day 1:

Hi! My name is Wendy Gonzales and I am a professor in the Education Department at Northeastern Illinois University. This is my second year on CEC’s Leadership Development Committee (LDC). I joined the LDC in July 2021. My first retreat was via Zoom due to COVID. This is my take on my second LDC retreat.

“It’s huge that we are in person, let’s have thoughtful discussions. What we decide today helps map out LDC’s work for the next several years.” That was our instruction from LDC Chair Mikki Garcia on our first morning together, as we would be working on the recharter for the LDC, which basically outlines it duties for the next five years. So, much of the morning of day one was about reflecting on the past with the goal of understanding the context of where we have been and where we need to go, based on the realities of the LDC’s work, as opposed to what was originally envisioned.

Following that, the LDC had the difficult task of determining who would move forward to the interview phase of the application process for the Board of Directors. Of the 51 people who completed Phase 1, 29 of those advanced to Phase 2, so we had to narrow the field. The discussions were thoughtful but intense. After the decisions were made, there was a big exhale in the room. It took almost two hours, and we all agreed on the final results.

group at ldc retreat

After a delicious lunch, CEC Executive Director, Chad Rummel, walked us through the 2022-2026 Strategic Plan in detail, highlighting the goals CEC is working on and how the work of the LDC relates to them. It is exciting that everything CEC is doing currently is impactful on so many levels!

2022-2026 Strategic Plan


Day 2:

This morning was spent discussing the leadership development program, known as Leadership CEC, with CEC Past President Bill Bogdan, chair of the subcommittee that is developing it. This program focuses on providing leadership content, hands-on experiences, networking, and coaching. Learning opportunities are designed for participants to gain a better understanding of CEC governance and key leadership roles and functions, and to participate in coaching/mentoring and cross-unit/division networking opportunities. There was a lot of brainstorming about how to best support new and emerging leaders to ensure that all of CEC’s units and divisions can thrive. The possibilities are inspiring!

group at ldc retreat


We continued to work on our recharter. We needed to have thoughtful discussions and consideration in outlining exactly what we do and what we believe we will be able to do in the next five years. This was a critical conversation as our devoted committee chair, CEC Past President Mikki Garcia, will be stepping away from the role at the end of August after four years of arduous work. Amy Braddock, a special education teacher from Fargo, ND, and JT Taylor, an Associate Professor at Penn State University, will be taking over the helm. Laura Nugent, a Director of Special Education from Starkesboro, VT, and I will become vice co-chairs.

group at ldc retreat

With this opportunity, everything has come full circle for me. When I first applied to the LDC, I didn’t think I had enough leadership experience and I always doubt my own abilities. But my experience on the LDC has helped remove those doubts and I do feel like a rising leader! While our broader work is to build CEC leadership across the organization, the committee itself has also helped grow and develop its own committee members.


Day 3: The FINAL DAY!

I am so tired. Last night I went sight-seeing around DC. I rented a scooter and scooted from monument to monument. I also got to witness Marine 1 leaving the lawn of the White House! Despite the impressiveness of the glow of the nation’s capital under the moonlight, the most impressive part of this long weekend was definitely the work of the LDC.

Before joining the LDC, I had no idea all the WORK and the number of decisions that need to be made by one committee to move the organization forward. While the LDC isn’t the only committee doing behind-the-scenes work, it really has been an eye opening, exhilarating (if not just a tad bit exhausting) experience.

It’s bittersweet to leave as I got to know my fellow LDC members on a more personal level. We say goodbye to Mikki and other 4-year members Robin Brewer, an Instructional Coach with the Colorado Department of Educations, and Gloria Niles, Director of Online Learning, University of Hawaii System. While their leadership and expertise will surely be missed, Amy and JT have a firm hold on the LDC’s charge and are well-equipped to lead the group forward. Although this weekend is over, our work will advance as we continue to meet monthly. It is great to be able to work with this incredible group of like-minded and action-oriented individuals passionate about the field of special education and building leaders.

group at ldc retreat
Posted:  26 July, 2022
woman at ldc retreat
Author: Wendy Gonzales

Professor, Education Department, Northeastern Illinois University

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