The West Central Educational Leadership Network was a collaborative agency of Region IV school districts and member colleges and universities. It was formed in 1985 and provided comprehensive training, development, and consultation services to its members. Network members included the county school districts of: Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota, as well as the Florida Gulf Coast University, and the USF College of Education.
The mission of the Region IV Leadership Network was to support the improvement of schools for the future by anticipating and helping shape the systemic changes that impact student performance and developing the capacity of personnel to lead and manage these changes.
The network was conceptualized and planned by key educational leaders in the region. Included among them were: Dr. Mary Giella, Pasco County Schools; Dr. Walter Sickles, Hillsborough County Schools; Dr. Dan Nolan, Manatee County Schools; Dr. William Katzenmeyer, Dean of the USF College of Education; and Dr. Karolyn Snyder, of the USF College of Education’s Educational Leadership Department. Operations for the network began in August 1985, and with its offices housed in the Human Services Building on the USF campus. The first director hired to serve the network was Dr. Marilyn Katzenmeyer who served in the organization from 1985–1996. It transitioned and became a non-profit organization in the late 1980s and moved off campus into rented office space. The College of Education continued to be an integral member of the organization. In 1996, Dr. Merrie Lynn Parker, formerly of the Manatee County School District, became the director. Maria Witte became the administrative assistant for the network while completing her doctorate in Adult Education at the University of South Florida.
The West Central Educational Leadership Network was governed by a board of directors representative of its members. It was funded by contributions from its members and by matching funds from the Florida Department of Education. Annual goals and strategies were developed by the board which was comprised of one representative from each of the participating organizations. Districts requested services based on individual needs for preparation of principals, human resource management development efforts (HRMD), and school improvement programs.
Communication among and between the school districts and the College of Education was one of the positive outcomes of the network’s operations. The quarterly newsletter, Network News, informed members of training opportunities, activities, services, and provided a forum for districts to showcase their leadership development programs.
It was also recognized as a “Showcase of Excellence” program award winner by the National Council of States on In-service Education in 1987 and as an Outstanding Organization by the Lee County Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa in 1997-98.
The West Central Educational Leadership Network ceased operations in June 1998 when state funding was discontinued. Dean Emeritus William Katzenmeyer, took the initiative to lead the formation of a new leadership collaborative to fill the void of the Network’s closing. In collaboration with representatives of the districts, the Anchin Center staff formed the Leadership Collaborative in 1998, which continues to operate today. The extensive library of print, video, and audio materials that was developed from the organization was transferred to the David Anchin Center and is still available for use by college professors, students, and school administrators.