Getting schooled: Boeing leaders, school principals share experiences

Two-year program expands the definition of continuing education in Washington as leaders in education and aerospace share common experiences and expertise

September 09, 2019 in Our Commitment

Lincoln High School Principal Ruth Medsker and Boeing Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Schemm, partners in the Chief Education Officer Series, check in with each other prior to the Sept. 3 ribbon-cutting event commemorating the reopening of the newly renovated school.

Marian Lockhart photo

Mentoring programs are commonly viewed as opportunities for early career employees.  Boeing leaders and high-school principals in Washington state are showing that continuing education and lifelong learning are just as valuable at the executive leadership level.

A program called the “Chief Education Officer Series” in Washington state matches senior business executives with high school principals to provide executive leadership and professional development.  The two-year program is a partnership between the Association of Washington School Principals, Challenge Seattle, and the Washington Roundtable. Eight business-education pairs are currently active in the Puget Sound region.  Boeing Commercial Aiplanes Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Schemm is one of those leaders, along with Boeing leaders Elizabeth Lund and Walt Odisho.

Schemm has been matched with Ruth Medsker, the principal at Lincoln High School in Seattle. Recently he gave her a tour of the Renton factory for a behind-the-scenes look at Commercial Airplanes manufacturing processes.

While airplanes and academia may seem quite different, Medsker says it was an enlightening experience that will help her better support students now and into the future.

“My end product is a diploma, and students are my ‘widgets,’” Medsker said.  “Seeing companies firsthand and the workers they need helps us figure out what we can do to make a better learning environment for our students, particularly our students who might not pursue post-secondary education.”

On the tour, Schemm and Medsker discussed how having the right tools, processes and teams can empower people to develop solutions.

Principals are recruited from high schools across Washington, with an emphasis on schools with high numbers of students that historically have been unlikely to pursue postsecondary credentials.

“Leadership expertise and experiences are common to all, regardless of whether you’re a senior leader in the private sector or in education,” Schemm said.  “The opportunity to connect with people in the community and share our opportunities and challenges can positively influence our potential next-generation work force is a great investment in our culture.”

Soon Schemm and members of the 737 Innovation Cell will visit Medsker and others at Lincoln High, which was constructed in north Seattle in 1906 but had been shuttered nearly forty years until it was reopened earlier this month. As part of its renovation, the school is developing a similar design lab where students can learn to be more solution-oriented as they approach complex issues.

In addition to the time spent with business leaders, public school principals participate in six two-day professional development sessions, focused on themes such as leadership experiences and resources, building and maintaining culture, business planning, and more.

“This experience is a great way to create lasting bonds between the business community and educators across the state,” said Schemm.  “It’s a great partnership.”

By Debby Arkell

Lincoln High School staff members listen to remarks made during the ribbon-cutting celebration on Sept. 3 in Seattle.

Marian Lockhart photo