Alumni Stories: Growing District Leadership Capacity

The Charles Butt Foundation fosters ongoing learning communities for current participants and alumni of our statewide programs. Our Alumni Stories series showcases short accounts from participants on the meaningful connections, mutual support, and collaborative learning they’ve gained through this network.

Riza Cooper is the principal at Elgin Middle School in Elgin ISD. As a campus and district leader, Cooper has made a mark by coaching emerging talent on her team on their leadership journey. She did just that for her colleague Dr. Sarah Borowicz who is now the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Elgin ISD.

Borowicz was a math teacher and department head when Cooper joined the team at Elgin Middle School as principal in 2010. When Borowicz shared she was planning to start a master’s program with the goal of becoming an instructional coach, Cooper supported Borowicz through the program and tapped her for campus administration.  

“She was really who inspired me to get into administration and inspired me to become an assistant principal,” Borowicz says. When she completed her program, Borowicz became Cooper’s assistant principal and continued to learn from her mentor. The two continued to share new learnings and problem-solve together when Borowicz took the helm of a school in a neighboring district.

In 2015, Cooper was selected to attend the Raising School Leaders Harvard Leadership program. The thought-provoking, field-based sessions sharpened her skill set as a leader and, in turn, she shared her new learnings and frameworks with her colleagues. She encouraged Borowicz to apply for the next cohort. Now both are active and engaged Leadership Alumni of the Charles Butt Foundation.

“What’s really exciting is that another one of Riza’s former assistant principals, she’s a principal here in Elgin and she’s getting to go [to a Harvard Institute] this summer,” says Borowicz. 

She says she is inspired by the impact Cooper has had on growing district leadership capacity and by the connections she’s gained through the Leadership Network. “It just keeps expanding and growing and building that network that we can all share in a common vision and purpose of improving public education in the state of Texas.”

Through her servant leadership and mentorship, Cooper has demonstrated the powerful ripple effect of the Raising School Leaders program.

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