Coolidge principal selected for SVSU fellowship, will travel to Japan

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published January 6, 2016


FERNDALE — Following the recommendation of school district administration, Coolidge Intermediate School Principal Eric Bruner was selected for the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship for 2016.

Bruner, who has served as principal at Coolidge for four years, is one of nine Michigan K-12 educators to be selected for the fellowship. As part of the program, Bruner will have the chance to meet with other professionals once a month, as well as travel to Japan in April.

“It is an honor and a privilege, and I am extremely humbled not only to be nominated by my superiors, but also by the interview process with the board members of this program,” Bruner said. “Being nominated alone was humbling and nice, but to be selected was more rewarding, and I can’t say enough how much I am looking forward to it.”

Superintendent Blake Prewitt and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Dina Rocheleau nominated Bruner for the fellowship. Prewitt said that having worked alongside Bruner for more than a year now showed him that Bruner would be a great candidate for the fellowship.

“Knowing Eric and talking about his career goals in education of looking at new ideas and learning new things, I saw this as a great opportunity for him to expand his knowledge,” Prewitt said. “He is really data-driven and what the data says about the kids, and then (he) looks for different interventions to improve that. I knew this was a great program for educators, and now he can learn from educators from around the state and internationally.”

As part of the fellowship, Bruner and the other fellows will meet one weekend a month at SVSU to talk about different aspects of education. SVSU faculty from different disciplines will meet with the educators to discuss finances, communication and more.

Bruner said this fellowship gives him a chance to work outside his comfort zone.

Bruner said this is his first time doing a fellowship of this nature, but he thinks that working with other educators from around the state can only help him and the Ferndale School District grow. 

“The people selected have backgrounds that are so different and diverse, so I am interested in learning what other schools are doing that are successful and sharing what we are doing and coming up with common knowledge that can help one another,” he said.

Bruner completed his undergraduate work in elementary education at Wayne State University and earned his graduate degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University. After student teaching at Coolidge, Bruner taught fifth grade for one year there before working in Highland Park and Detroit and eventually coming back as principal at Coolidge.

Over the past year and continuing into 2016, the Ferndale School District is restructuring to right-size the amount of space compared to the size of the student body, a process that Bruner said will give him something unique to discuss during his fellowship.

“In Ferndale over the past few years, we have faced our problems head-on, and by right-sizing we are taking that problem head-on,” he said. “We worked with several committees and the community to bring the plan to fruition. I think this experience can bring a new component to this fellowship team, and I can share what I have learned and maybe get feedback.”

Prewitt said that Bruner having the opportunity to work with Michigan educators and international educators in Japan can only benefit the district as a whole.

“Eric can bring back all this information on what they do that makes a difference, and we can look at it in our district,” he said. “I had a colleague go to Finland as part of this, and they had 80-85 percent of students in special education at some point, but they exited quickly, so we implemented some of that. Getting a group of educators from all over the state and from different communities, that is not something that happens in education often.”