Breakthrough Coach Transforms School Leaders


Croton Harmon School Superintendent Edward Fuhrman no longer has a desk in his office –and it is not because of budget cuts. Fuhrman’s office, and indeed, his entire way of doing business, was transformed when he and his secretary, Denise Cuomo, attended the Breakthrough Coach program offered by the Center for Educational Leadership at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES.

A unique, two-day course for school administrators including central office and building leaders and their assistants, Breakthrough Coach is designed to teach administrative teams how to work together more effectively, freeing the administrator to spend more time visiting classrooms and focusing on student achievement.“It has had a major impact on how I operate,” Fuhrman said. “I don’t have a desk in my office anymore, which means all my files are not in my office. They are outside my office and managed by my secretary.”

Rather than occupying a desk just outside the superintendent’s office, Cuomo now works from an adjoining office, reflecting their partnership. Cuomo is now responsible for Fuhrman’s schedule and acts as a gatekeeper, deciding when he needs to see something.

For example, Fuhrman said, he needed to review the new services guide for BOCES. So, he told Cuomo he would need about an hour. She found the time in his schedule and when it was time, she handed him the services guide.

“I have given her much more responsibility to talk with parents, to decide when I need to see something. We meet once a day to go over what needs to be accomplished. That is a critical component to the Breakthrough Coach system,” he said.

“Dr. Fuhrman transformed his conference room into an office for me. I love my new space and most importantly I appreciate having a private space as there are times when I am working on confidential and sensitive matters,” Cuomo said. “The new space is beneficial to both of us as we can interact with one another from our work spaces.”

As a result of the training, Fuhrman said, he now has the ability to schedule an entire day out of the office visiting classrooms, observing teachers and seeing his district at work first hand. “I’m like a nomad now but that’s good because I am out in the district where I should be,” he said.

Another benefit of the Breakthrough Coach program was the opportunity for the superintendent and his assistant to attend a professional development program together. “Having a common professional development experience was good for both of us as a team. She felt tremendously validated,” he said.

“I highly recommend the Breakthrough Coach,” said Cuomo. “We learned valuable tools, such as letting go of the need to save so many useless files, the importance of calendar planning, setting time aside each day to meet, and having the ability to keep the superintendent's day moving by ensuring that meetings do not run over by allowing the assistant to knock on the door and remind the boss that he has another meeting scheduled and will need to abide by the schedule. The idea that the secretary is the "boss" was interesting for the both of us.” The next session of Breakthrough Coach will be offered August 7 and 8, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To register, go here