The Leadership Initiative invited its members to reflect on different aspects of leadership, bringing to light unique pathways, approaches, challenges and lessons learned. TLC hopes that through this series you get to know these diverse individuals and take away an appreciation for their journeys and leadership skills and its impact on the lives of children, families, their staff and communities.  

Lisa Bridge, M.S. , Executive Director of the Port Washington Children’s Center

Lisa began her career in teaching as a member of the first NYC Teaching Fellows Cohort in 2001, being awarded an AmeriCorps grant and full scholarship to Bank Street College of Education to receive an M.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She spent the first ten years of her career working as a classroom teacher in Central Harlem and the Lower East Side, later leading an after-school program in Chinatown under a 9/11 Red Cross Grant.  Lisa has spent the past several years opening and overseeing preschools in Manhattan including recently, the first KinderCare in NYC, which is the training school and Northeast Flagship for the company’s 1,800 locations. A proud mother of a mobile and spirited 3-year-old, she was excited to return to her roots in the non-profit sector and serve the families of Port Washington at the PWCC.

1. What has been a significant factor, moment, or person in shaping your leadership?

Donna Preminger has been a significant support in shaping my leadership.  Her support in transitioning me to the Director role at the Children’s Center has set me up for success. In addition, running a program during 9/11 and a business during the economic crash of 2008 prepared me to be flexible and innovative during times of crisis.

2. How has your leadership stayed the same or changed during the pandemic? 

My leadership style has become more didactic during the pandemic, as we are facing much greater risk in terms of health and safety. I am at the center of decisions for illness exemptions and generating policies and protocols to keep everyone safe.

3. What is the biggest or most significant challenge you face in your leadership?  

Ensuring the safety of our children and families while balancing our financial solvency. 

4. How as leaders do we get better or grow? 

I think we grow through pressure, experience and failure. If we don’t take risks to test our own limits or we avoid working through difficult situations, we are stunting our own growth. Only through experience do we get better and grow.

5. What changes have you made to improve quality during the pandemic (e.g., environmental adaptations, school-age care provided, etc.)? 

We have made significant changes to how our programming works during the pandemic to keep children and staff safe. When we opened in July, we opened an outdoor campus where canopy tents, tables and chairs, and outdoor sinks were set up and taken down each day. We are still running our program outdoors as much as possible and plan to do so until the weather turns, when we’ll change to a hybrid model that continues to keep the children outside as much as possible.

6. What current successes are you celebrating? 

We are celebrating a safe and successful summer! We welcomed back almost 100 of our children into the program and gave them a safe summer of fun time and reconnection with their friends and teachers.

8. How are you supporting your own self care and those of your staff during these challenging times? 

I have begun to work out again, eating a healthy diet and meditating.  I also highly encourage my team to take time to work out on their lunches and leave the building to have time to unwind and recoup.

Andrea Bruno is an Institute coach serving QUALITYstarsNY programs.