Sharon McInroy is The Coordinated Child Development Program (CCDP) Executive Director for Our Children’s Place (OCP) at Canandaigua, NY and Clifton Springs, NY. After graduating from Keuka College and earning a master’s degree from Jones International University in education administration and leadership, Ms. Sharon taught special education at Hillside Child Centers and South Seneca School District. She later joined OCP as site coordinator in 2010, and she later became the Executive Director for OCP at Canandaigua and OCP at Clifton Springs. Ms. Sharon’s philosophy on education is based on discovery and play where all children are nurtured in a developmentally appropriate atmosphere. She believes children learn best in an environment where they are loved, respected, and encouraged to grow, and she brings this mindset to work at OCP every day. Ms. Sharon lives close by in Newark, NY with her wonderful family of 4 and a half, including their black lab Shasta.
Tell us about your vision.
My vision is simple: Lead people to greatness using their own strengths to propel them to do great things. As an Executive Director, I empower staff and stakeholders by highlighting their achievements. By doing so, it gives them a sense of pride and appreciation that in turns brings on great things. I also like to take all the help I can get. If I know someone can do it better than me, I let them. I often ask my directors and employees with a certain skill set to present for a training or at a staff meeting. Again, empowering the staff and using delegation as it should be used.
What has been a significant factor, moment, person etc in shaping your leadership?
This answer can probably be used for everything from, “What happened to the copier?” to, “Why do I feel sick?” but the answer here is COVID-19. Before the pandemic, I had been thrown into the Executive Director position with The Coordinated Child Development Program (CCDP). In my first year I was charged with bringing the company back to black. That was hard, but with the support of my board and help from expert community leaders, I did bring CCDP to the black, sustained the programs, and right up until COVID brought accounts payables to current! Quite the feat in itself, but nothing prepared me for COVID. I had to make quick and hard decisions. The pressure was immense. I had 66 employees to worry about, 200 children and their families to report to, and 2 centers waiting to hear the worst. We had to close due to low enrollment. We dipped down to less than 20% causing me to lay off all of my employees on March 20 and shutting our doors to working families. I was crushed. I felt defeated, sick to my stomach, and worst of all disappointed that I could not make it work. However, I put my big girl pants on and pushed through. Over the next few weeks I worked around the clock to apply for grants, loans, and asked for donations. I jumped on the SBA Payroll Protection Plan loan and received that within a month of us closing. I rehired all of the 66 staff back at the end of April and reopened our doors May 20. In those short (but felt like a lifetime) 60 days I grew so much. I figured out what had to be done, planned for multiple scenarios, and with the help of my Board of Directors, opened our doors back up to working families.
How do you handle criticism?
You will NEVER please everyone, nor should you want to. You can only control your own mouth or actions. Some criticism is needed for growth for sure. Our team creates an Annual Self-Assessment of the company and we dig deep into the systematic faults we have. It’s not easy to hear you’re not doing something right or it can be done better, but it’s necessary for progress. However, when criticism is hurtful or misplaced, you must defend your ground professionally and if learning is warranted, then by all means learn!
What has been the most important accomplishment as a leader in early childhood?
Recently, our team became rated through QUALITYstarsNY. I was never involved in the previous accreditation or rating process with Pathways so I went into this adventure blind. Again, through collaboration and dedication of my administrative team and slew of employees, we received a 3-star rating. Of course we reached for 5 stars (who wouldn’t) but 3 stars is a huge accomplishment. We will get to 5 stars eventually but for right now we are navigating through the clouds to make our center a supreme learning facility.
Who are you and who do you want to be as a leader?
I hopefully am making a difference in my employees lives. I hope they see me as a hardworking and committed director who works for their best interests. That’s the legacy I want to leave.
How do we, as leaders, get better/grow?
Just dive in! You may belly flop but you will learn not to jump in that way again pretty quick. I tell my employees, “Reach for the stars…we may only hit the clouds for now, but we’ll get there”.
Rachel Zielinski is a Quality Improvement Specialist for QUALITYstarsNY in the Finger Lakes.