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Helping Future School Administrators Meet the Challenge of Leadership

A partnership to instill confidence and foster professional growth

Today’s school systems operate in a demanding climate. Limited funding and high-stakes testing add stress to the multifaceted challenges of providing students with a well-rounded education.

In such complex times, well-prepared school principals and assistant principals can be a force for stability and success. Forward-looking school systems are seeking out new ways to improve the quality of the talent pool for these jobs. This is the case in Johnston County Public Schools, a suburban and rural North Carolina district where district leaders have embarked on a plan to transform instruction while managing rapid growth.

Johnston County Public Schools has an ongoing partnership with RTI, having worked with our Center for Education Services on several other initiatives. Recently, we joined forces once again, creating a program to help teachers rise through the ranks of leadership. The Education Leadership Practicum (ELP) trained 18 educators in early 2018, more than half of whom have gone on to pursue master’s degrees in school administration.

An Engaging Series of Classes to Transform Successful Teachers Into Leaders

The ELP was a series of nine evening sessions on instructional and team leadership. It was organized around the grounding principle that success in the classroom translates into success at the school level. In highly interactive sessions, participants learned concepts of communication, professional collaboration, and growth mindset. They emerged prepared to serve as leaders in their schools, and, if desired, apply to graduate programs to pursue school administration roles.

In North Carolina, applicants for assistant principal or principal jobs need a master’s degree in school administration, a state licensure exam, and an internship. Our program put teachers on this path by passing along the skills and supports they need to fulfill these requirements and rise to the next level of leadership.

ELP participant Jennifer Boyd joined the program while teaching at Cleveland High School. Teaching is her third career, and having been a manager in other fields, she had long thought of furthering her education and expanding her role. She began to take action after the ELP helped her uncover hidden strengths.

“My confidence wasn’t where it needed to be. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to offer at my age,” she said. “Just being accepted made me feel like the district administration saw value in what I was adding.”

Boyd was accepted into a master’s program at East Carolina University. A Johnston County native with family ties to her current school, she hopes to stay with the system in the future—a path she feels the ELP makes more appealing and accessible for herself and her colleagues.

Customized Training for Schools Seeking to Grow and Advance

Johnston County’s first class of ELP participants emerged ready to take on the challenges of school administration, and that’s just what the district was looking for, said Kathy Price, the district’s executive director of educator effectiveness.

“We put so much time and effort into the hard skills of the job,” Price said, referring to the everyday classroom practices that are the focus of most teacher training. “We need more people to be leaders of people. That requires giving and receiving feedback.”

Confidence, reflectivity, a growth mindset, and the ability to approach the difficult conversations that lead schools to change and improve – these are the attributes that Johnston County’s educators say the ELP has brought to their leadership pipeline.

Our support of the ELP ended after the first cohort of participants finished, however, all training materials were made available to Johnston County Schools to build capacity for the district to continue the program. The second cohort will begin in the Spring of 2019 under the district’s leadership. We are prepared to offer customized leadership programs to other schools or districts who share the desire to train educators in the essential skills of leadership and administration.