Saying it is “recognizing the connection between strong public schools and the economic vitality of our community,” Unum officials announced the firm is providing $100,000 to help the Hamilton County Department of Education establish a Principal Leadership Academy.
It is designed to better prepare future principals to lead their schools.
“A school principal is much like the CEO of a business,” said Unum’s Bob Best, chief operating officer for the Chattanooga-based employee benefits provider. “He or she must have a clear vision for success and the skills and preparation to make that vision a reality. If we want strong schools, we must have strong school leaders.”
In addition to the Hamilton County Department of Education, collaborative partners in the Principal Leadership Academy include the Public Education Foundation, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The Principal Leadership Academy will involve 12 to 16 assistant principals who have expressed interest in becoming principals. The Academy will launch in July 2010 and features two full weeks of intensive training along with monthly one-day seminars covering a variety of leadership topics. Topics include instructional leadership, culture and climate, building management, finances, human resources, strategic leadership, community relations and micro-political leadership.
“Since I came to Hamilton County, one of my primary goals has been to establish this principal preparation Academy,” said Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales. “Being a principal is an incredibly demanding job, and we need to give new principals every tool available to be successful in that role. I am very pleased that we have created a community partnership to build the Academy, and very grateful to Unum and our other investors for helping with the funds needed to get this Academy off to a good start.”
Each Academy participant will be assigned two mentors over the course of the program: a veteran HCDE principal and an executive partner from the business community. Academy participants will have opportunities to shadow mentors and receive input and advice regarding leadership issues. Participants will also visit at least one high-performing school outside of Hamilton County.
Currently, HCDE and PEF are providing 26 assistant principals with a series of workshops, supported financially by the Benwood Foundation, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Electrical Motor Sales & Supply, Inc. These workshops feature introductions to some of the same concepts that will be developed more fully in the Academy.
“Research shows that no school has ever reached greatness without a strong principal at its helm,” said PEF President Dan Challener. “Helping develop strong school leaders is vital to PEF’s mission of improving student achievement, and we are pleased to work with our partners to administer the Principal Leadership Academy. The director of the Academy will work with our staff and partners to coordinate all of the elements of the Academy, and to help upcoming principals learn to use data in a targeted way, recognize effective teaching, and build the collaboration needed to create academic success for students.”
The Principal Leadership Academy also includes a significant business component.
“By combining a strong focus on business skills with administrative topics, we are pioneering a whole new way to prepare Hamilton County’s Future principals,” said Tom Edd Wilson, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber will continue to engage the business community in Principal Leadership Academy by recruiting business leaders to serve as mentors, helping to shape the curriculum, and participating in fundraising efforts.”
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is also a core partner in the establishment of the Principal Leadership Academy through the engagement of both Dr. Mary Tanner, Dean of the School of Education and Dr. Richard Casavant, Dean of the College of Business. Professors from both departments will help design and deliver a curriculum focused on critical leadership and management skills as well as instructional leadership, the use of instructional data, and establishing a positive school culture. “This is a great example of how the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is an engaged metropolitan university,” said Dr. Roger Brown, chancellor of UTC. “Through the Principal Leadership Academy we will be helping to shape not only the future leaders of our public schools but also by extension the students they serve.”
The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton County Department of Education, Public Education Foundation, and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are launching a Principal Leadership Academy beginning this summer of 2010. Through the leadership of an Academy Director and using a combination of professional learning, hands-on training, research projects, and mentoring, the Academy will provide rigorous preparation for aspiring principals that ensures they are prepared in all aspects of instructional and operational leadership.
This collaboration has three major objectives:
To establish an outstanding and sustainable program that will prepare the next generation of effective principals for Hamilton County public schools.
To train 12-15 aspiring principals annually in the practices that improve student achievement, including creating and articulating a compelling shared vision, supporting and leading effective instruction, institutionalizing effective business practices, and using data to monitor progress.
To provide at least two years of continuing support to all graduates, including professional development, individual support and mentoring from both a veteran principal and a local business executive.
Applications for the Academy will be available in March 2010, and participants selected by April 30th. The Principal Leadership Academy will then start in July of 2010 with an intensive one-week summer institute, followed by a second one-week institute in the fall. In August, the Academy will start once-a-month full-day seminars where participants will cover a variety of topics delivered by the partners, all geared toward creating focused, skilled leaders ready to become a principal in any school in Hamilton County.
During the school year, each Academy participant will visit at least one high-performing school outside of Hamilton County and spend two days shadowing that school’s principal as he or she interacts with staff, students, parents, and community members.
The Academy participants will also meet monthly with and have opportunities to shadow their business executive mentors. These meetings will allow Academy participants to get a view of managerial and strategic leadership from the perspective of the business community. The executive mentors will also spend time in the schools with the Academy mentees, allowing them to gain insight into the unique challenges assistant principals and principals face, as well as to increase their understanding of what takes place in public schools.
At the end of the year, each Academy participant will be responsible for a final project in which he or she creates a personal framework for change that leads to excellence. This framework will be presented to the partners in May.
Upon successful completion of the summer institute, monthly seminars, meetings with executives and successful principals and the final project in May, Academy participants will be awarded a certificate of completion from the partners. For the next year, the partners will continue to offer support through a learning network of Academy graduates and continued involvement of both principal and executive mentors. Additionally in year two, participants will shadow a local principal mentor on a monthly basis to exchange ideas and get a ground-level perspective of the challenges in Hamilton County schools.
Officials said, “Ultimately, the Academy will have a significant impact on our entire community. As principals become better trained and more confident in their leadership, student achievement will rise and schools will improve. In turn, this will create a more successful school system that educates students to higher national and international standards. Ultimately, more and more graduates of Hamilton County’s public schools will be well prepared to succeed in any and all jobs in Hamilton County and across the United States.”