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Union County Public Schools grows leaders from within

Pictured are, (seated from left) Ann Salazar, Poplin Elementary; Kim Fisenne, MRHS; Ken Hoover, principal at East Union Middle; Kathleen Richert, PRHS; standing are, (from left) Shannen Bretz, PRMS; Dr. Deborah Whaley, Marvin Elementary; Emily McGinnis, Prospect and Union Elementary; Veronica Robinson, Antioch Elementary; Constance Kelly, Walter Bickett Elementary; Mamie Blevins, Piedmont Middle; and Bryan Lynip, Unionville Elementary.

Grooming assistant principals to step into the top job at their schools is the focus of a new program called “Growing Leaders From Within,” which is designed to help the transition between assistant principal and principal run smoother.

The concept of Growing Leaders From Within came from UCPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Clarke who had been looking for a way to fill the void for aspiring principals left when the PEP program, (Principals Executive Program), disappeared a couple of years ago from lack of funding by the state.

Clarke and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Denise Patterson took the idea to a focus group made up of principals and assistant principals, all who had participated in PEP. Once the idea took form, it was passed before the Union County Leadership Academy, which overwhelmingly approved the concept.

When Ken Hoover, principal at East Union Middle, decided to take on the concept for his Capstone Project, which he needed to complete his doctorate degree, the program took life. “They thought it would be a good idea,” Hoover said. “I would build the program for our assistant principals who wanted to become principals; try to give them additional training and experience, and time to interact with principals to gain that experience.”

With input from the focus group, new principals, the Leadership Academy and UCPS cabinet staff, Hoover “worked with the topical ideas and models for implementation approved by the Leadership Academy and developed a program that would provide the tools to assist aspiring principals to be ready for the principalship,” Clarke said. 

An invitation was sent to elementary, middle and high school assistant principals in May of this year, inviting them to apply for participation in the first cohort, which was limited to10 participants.

Creating the program also addressed the new criteria and changes in the NC Standards for School Executives, which is developed by the State Board of Education. These standards are used to evaluate principals.

“Principals are judged now, not just on their managerial skills, but also on their cultural leadership and instructional leadership, as well,” Hoover said. “The way they look at principals now is much more global. It’s not just, ‘Can you manage a building, unlock the doors, get teachers in, and get schedules done?’ It’s so much more than that. It’s, ‘Can you build professional learning communities?’ ‘Can you be the instructional leader in your building and provide quality feedback to your teachers no matter what grade level or subject they’re teaching?’ ”

The goal of the program is to make certain assistant principals gain some knowledge in those areas. “So when it is time for them to transition into the principalship, they’re better prepared to do that,” Hoover said.

Even if participants don’t move into the principalship in the immediate future, taking the program still has advantages in increasing the assistant principal’s competency level.

“It’s only going to help the schools work more efficiently,” Hoover said.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Sep 22, 2011 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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