Recognizing the connection between strong public schools and the economic vitality of our community, Hamilton County Department of Education joined with several community partners to start the first Principal Leadership Academy in August 2010.
The academy is designed to better prepare future principals to lead their schools. Unum provided $100,000 to help the Hamilton County Department of Education establish a Principal Leadership Academy that will 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, partners in the Principal Leadership Academy include the Public Education Foundation, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, all of whom have been working collaboratively to build the Academy for more than a year.
The Principal Leadership Academy involves between 12 and 16 assistant principals who have expressed interest in becoming principals. The Academy launched in July 2010 and features two days of intensive training during the summer 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,” says 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.
HCDE and PEF provided 26 assistant principals with a series of workshops, supported financially by the Benwood Foundation, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Electrical Motor Sales & Supply, Inc. during the 2009-2010 school year. These workshops featured 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,” says 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 (UTC) 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.”