With increasing recognition that principals matter when it comes to school improvement, district officials are pondering the proper district role in everything from pre-service principal training to on-the-job principal support. These topics, and more, got online radio airtime recently in a chat with representatives of Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative, which is aiding efforts in six large districts to shape a large corps of effective school leaders. The setting was Education Talk Radio: Pre K-20, whose host, Larry Jacobs, had a freewheeling conversation with Tricia McManus, assistant superintendent of Hillsborough County (Fla.) Public Schools; Glenn Pethel, assistant superintendent of Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Schools; and, towards the end of the 40-minute segment, Jody Spiro, Wallace’s director of education leadership.
Here are a few nuggets:
- McManus came up with a nice, concise definition of a principal pipeline, describing it as “an effective way to recruit, hire, select, develop, prepare, evaluate the very best leaders for our schools, especially our high-needs schools.”
- Pethel noted that in Gwinnett County mentoring new principals is serious business. He described the mentoring, often provided by retired principals, as “one of the most important things that we do in order to not only retain our new leaders but to continue to grow them, develop them, support them so that ultimately they become as effective as they possibly can.”
- Both McManus and Pethel offered glimpses into their districts’ collaboration with select universities, partnerships that aim to ensure that aspiring leaders receive preservice training that meets district needs. “We work with those universities that are of a like mind—in other words, those universities who have worked very hard to improve the quality of their training programs, their formal leader prep programs,” Pethel said. In Hillsborough’s early work with its partner universities, the district made a point of spelling out its expectations for district principals, according to McManus. “Those competencies were a key driver in many of the changes the university partners have made,” she said, changes in everything from course content to practicums.
- What’s the first step in setting up a strong principal pipeline? For Spiro, it all begins with an acknowledgement of just how important principals are. She urged districts “to recognize and appreciate and elevate the role of the principal, understanding how critical that role is to improving student achievement.”
For even more from Pethel and McManus, listen to The Principal Pipeline podcast, episodes 2 and 4.