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Committee proposes leadership training for school leaders in Georgia
Will Schofield
Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield

A group of lawmakers and educators is recommending that a leadership academy be established to train and retain effective principals and administrators for Georgia’s public schools.

“One of the few things we know about the effectiveness of schools is the importance of leadership,” said Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County Schools, who served as a committee member. “Other than great teachers, effective leaders are the second most important factor in students succeeding in school.”

In a report delivered to Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday, the joint study committee charged by the Georgia General Assembly to research a need for leadership development in schools found management at the highest levels to be critical to student success.

“No longer do school principals and assistant principals simply keep schools open, clean, and safe,” the report states. “They must focus on and be accountable for their students’ academic performance, in addition to taking care of the traditional administrative and managerial tasks.”

The increasing demands placed on school leaders to improve testing scores, close the achievement gap and produce better teachers compel action, the committee suggests.

In its research, the committee found that students in schools led by a “highly effective” principal perform higher on testing; truancy declines; and teachers remain on the job longer.  

Moreover, the report finds that principals have the greatest impact in schools with high levels of poverty among predominantly low-performing minorities.

Schofield noted that more than 50 percent of current principals are eligible for retirement or will be within five years.

“We face a potential crisis in well-trained future leaders for our schools,” he said.

Phase one of the Governor’s School Leadership Academy, as proposed in the report, would include staffing and funding to implement a four-day summer training session that focuses on “culture and climate, teacher effectiveness, analysis of student performance data, and communication.”

That would be followed by support from a regional leadership team.

“The research on effective school leadership shows that a supportive, productive relationship between the district office and the local school is an essential factor in improving school and student performance,” the report states.

Finally, principals from the lowest-performing schools would receive monthly one-day training sessions.

“An intentional leadership academy in Georgia would give all districts access to the skills and dispositions necessary to lead schools effectively,” Schofield said.

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