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How Hall school system works to develop leaders from its teachers
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Hall County Schools' latest class of Growing Administrator Leader program graduates and mentors is recognized Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at a Board of Education meeting in Gainesville.

Hall County Schools continues to work to develop leaders, with 10 educators graduating its Growing Administrator Leader program this year.

The program is designed to bring educators an immersive experience that educates and trains internal personnel for positions of leadership within their schools and districtwide.  

These educators mark the third cohort, with 13 more lined up for the next installation of the program, which carries a rigorous application process.

About 70 educators have participated in the program, thus far, with 41 percent now in formal leadership roles in elementary, middle and high schools.

“I wasn’t sure about leadership going in,” said Bryan Thomason, a teacher at Johnson High. “I was hesitant about leaving coaching behind. This program confirmed that it’s just changing from who and what I’m coaching.”

For many of the graduates, the camaraderie and collaboration between mentors and peers was most beneficial.

“I learned that it’s OK to ask questions, and to make mistakes and learn from them,” said Caitlin Hansard, a teacher at C.W. Davis Middle.

Kristi Underwood, a teacher at Cherokee Bluff High, said the program opened her eyes to what’s going on behind the scenes to make a school run efficiently and effectively.

“I didn’t realize how big the world is outside my classroom,” she added.

“I learned the importance of growing others around you,” said Josh Chapman, a teacher at East Hall Middle. “Know that you can’t do everything on your own.”

And it’s that message that resonated with Superintendent Will Schofield, who quoted the best adage he’s heard about what leadership really means: “The ability to influence others.”

“I’ve seen an awful lot of people that call themselves leaders and kick up a lot of dust and never go anywhere,” Schofield added.

The graduates also include Jennifer Gibson of Chestatee High; Shasta Gundlach of Mount Vernon Exploratory; Amy Tyner of North Hall Middle; April Bagwell of C.W. Davis Middle; Kacie Landers of Myers Elementary; and Allie Roberts of Chicopee Woods Elementary.

The program mentors include Stan Lewis, principal of Johnson High; Tamara Etterling, principal of North Hall Middle; and Jamey Moore, principal of North Hall High.  

School officials have now launched a “legacy series” of seminars for graduates of the program.

The system also offers a new principal mentor program, which has had 18 new principals in the past three years receive mentoring from 15 experienced principals; a new assistant principal mentor program, with 27 participants in the past three years with 25 experienced assistant principals as mentors; and a Growing Teacher Leader program to develop peer coaches at the school level.

School officials said they plan to implement additional continuing education opportunities for leaders-in-training, including internships, an increase in the number of workplace “shadowing” experiences, and a broader curriculum across the different programs.