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Program grooms future education leaders
Local schools focus on strengthening employee leadership skills
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Effective principals have to inspire, nurture and challenge their teachers and students to help their schools thrive.

These skills are required of principals, assistant principals and teachers alike, and local school districts are investing in their employees to help them become effective future school leaders.

Both Gainesville City Schools and Hall County Schools have partnered with the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement to create school leadership programs. These programs give teachers the training they need to one day step into a school leadership position.

“We hope this can become an in-house leadership program for us,” Gainesville Superintendent Wanda Creel said. “We’re having our leaders learn this, and it’s trickling down into the classrooms and having an impact on our students.”

Both programs allow teachers, assistant principals and other school employees to become students and sit in instructional courses about once a month. The courses are designed by GLISI and the school districts to develop qualified school leaders.

Hall’s program accepted 36 employees, who will become peer coaches for other teachers at the school level, according to David Moody, director of Hall elementary schools and the leadership program.

The Gainesville City Schools Aspiring Leaders Program was implemented in July 2015 with 26 participants. It was launched with the creation of the school system’s Leadership Essentials and Priorities, a set of guidelines for leaders in the school system.

These essentials are based on the school system’s mission statement.

“You see the words ‘inspire, nurture, challenge and prepare,’” Creel said. “We utilized those or mirrored those in our Leadership Essentials and Priorities.”

Creel said these essentials describe the fundamental behaviors expected of school leaders and gave examples of how a principal or district leader could emulate them.

“When we’re talking about inspiring people, we want to make sure we’ve got leaders that can communicate and embed a vision into the academic success of all students,” she said. “A perfect case and point is Enota right now.”

Enota is implementing a new “Striving Readers Program,” and the administrative staff is working with teachers to provide high expectations for these students. Creel said the administration is communicating clearly with teachers and students and working toward increased student success.

Creel said school leaders are asked to nurture “the growth and development of all.”

“We think that by nurturing leaders, it will trickle to teachers and, ultimately, trickle to our students,” she said.

Admission to these programs is competitive. In Hall, there were 65 applicants for an original 18 slots.

The application for both programs included a written portion, an interview process and a score based on a rubric.

Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said the county schools planned to have 18 people in its cohort, but the screening process showed there were 36 who really stood out.

“We have some high quality people in our school system,” Moody said.

Last week, the Hall school board increased the budget for their program by up to $25,000 to allow for two cohorts.

Hall school board Chairman Nath Morris said there are only a certain number of leadership positions available at a given time. Thus the leadership program is not a feeder program.

“I hope we encourage folks to sometimes be patient a little bit, stick with us and look for these leadership positions to come open,” he said,

Schofield agreed.

“What you find out is people who go through leadership training, a lot of them say, ‘I’m not sure if I want to be a formal leader or I don’t,’” Schofield said. “But the teacher that goes back to the classroom with these leadership skills is a stronger teacher, a stronger team member, and the entire school becomes stronger.”

Creel said because the program reaches teachers and school leaders from elementary through high school, it will benefit schools and students at all levels.

“What they are able to do is take what they are learning in that class together, and go back and share it with teachers,” she said. “It’s really having an impact and is able to drill down into the classroom.”

Moody said creating a leadership program shows a willingness on the district’s part to invest in its own employees.

“When you have the opportunity to get to know people deeply and to get to know the wonderful people in the school system, people don’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “They see the investment we’re making in them, and they want to be part of that.”

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