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Haslam talks leadership with aspiring principals

The GASL cohort posed for a photo with Peabody Dean Camilla Benbow (front, center), TN Governor Bill Haslam (on the dean's left) and TN Education Commissioner Candice McQueen (on the dean's right). Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt
The GASL cohort posed for a photo with Peabody Dean Camilla Benbow (front, center). On Benbow’s left is TN Governor Bill Haslam and on her right is TN Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen hosted a conversation on leadership with aspiring principals at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development June 15.

The audience was a select group of educators: The 24 assistant principals who comprise the first cohort of the recently launched Governor’s Academy for School Leadership (GASL), a partnership between The Governor’s Office, Peabody College, the state of Tennessee and local school districts to build a pipeline of highly trained school principals.

“I cannot think of a more important job than being a leader of a school, and that’s why this partnership is so important,” Haslam told the participants. “You can walk in a school and tell right away if there is a great principal who is leading effectively. Great principals attract and keep great teachers. Leadership makes all the difference.”

During the one-year fellowship, the cohort meets one weekend each month with Peabody faculty in addition to attending an intensive summer institute. Participants also receive individual coaching sessions and are paired with an experienced principal mentor at another school.

“This was truly the governor’s initiative, so it was exciting to see his vision come to fruition and have him meet with the inaugural class,” said Ellen Goldring, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Education Policy and Leadership and chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations. “The program has afforded us the opportunity to design and implement what we know works for leadership development, and the program models the values and practices we want to develop in school leaders.”

After their fellowship is complete, each participant will pursue a principal position in a public school.

“The caliber of teaching has been exceptional, and we’ve been presented with a variety of ideas that we can immediately apply in our individual schools,” said GASL participant Michael Ruiz, assistant principal, Germantown Municipal School District. “That practicality is really what sets this experience apart from so many others.”

“The entire experience has been great,” added Renette Scott-Coleman, assistant principal, Jackson-Madison County Schools. “We are able to build connections with a strong, passionate group of school administrators, and learn not only from each other and our mentors, but from incredible faculty who are so approachable and so willing to share their expertise.”

View a list of the first class of GASL participants and mentors.