Tennessee schools are beginning to reap the rewards of a recent faculty collaboration with the state to develop highly trained school leaders.
The Governor’s Academy for School Leadership is a collaboration among Peabody, the Office of Governor Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Education, and school districts across the state. Hank Staggs, program director for the Tennessee Department of Education, said that the hope is for fellows to become school principals within three years of completing the program. For many, that’s already happening. Three members of the first cohort have been promoted to principal, and more from the 2017 group have been promoted.
The 12-month academy began in 2016, and 23 fellows from 23 Tennessee districts completed the program. A second cohort of 24 assistant principals from 21 districts started their studies in January 2017.
“We have raised expectations, invested more in education and are making huge strides in education in Tennessee,” Haslam said of the academy. “Our students and teachers have stepped up to the challenge, and our goal is to build a pipeline of highly trained principals to provide strong school leadership and continue the momentum.”
Fellows attend monthly training sessions with Peabody faculty, which have included visits from Haslam and Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. The fellows are matched with experienced principals, who are trained by the academy to serve as mentors throughout the process. The fellows participate in internships at their mentor’s school for three days each month.
“The entire curriculum and experience gave me the ability to lead with confidence,” said 2016 GASL graduate Farrah Griffith, who was recently named principal of White County Middle School. “I use something I learned from the academy each and every day.”
“I use something I learned from the academy each and every day.”
—2016 GASL graduate Farrah Griffith
Frank W. Mayborn Professor Joseph Murphy, a nationally known scholar who has helped to create widely adopted standards for school leaders, is one of the faculty members who guides the training along with a weeklong summer institute.
Other Peabody faculty participating are Mark Cannon and David Laird of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations; Erin Henrick, Heather Johnson and Marcy Singer-Gabella of the Department of Teaching and Learning; and Kim Paulsen of the Department of Special Education.
“We’ve designed the curriculum to incorporate best practices in leadership development, including coaching and mentoring,” said Ellen Goldring, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor and chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations. “We draw on research to help fellows identify high-quality instruction, support and develop effective teachers, use data to make decisions, create communities of care for students, and become successful instructional leaders.”
“We’ve designed the curriculum to incorporate best practices in leadership development, including coaching and mentoring.”
—Ellen Goldring, professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations
Emma McWeeney, a 2017 fellow, has been tapped to become principal of LEAD Academy Southeast Middle School, a charter school in Nashville. “In the first three months, I’ve been able to gain new knowledge and ideas through our sessions with Dr. Murphy, conversations with the other fellows, and experiences during my internship,” she said. “I’m looking forward to an outstanding year of learning and growth.”
Peabody’s commitment to the fellows doesn’t end when the academy concludes. “We plan to continue networking with academy alumni,” said Staggs. “For example, 19 fellows from both cohorts met in Dandridge, Tenn., in March for a collaborative day of learning across school districts.”
Staggs and Peabody Program Manager Susan Freeman Burns regularly coach and consult with current and former fellows. In the fall, Heather Johnson led an in-service training for teachers at a GASL fellow’s school.
Fellows earn a certificate of completion from Vanderbilt. The program, which provides a stipend for fellows, is funded by the state.