school leadership

Principals matter — and Tennessee wants to do a better job of equipping them

The job of a principal has changed a lot over the last decade.

Instead of just hiring teachers, managing the building, and stepping in for the toughest discipline issues, today’s principals also serve as catalysts for the quality of classroom instruction. They not only hire teachers but they observe, evaluate and coach them.

That’s why Tennessee is launching a new initiative to get teachers with untapped leadership potential to the principal’s office, as well as support and develop principals who are already there.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re changing our preparation to meet those demands,” said Education Commissioner McQueen. “We want to have strong principals in every school to provide leadership that will create transformative learning experiences for all students.”

McQueen identified leadership development among her top priorities when she began leading the State Department of Education in 2015. Recognizing that principals play a big role in teacher effectiveness — and therefore student outcomes — she started the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance, a group of researchers, administrators and educators committed to improving school leadership across the state.

The new Principal Pipeline Partnership is an outgrowth of that alliance. Using newly available federal funding, it will underwrite partnerships among local districts, universities and nonprofit organizations to develop new training programs, and to improve existing ones.

Applications for partnerships are due May 15. Programs can each receive up to $125,000 in funding over four years, and will begin as soon as July.

State leaders aren’t sure how many grants they’ll award, but hope to have programs across Tennessee, especially serving rural areas.

The money will come under the federal rewrite of No Child Left Behind, called the Every Student Succeeds Act. Before, Title II money could only be used to train teachers in four academic core subjects. Now, it can be used to support principals, too.

McQueen said the state is committed to seeing the partnerships bloom, even if President Donald Trump’s administration goes through with its proposal to cut Title II altogether.

“We are still very hopeful that we have Title II funds, but even if we don’t, we will create pathways for this work,” she said.

Partnerships will include principal residencies, in which candidates train under experienced school leaders, as well as ways to support principals once they’ve graduated from programs.

About 45 percent of Tennessee principals are in their first four years on the job, making it especially important that development continues once a principal is hired, said Paul Fleming, the state’s assistant commissioner of teaching and learning.

“We know it’s really critical to provide support for beginning principals,” Fleming said. “I don’t know if there’s a school out there who’s effective without an effective principal.”

At least partnership model spearheaded by local districts already exists, and it’s been an inspiration to the State Department of Education. Since 2010, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has worked with surrounding school systems to train principals through an intensive 15-month Leadership Academy, in which fellows spend four days a week in a school with a mentor principal, and one day in classes at the university.

Jim McIntyre understands the program’s importance from multiple perspectives. He served as superintendent of Knox County Schools from 2008 to 2016, and now oversees the Leadership Academy as the director of UT’s Center for Educational Leadership.

“I thought it was just wonderful and remarkable to know that there was a new cadre of educators every year who came through a very intensive experience that prepared them well for the rigors of leadership,” he said.

Future of Schools

These 29 Indianapolis administrators could lose their jobs

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

Indianapolis Public Schools has identified dozens of principals, deans and other administrators who could lose their jobs at the end of the year, many because of the decision to close high schools.

As the district pursues plans to close three of its seven high schools, the superintendent recommended that the board cancel the contracts of 29 administrators effective July 1.

The list of administrators includes two high school principals and several assistant principals and deans whose contracts could be canceled because of the high school closing plan. Several high school athletic directors could also have their contracts canceled because the district is changing the job description and requirements for those positions, according to IPS spokesperson Carrie Cline Black.

They were all invited to apply to other open positions in the district, but the district is canceling their contracts because state law requires districts to notify certain administrators by March 1 if their contracts will not be renewed, according to Black.

The recommendation, which is included in the district’s monthly personnel report, is not entirely surprising, since the district anticipated having fewer administrators once it consolidates campuses. But the district had not previously revealed which staff members could lose their positions.

This is just the latest sign of the upheaval caused by the high school closings. Hundreds of high school teachers were required to reapply for their jobs, and students were required to select new high school programs for next year.

Here is the full list of staffers the superintendent recommended canceling contracts for:

Arlington High School

  • Debra Barlowe, dean
  • Arthur Dumas, dean
  • David Tuttle, assistant principal
  • Debra Ward, assistant principal
  • Danny Wilson, athletic director

Arsenal Technical High School

  • Anne Deckard, dean
  • Sheldon Floyd, assistant principal
  • Steven Glenn, dean
  • Thomas Starnes, athletic director
  • Roslyn Stradford, assistant principal
  • Lisa Williams, dean

Broad Ripple High School

  • John Edge, assistant principal
  • Robert Moses, interim assistant principal
  • Rachel Norwood, magnet coordinator
  • Vickie Winslow, dean

Crispus Attucks High School

  • Kenneth Roseman, athletic director
  • Joshua Varno, athletic director

George Washington High School

  • Emily Butler, principal
  • Zachary Ervin, dean
  • Patrick Kennison, assistant principal
  • Charonda Woods, assistant principal

Northwest Community High School

  • Moshfilay Anderson, athletic director
  • Eileen Bell, assistant principal
  • Michelle Brittain-Watts, principal
  • Martha Lince, dean
  • Alan Smith, assistant principal
  • Albert Young, dean

Positive Supports Academy

  • Kevin Brown, dean

Shortridge High School

  • Kathy Langdon, athletic director

What do you think?

Detroiters react with praise — and fury — as district changes how it will decide who gets into Cass Tech and Renaissance

PHOTO: DPSCD
A student wearing a Renaissance High School t-shirt competes in a robotics competition.

Reaction was swift and strong last week when Chalkbeat reported that Detroit’s main school district is changing the way students are admitted to Cass Technical High School, Renaissance High School and two other selective schools.

Some parents, teachers, students and members of the schools’ devoted alumni associations praised the district’s decision to reduce the role of testing in admissions decisions. But others expressed anger and concern about how the changes will affect the schools and how decisions about the changes were made.

Instead of basing admissions decisions primarily on the results of a single exam, the district will this year turn the process over to an admissions team comprised of teachers and staff from the schools, as well as administrators in the district’s central office. They will use a score card to decide admissions with just 40 percent of a student’s score coming from the high school placement exam. The rest of the points will come from grades, essays and letters of recommendations. Students currently enrolled in the district will get 10 bonus points that will give them an edge over students applying from charter and suburban schools.

The news turned into one of the most talked about stories on our site this year — and readers’ reactions ran the gamut. Read some of what our readers had to say below.

Some thought the change was problematic:


Others applauded the changes:




A current Cass Tech teacher said she agreed the admissions process needed to change, but was concerned that the district did not ask for her input on the new system:

How do you feel about the new admissions process? Tell us below in the comments or weigh on on Facebook or Twitter.