Assistant Principals: Strengthening The ‘Bench’ in School Leadership Pipelines

A National Board Certified Teacher, LaTanya Sothern, taught in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland for 15 years. “I really felt I had more to offer as a leader,” she said during a Wallace Foundation podcast on school leadership. Serving as an instructional lead teacher gave Sothern “a little bit more training and a broader perspective” before she ultimately secured a position as an assistant principal.

When Prince George’s County Schools began efforts to create systems to attract, train, and support new school leaders as part of a six-year, $85 million effort sponsored by the Wallace Foundation, district leaders knew that aspiring leaders like Sothern had a big role to play in strengthening its principal pipeline.

“We had several assistant principals that we believed were our inherent bench, but we weren’t necessarily developing them in a way that would lead them to be successful as principals. … We kind of gave them the keys and said, ‘There you go,’ and we left all of the responsibility to the principal,” Douglas Anthony, associate superintendent of the district’s Office of Talent Development, said during the podcast. “We started to look at this particular challenge and grapple with this notion of ‘How do you build assistant principals as the bench for your principal positions?’”

Working with the National Institute of School Leadership, the district developed a program for experienced assistant principals called the Aspiring Leaders Program for Student Success (ALPSS) as well as a two-year induction program for incoming assistant principals. ALPSS includes face-to-face sessions, shadowing, and mentoring opportunities aligned to the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.

Assistant principals also receive coaching from principal supervisors and participate in quarterly meetings with representatives from all levels of the district—a central office executive, the school’s principal and principal supervisor, and an office of improvement specialist. During these meetings, assistant principals review their goals and progress—an experience Sothern called invaluable.

“Offer your aspiring principals opportunities to interact and get feedback from and be coached by people who are at different levels within a district so that they can give their different lenses and perspectives on what areas they need to do to utilize as they’re growing,” she said during the podcast.

While the issue of principal turnover is an important area of focus for many districts, Prince George’s district leaders realized something else about their own pipeline—that they employed more than 4,000 educators whose credentials  could allow them to be school leaders.

To give those aspiring to take leadership roles within the district what Anthony called “ground truth,” the district began holding “So You Want to Be an Administrator” sessions, in part to “make sure that people could look in the room and see how many people are really competing for these very prestigious and important roles in the district.”

To learn more about the Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline initiative, visit here. To listen to the podcast, visit here.

 

 

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