Education

Plans Underway For Statewide ‘Leadership Academy’ To Train Principals

Georgia State Capitol
A joint Georgia House/Senate study is putting together a proposal, outlining the academy’s curriculum, estimated costs and training hours.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE
Audio version of this story here.

The Georgia Legislature passed a law last year to help the state’s lowest-performing schools improve.

The “First Priority Act” includes establishing a statewide leadership academy to help train principals. Although any school could participate, the idea is to develop a strong pipeline of school leaders to work in disadvantaged schools.

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A joint state House/Senate study is putting together a proposal, outlining the academy’s curriculum, estimated costs and training hours. The group is basing the program on one Gwinnett County Public Schools already uses. Gwinnett Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks chairs the study committee tasked with creating the statewide academy.

“We need to operate schools with a culture and an environment where people want to come to work every day,” Wilbanks said at a study committee meeting this week. “But we also need the right people in our classrooms.”

It’s not easy for schools to keep principals. Half leave within five years of starting the job.

“Principal retention is a real problem, and what we hear from our partners in states across the U.S. is we’re turning over about 25 percent of principals every year,” said Bob Farrace, director of public affairs for the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

He said that high turnover rate can have a negative impact.

“When you consider it takes about five years of continuous leadership to get the flywheel turning on its own, that means most school improvement initiatives don’t reach fruition,” he said.

State leaders want that to change. They want the leadership academy to develop a pipeline of strong principals.

“We’ve gotta have somebody — whether it’s in a high-performing school or a low-performing school — who can tell if quality and effective instruction is going on,” Wilbanks said.

The academy would use national and state standards to train principals. Those range from establishing a good school climate to managing money to evaluating teachers.

Some pieces of the plan haven’t been determined yet, like location and staffing. Committee members will finalize the proposal later this month. They’ll submit the plan to Gov. Nathan Deal on Dec. 1.