Quality of life and long-term economic viability in the Lowcountry rest on the availability of a well-trained and ready workforce. Public education and the more than 150 public schools in the region serve as the talent supply chain for employers. The three essential elements for education attainment are highly skilled instructional leaders as principals leading highly qualified teachers who are setting high expectations for students.
Two years ago, on the heels of a successful collaboration in early literacy, we, the four school superintendents in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, initiated a project to create a pipeline of aspiring principals ready to fill vacancies as they arise. High turnover, especially in the region’s most challenging schools, too often leads to individuals being placed in these positions with too little time to prepare. We are determined to do something about it.
A nationwide review of best practices in principal preparation was conducted on our behalf by Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC), with support from the Wallace Foundation, over a one-year period. Three evidence-based programs emerged whose representatives were invited to the region to make a proposal. Of these, the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) was selected.
There are two components to this superintendents’ initiative:
Instructional Leadership Training – Sitting Principals and Principal Supervisors
This summer, 45 sitting principals from the four districts will begin a year-long training, conducted by CEL in the Lowcountry and paid for entirely by the districts. A second training for principal supervisors is available and will be delivered in the future. Both program components will be managed by the LCEL going forward, once the center is established.
Aspiring Principals Training
The development of an aspiring principals training is intended to serve the needs of the four districts and yield candidates who are state-certified and ready to serve. Candidates for this program will be identified by each district, and principal vacancies within each district will be filled as much as possible by its graduates.
The development work will be supported by consultants working with CEL and completed by representatives of all four districts to assure not only a common core curriculum but also responsiveness to the distinctive practices of each district.
The cost of this development work and a turn-key approach to launching the center is $400,000. Of this amount, $350,000 is intended to cover the cost of developing the program with support from the CEL and consultants who will be working with CEL and district representatives to adapt the CEL model to the Lowcountry. The remaining $50,000 constitutes a down payment on the cost of the LCEL staff.
We do not contemplate a brick-and-mortar center but a virtual organization, with one to two staff managing logistics and equipping themselves to serve as trainers. Once established, the center will be overseen by the districts and be self-supporting, based on tuition paid by each district. Establishing a relationship with a college or university serving the Lowcountry will be considered as the work develops.
We are seeking support from multiple sources: national foundations, the state government and individual support. However, we are also looking to our business and community leaders who have the most to gain from a well-educated and trained workforce.
There is every indication that for the first time in decades real education reform in the region and state is possible. Assuring our children and their teachers have highly qualified instructional leaders in every school is the surest means of sustaining transformation.
Dr. Eddie Ingram, Superintendent, Berkeley County School District
Dr. Gerrita Postlewait, Superintendent, Charleston County School District
Mr. Joe Pye, Superintendent, Dorchester School District Two
Dr. Morris Ravenell, Superintendent, Dorchester School District Four