Education Matters: A qualified and well-prepared principal in every school
School leadership is a critical component when it comes to effective learning outcomes. On today's show, we will be talking with some amazing guests about the system of principal development and recruitment for a qualified and well-prepared principal in every school. Guests: Dr. Shirley Prince, Executive Director - North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals' Association Senator Don Davis, (D) District 5 Kisha Clemons, Wells Fargo Principal of the Year Brent Williams, 2021 A. Craig Phillips Superintendent of the Year
Welcome to education matters presented by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. I'm your host. Maryanne Wolf. School leadership is a critical component when it comes to effective learning outcomes for our students. On today's show, we will be talking with some amazing guest about the system of principle, development and recruitment for a qualified and well prepared principle in every school I'd like to welcome to the show. Kesha Clemens, the Wells Fargo principal of the year, and Brent Williams, the 2021 a. Craig Phillips, Superintendent of the year. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you. Thank you. I'm excited to be here, so I wanted to start out because we are focused on principles today. How our principles doing especially during Covic. Well, I will first of all, say that you know principles by nature exhibit courage and resilience and provide hope to all the people that you know we serve. It's what we dio and leading through crisis is no different than that. Um, you know, we're constantly managing the needs of our students and our staff and our families, but I think it is important to remember that principles were facing the same kind of challenges that teachers are facing challenges in keeping students engaged in attending school and making up for the loss of time of not being in school and supporting teachers and ensuring that we have designed a digital learning environment that is conducive to student needs. Getting resource is the list goes on, so I think that principles are doing the very best they can. They always rise to the occasion to the do the very best for their students and staff and community. But it has been a very challenging year, and, you know, we are trying to work together and really collaborating so that we can constantly think about how we address some of the problems and issues that we're facing. Bren, I know from your perspective is a superintendent Principals role has always been challenging. I know you've also served as a principal. Um, how do you see the principles in your district and those that you work with? Um, how do you see them doing right now? To As as Kesha said, she didn't outstanding job of really covering the essence of the situation for our school leaders. We have amazing school leaders in our district and across the state, our principles doing outstanding job every day. And as she referenced just trying to handle the myriad responsibilities and not only to complete tasks but in this moment of pandemic and recovery. Um, in this time of conducting school every day in ways that have never been necessary for situations that have never existed, our principles have stepped forward. They've stepped up and they're doing amazing things. They're not bystanders there, up standards. We see that every day we see it in the hallways, in the classrooms we see our principles calling parents working with kids. Every situation is unique. Working the working with health departments, conducting contact tracing in our district. We're doing the testing clinics, and we're going to start week after next with the vaccine clinics for teachers just doing everything we can and all of that is on the shoulders of our principles. It feels like a massive weight all the time for principle. And, you know, 20 years ago I became a principal and was it Waas then and always, always will be one of the greatest things in the world to be to me. I hold it near and dear and I love our principles. We haven't outstanding lineup of principles, but every day one of their their one principal said to me once, You know, I have to try to do all things for all people and be all things to all people, and we know that our teachers are in the classrooms and their partners and part social worker and part parent and in part instructor. But in this moment of pandemic and recovery, what I see is very rewarding as she referenced the resilience of our community, of our students, of our parents, off our parents, who are also, um, cooperative in the process now, in ways they've never had to be there, collaborating on the teaching and learning process and even greater ways than they always have. But our parents, our teachers, our principals, or having to step to the fore and confront things that have never been confronted. The intensity of need is so significant as she referenced with our digital learning plans and our remote learning that we're trying to do at the same time in tandem. Working with the we're in Option B in the North County and working with the blended learning and and just trying to make all the pieces fit for our kids. But the most significant thing the social and emotional trauma and crisis that our kids have experience we've had in eastern North Carolina, three hurricanes in three years, and then in Year four, we have cove it. And now, in year five, we're still dealing with Kobe. So five out of six years we've dealt with that which has never been faced by these young people before, and these intense traumatic crisis moments, and we're still trying to recover. Kesha. You know, one of the things that we know is so important is to have a highly qualified and well prepared principle for every school. And what do you see as some of those biggest challenges, including as it comes to working conditions? When you think about principles and and recruiting and making sure that we provide conditions where they're successful and effective A Z, they serve their students and their staff in their community. Um, you know, one of the things that I think that principals need is always a voice at the table, a voice at the table to really communicate what's happening in the trenches. Um, you know, they're directly working with students and staff and families, and so I think, always making sure that principals have that voice and to be able to communicate the needs of their school community. I also think that it is critical for principles to have professional development and ongoing coaching that's personalized to their needs needs. And just like we approach teachers and and new teachers with providing them ongoing mentoring and support principles need the same thing. You know, they need that support, the principal level, but also district level support accessibility to those district level leaders in helping to do the work. Um, one of the things also was references about this work life balance. You know, often times, you know, principles are called principles are superheroes and and a superhero. You know, we think that we have to do everything for everyone, and it can become very heavy. And so I think that that ongoing support to make sure that the workload is not too heavy and that we're thinking about the needs of the principles as they are leading their students and their staff in their community, whether it's a prices or not. I think that work life, balance and providing that support is critical to having working conditions that are conducive to the work. Brenda's You think about your own district but also districts across the state. What could be done to recruit and retain more school leaders? And how should we be preparing them? What is needed? Their most important factor in teaching and learning is the teachers in that classroom and in turn, another in very important and critical factor is the person in that building who's the instructional leader in the front office? The principal, the principal teacher head teacher who was supporting all those teachers. And in turn, I believe it's very important for district level administration to support and empower and nourish those leaders. Is Kesha reference with with deep, wide research based tangible professional development that they could go out and make, um, significant, um, changes changes in in their own practices and changes in what they're doing and recruiting and retaining the best and brightest leaders? Um, it is not an isolated, silo driven endeavor where we just go to a recruitment fair and we do that like everybody else. Most mostly in eastern North Carolina and mostly in line or county. We have embraced the grow, your own initiative, mindset and really trying to do what we can to bring up our own to mentor, to identify the teacher leaders in our classrooms and to say to them, We believe in you. We support you, we encourage you and then to support them in their growth and to nourish that growth. As she said, with good, uh, sustained professional development and through the humanistic lens, I don't want to hesitate to point that out, that really investing in our leaders as people and saying We believe in you, You can do this. And in this moment of pandemic and recovery, when we could all be down and out and miserable and sort of angry and frustrated every day that we have to push that to the side for the benefit of the young people that were so richly blessed to serve, and to say this is our moment to lead our moment to shine and two step forward is leaders as principles, as superintendent says other leaders as teachers, and to say we're going to do everything that we can to give them all we have every day so that they can be a successful as they can be in spite of anything pandemic or anything else. Kesha we have a few more seconds. I just love to hear what is the one thing that you would say has made the biggest difference for you, and your role is a principal in your career. I think the one thing that has made the difference for me, no matter on what school that I've been at, what challenges I've had, has been having a principal mentor coach on DNA, not always one that has been assigned to me in a district, but someone that's a fault partner that constantly challenges me and how I think and really pushing me to, um, challenge the status quo. It's that level of ongoing support and mentoring that has made the biggest difference for me as a prince. Well, thank you all so much for all you do for bringing just this positivity to the challenges that we're facing and reminding us all just how important people are in relationships are. And thank you for being here. After the break, we will be joined by Senator Don Davis and Shirley Prince, the executive director of the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association. Education matters is brought to you each week in part by town bank serving others I'd like to welcome to the show Senator Don Davis and short Doctor Shirley Prince, the executive director of the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association, or NZ. Papa, thanks so much to both of you for joining us today, Senator Davis. I'd love to start with you. Why is it so important that we're talking about principles today? Absolutely. On principles are the key to our schools. In many ways, a good principle is gonna be the pathway to making sure we have the best teachers inside of our classrooms. And a good teacher can truly turn the life around of a student. Um, so we have to continue to have conversations about how Thio make sure we're doing the right thing. Uh, Thio get good principles out there into our schools. And Dr Prince, something I know you talk a lot about is and work a great deal with are the principles in our schools. What do we need to be doing to support our current principles. I think our principles need high quality professional development and support from their district offices. And beyond that, they also need MAWR support personnel. We have a board made up of 16 principals who are former principles of the year in their regions and so on. And the very first legislative priority that they wanted on our short list. Waas Mawr support personnel so that they could do all the things that they know they need to do for each and every student. And Senator Davis, we talk a lot about wanting to be able to both recruit and retain, um, you know, visionary leaders who also deeply understand teaching and learning. And I wonder if you could talk a little bit from a policy perspective. What are some of the issues that used the emerging, especially around school leadership? One of the things that continue to merge ast the conversation around salary, and we have to make sure that we are offering, um, good salaries. Um, at the end of the day, I believe you get what you pay for. And if we are, I'm not gonna honor the profession, you know, with the salary that's deserving of an administrator. Um, then the results are perhaps not gonna be is great. So to me, that's one of the conversations. Not only that, but when we talk about broader policies and especially right now during the time of this pandemic, we have to get the resource is in the school to allow administrators to succeed going through this process. Um, there are many points where I'm sure even administrators were experiencing some degrees of depression and just trying to figure out or distress of how we're gonna pull this all together. Eso resource is, uh that allow them to be successful leaders in their schools. I think is also a critical from a policy perspective building on Senator Davis's comments. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about both professional learning in those supports that he just referenced, but also this important issue of principle, pay and salaries, so that we can recruit and retain high quality on well prepared principles. Absolutely well, I couldn't agree with Senator Davis more. It's obvious that he understands three importance of principles all the events investments that we make in public education. If we don't have a really effective principal leading the school. We can't optimize those investments, and the principal ship is the fastest and most effective way to improve a school. And with that said, I think that when our compensation system for principles was totally revamped a few years ago, there were some good things that occurred and then some things that we think still need to be improved upon. One of the things that really was was good for our the workforce of principles is that we started paying some of our newer principles mawr. They had been stuck at low levels for too long. But what happened in addition to that is we weren't really incentivizing those principles at the upper end of the profession to remain in the pressure in the profession. And they're some of our strongest principals because they've weathered all these years of very rigorous accountability, and they've proven themselves. So we want to hold on to these principles s so we need to look at ways to incentivize principles remaining in the profession. There's now no feature recognizing experience in the compensation system. Also the bonus. We are very supportive of performance bonuses, but we believe that the bonus is making up too large of a chunk of a principal salary. And because the measure off the performance bonus can be so erratic, principles really don't know what they're going to be earning from year to year. And this pandemic has created an uneven playing field for principals who deal with, UH, no broadband in their district. Ah, lot of poverty in their district and students not having support that they need. So we need to look at all those things, Thank you so much. And Senator Davis switching a little bit to the legislative session, Um, as you are well aware of the Leandro short term action plan, lays out specific recommendations to improve not only the profession for our school leaders but many other aspects of public education in North Carolina. And so I am curious to see what your thoughts are about how that might play into this legislative session or other areas that you're pursuing or your colleagues were pursuing that would help to support our principles. There are many conversations that are emerging now around the General Assembly, uh, around Leandro and let me say it this way. This is what we know as a date. We know that now, uh, has been declared by judge that our students, some students in the state, have not been afforded their constitutional right to a sound basic education. We know that we know secondly, that the courts have not abandoned this case. Um, And right now, what I believe is front and center is what are we willing to do then? As leaders in the state? Because we must continue to invest in early childhood, We must make sure that every child has an opportunity toe have a favorite teacher. We all remember our favorite teachers, right? And that means we need quality teachers in the classroom. We need thio support the administrators so they can, uh, have good schools. All of this is relevant. Azaz. Well, Azaz, looking at the formula that works to get the resource is to our students and and and professional development opportunities. All these things are important. We know this and let me say this. We saw them with Leandro. These challenges before the pandemic I believe the pandemic now is showing that there likely be even larger learning gaps. So it's time now more than ever. I believe that we step up to the plate to begin to mitigate some of these tenets of Leandro getting some funds by, you know, putting funds in place. Obviously, these are still economic difficult time to our state. Um, even though there's federal dollars lining up, there's still the rainy dot rainy day dollars. And because we did not pass a budget, there's unreserved. So I would like to see us walk away with some level of commitment. Um, and I think our students deserve it. Dr. Prince, I wonder if, very briefly, if you could just talk a little bit about principle preparation programs here and how we're getting these individuals who lead our schools ready and what we might need to do in terms of those Almost five years ago, there was a bill called the transforming Ah, law rather transforming principal preparation. And five, um yeah, organizations were selected as the first grantees. And what this funding has allowed us to do is to actually implement what we know makes for very effective principal preparation number one very rigorous selection practices so that we get the best and the brightest that have the propensity to lead adults and create the kinds of conditions that will allow every student to be successful. And then it allows the district to approach these individuals and say, Hey, we're going to support you through your preparation program. We're going to pay your full salary during your internship, which, by the way, is a year law and we're going thio. Pay all your benefits and we're going to pay your tuition. We just want you to commit to be a principal in North Carolina and and do what we know you are able to do for for students. These programs have worked on making their coursework much more relevant and applicable to the real world that these principles live in. And the information that we have gathered over the last almost five years will allow us to really identify how we can scale this across the state were so fortunate to have leaders like the two of you here temping our principles but also just understanding the roles and how important they are. So thank you so much for being here with us after the break. This week's final word Ah, principle is critical and establishing and building a school's culture, vision and approach to teaching and learning. In fact, school leadership is found to be the second most important school factor influencing student learning after teacher effectiveness is, I think, about the schools across our state. So many dedicated, phenomenal principles stand out. They empower their teachers each day and they know their students like the leaders on today's show. They are courageous, tireless and deeply committed to our students, and we only see a small part of the work they do each day. This year has only exacerbated the challenges, principles, face and the complexity of leading their schools. When teachers, staff, families and students have gotten discouraged or scared. It is our principals who are leading the way and modeling how we can move forward together in recognition of the importance of the principal in each school. The Leandro short term action plan calls for a system of principle, development and recruitment that ensures each school is led by AH, high quality principal who was supplied with early and ongoing professional learning and provided competitive pay. The recommendations include steps to expand access to high quality principal preparation programs, expand professional learning opportunities for current principals and assistant principals and update the state school administrator preparation and principal licensure requirements to align program approval standards with effective practices. We must also continue to improve how we recruit and retain our school leaders. As we've seen a reduction in candidates for these positions over the past several years, assistant principals in our schools provide the potential for building the pipeline to the principal ship. And we should work together to strategize on how to incentivize that talent pool and identify additional strategies to attract and retain candidates of color into the profession. North Carolina has significant programs, including those described by NC Papa, the Northeast Leadership Academy or Neela, the North Carolina principal fellows programs and others through our institutes of higher education that support educators to pursue the principal ship Addressing an improving principal working conditions is critical toe optimizing learning conditions for our students after ranking as low as 50th in the nation in principle pay. Within the last decade, North Carolina has worked to improve compensation. We are now ranked third in the Southeast, but we must remain competitive weaken, do more to improve how we compensate principles and to incentivize principles, toe lead, low performing schools and We must ensure that principles have the human and financial resources and tools they need to attract high quality and well prepared educators. We must also reinstate retiree health benefits for principals, teachers and all state employees. As this key recruit mental was lost at the beginning of this year. Finally, we must acknowledge the complexity of a principal's role. Principles typically oversee 50 or more staff members and even more in many of our high schools. They lead their teachers and staff so that they have the resources and support they need to meet the needs of all of our students. They maintain significant budgets and have many stakeholders, including our students and families. Principles make thousands of decisions each day that affect the lives of our students. We must continue to strive to honor these leaders through our actions. Thank you for taking time to learn and think about education. That's all for today, and we'll see you next week.