ECSU Hosts school leadership program for prospective principals

Kesha Williams
July 26, 2011

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Efforts to train future leaders in northeastern North Carolina schools are advancing thanks to a $2.9 million grant from the United States Department of Education. Dr. Claudie J. Mackey, program director for the Northeastern North Carolina School Leadership Program (NNCSLP) at Elizabeth City State University, said the grant is one of seven awarded across the U.S. during the funding cycle for October 1,  2009 - September 30, 2014.  Currently, it is the only one awarded in North Carolina. 

The grant will support an ongoing partnership the university has with nine school districts - Bertie, Edenton-Chowan, Edgecombe, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank, Halifax-Weldon City, Northampton, Perquimans, Warren and Washington Counties. The NNCSLP is a program designed for school improvement and increasing the number of new, certified principals and assistant principals. Over a five year period, the grant will cover the costs of 54 individuals-- aspiring principals --who will complete courses at ECSU for a Master of Arts in School Administration Degree. 

Representatives from those nine school districts attended a two-day retreat sponsored by the Northeastern North Carolina School Leadership Program on July 13-14 at ECSU. The school leadership retreat was one of a series of activities those 54 participants will attend over the next three years.

During the retreat, the participants discussed topics related to school curriculum, classroom management, teaching mathematics without a book, developing leaders, technology in the 21st century and SAT preparation. Mackey said this leadership development program is exceptional because it will address specific issues occurring in this region's schools.

"The whole notion is to help school execs, principals and assistant principals to become better instructional leaders," Dr. Mackey said. "This was a moment of networking where school district leaders could gather to share strengths and weaknesses and to hear how they can work toward adjustments. If one of them had a successful strategy to a problem, they shared it with others here.  Those strategies may become a model program for administrators to try in their district."

The two-day retreat brought two high profile guests to town: Beatriz Ceja-Williams, the program manager of the U. S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement, School Leadership, Transition to Teaching and Teacher Quality Programs and Rob Jackson, the 2011 Wells Fargo North Carolina State Principal of the Year.

Jackson admitted to the school administrators in the audience that his plight to becoming the Wells Fargo North Carolina State Principal of the Year wasn't easy or intended. As the first principle of a school, Cuthbertson High School, that was created to ease overcrowding in southwestern Union County he found himself leading staff, faculty and students who had no central, school history to draw from. It was the fall of 2009, and they were essentially drawing on a blank page, each day creating the culture of a new school. He met with staff, faculty, supporters and parents to determine how the school could best meet the needs of students and the expectations of the community. Since then, Jackon learned valuable lessons that he shared with his audience.

"Do what you can with what you have, where you are. Remember that parents are sending their most valuable possessions to school each day. The kids didn't choose to come to school in this economy but it's our job to assure them a good education,"  Jackson said.

In order to keep students, parents and the public abreast of developments at Cuthbertson High School,  Jackson uses Facebook, Twitter, the school website and his journal. He also strongly encourages displays of student accomplishments on the school's boards and in display cases. Jackson acknowledged that educators often meet students who excel in different areas and at different paces but a principal must be committed to granting students the best education possible. While speaking to the audience, he advised them to remember some important facts.

"The principal is the school's best cheerleader. Students are valued and valuable."