BY DR. CATHERINE STEPHENS
Whether it be businesses or schools, everyone faces the same challenge of replacing key leadership positions with high quality new hires. Most would say they prefer to reward loyalty and performance by moving personnel up in the ranks. However, there is nothing that prepares a teacher for the incredible transition into a school leadership role. That is why the Franklin Special School District has created a program to provide those important job-embedded learning opportunities through our four-year-old Leadership Internship Program (LIP). By December, twelve interns will have completed the internship program since its inception.
This year-long leadership internship program is designed to provide educators who aspire to be school level-leaders, such as principal or assistant principal, with relevant opportunities to experience what leadership looks like in two different school settings. Built by the FSSD’s Director of Schools Dr. David Snowden and Associate Director of Schools for Teaching and Learning Dr. Catherine Stephens, LIP covers all topics that are crucial for new school leaders to know the first day they step into their new role. Some topics covered include: Budgeting and Finance, Communication, Data Analysis and Use, Evening/ After-School Events, Personnel Matters, Recruiting and Hiring Highly Qualified Staff, Scheduling, Testing, Discipline, Professional Learning, Safety and Evaluation.
Interns spend time with both the principal and assistant principal at each of their assigned campus. It is important for the interns to understand the role and responsibilities of the assistant principal, as this is the position most likely to be experienced when stepping into a school-level leadership role. To become an applicant for the program, LIP candidates must have a current administrator license and must have completed three years in the FSSD.
The intern and principal work together to create a schedule which allows for as many different experiences as possible. The interns attend meetings during the day, events after school, and work at least five days during the summer to ensure they have an idea of what types of events, tasks, experiences and projects occur during these important months as school leaders close one school year and prepare for the next.
By the time this year’s internship program concludes, each intern will have spent a total of thirty days (fifteen days each on two different campuses), fully embedding and investing with the school leaders. Additionally, Dr. Snowden and Dr. Stephens meet with the interns after school three times each semester - for a total of six sessions. During these gatherings, various leadership topics are covered and the interns are able to ask important questions to help broaden their understanding of school leadership.
So far, the FSSD Leadership Internship Program has been extremely successful. Of the ten past participants:
• One is an assistant principal in our district.
• Two have entered the second year of their doctoral pursuit.
• More than one serves as the principal designee when their administrators are out of the building.
• One is serving as a district-level instructional coach in another state.
• One serves as an FSSD coach for positive behavior supports and works with four of the eight FSSD schools in this role.
• One served as an ambassador for the division of special populations for the TN Teacher Ambassador Network.
• One serves as the building mentor for new teachers in her building.
We will continue to monitor and support the intern graduates, and wish our current interns, Cinamon Collins, Ed.D. (Poplar Grove Elementary ELL teacher), and Andre White (Johnson Elementary 4th grade teacher) continued success as they finish their program next month.
During a special presentation to the FSSD school board, Collins said, “There is nothing like being in the midst of the role to learn and understand leadership more deeply.” White, a twenty-three year teaching veteran, told the board, “Being a school administrator is definitely a job you do not want to learn on the fly. The feedback and insight that [Stephens and Snowden] have been able to provide me has been tremendously helpful. Not many aspiring administrators get the opportunity to learn to be school leaders from the actual people who lead their district.”
While the program is intensive and requires extra work on the part of the current district leaders, it is directly related to the FSSD vision of “Excellence in Teaching and Learning for All.” Creating and honing excellence in our students can only happen when we are also willing to support and build the capacity of our teachers