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KNOXVILLE — The Center for Educational Leadership, a collaborative venture between the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and Knox County Schools, is being established at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with funding from a private gift.

“The center will be the centerpiece of an innovative educational leadership development system that will purposefully and aggressively grow the next generation of outstanding leadership for our schools,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.

The center will consist of five components: The Leadership Academy, which will prepare school principals; The Educational Leadership Institute, a summer institute for school leaders; The Executive Leadership Institute, a summer institute for district-level leaders; The Leadership Resource Center, providing a variety of professional development opportunities; and job-embedded support for current principals.

“The significant needs and challenges associated with a 21st-century education require a significant shift in the way we prepare school leaders,” Rider said. “Expectations and accountability are intense for schools and school leaders, and today’s leaders must recognize they no longer can rely on intuition, tradition or convenience in making decisions about the best practices and strategies to improve student academic performance.”

Vincent Anfara, chair of the college’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, which will oversee The Center for Educational Leadership, said a national search for a director to head up the center is now under way.

Anfara said he’s laying the groundwork for different components of the center, including talking to area school districts and other UT colleges about possible partnerships.

“This new way of preparing school leaders calls for a multidisciplinary approach involving not only the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, but also school districts, and university faculty from the areas of business, law, social work, communication, information technology and others,” he said.

Principal Training Programs

Among the most visible aspect of The Center for Educational Leadership will be UT’s collaboration with the Knox County Schools to prepare new principals through a new full-time, intensive 18-month fellowship program.

“This partnership with The University of Tennessee is a key strategy to achieving our goal of ‘Excellence for All Children,'” said Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre. “We know that leadership matters in any organization, but in public education strong, effective leadership has a tremendous impact on our ability to successfully educate our children.”

Knox County Schools and The Center for Educational Leadership will identify 10 to 12 talented aspiring principals for the program each year through a highly selective admissions process. The first cohort of students will begin in the summer of 2010.

Knox County Schools will pay the fellows — many of whom will already be employees in the district — a salary as they complete the principal training program.

“Candidates in the program will spend four days a week working in a school with an experienced and excellent mentor principal,” McIntyre said. “The fifth day will be spent in coursework and seminars with professors and expert practitioners. We believe this model will provide the Knox County Schools with an established pipeline of well-prepared, instructionally focused school leaders for many years to come.”

To conclude the program, students will participate in a project that will integrate their learning across the many curricular areas of the Academy, and will include an electronic portfolio documenting the student’s proficiency in school leadership, and a public presentation about the 18-month experience. Fellows will graduate from the program with a master’s or education specialist degree and state principal license.

“We are fortunate to currently enjoy solid principal leadership in our school district, but this partnership will help us to become more deliberate about identifying and developing the next generation of effective school leaders in the Knox County Schools,” McIntyre said. “Recognizing the incredible demands on today’s school principals, The Leadership Academy will assist us in condensing and abbreviating the learning curve for aspiring school principals so that they can focus from day one on being an effective educational leader.”

In addition to the fellowship program, the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies will continue to offer a “revised and retooled” two-year, graduate program for aspiring principals that typically caters to working teachers.

Rider said the college’s principal-training programs are going to be “a very unique approach to how principals are trained.”

In the past, principals often earned their posts through longevity; after working in a school district for many years they were “promoted” into administration. Now, Rider said, principals need a wide range of skills that aren’t learned by teaching alone.

The curricula of both the traditional and fellowship principal-training programs are being planned with those new needs in mind and in alignment with the standards of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, and the state of Tennessee’s Instructional Leadership (TILS) standards.

Coursework will include teaching, learning and assessment; teacher recruitment, training, retention and evaluation; conflict resolution; school law; data-driven leadership; issues related to equity and diversity in schools, school finance and budgeting; critical technology issues; and school security and media relations.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely, University of Tennessee (865-974-5034,

Melissa Copelan, Knox County Schools (865-594-1905,