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KNOXVILLE — Twelve Knox County educators begin their studies on Thursday, June 3, in The Leadership Academy, a new full-time, intensive 15-month fellowship program for aspiring school principals at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The academy is one of the components of the Center for Educational Leadership, part of UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and is a collaborative effort between UT Knoxville and Knox County Schools. The center is funded through a private donor and the Cornerstone Foundation. Race to the Top federal funding is also expected to help support the center.

The academy’s first class — all teachers or assistant principals in Knox County Schools — were selected by Knox County School administrators after completing an extensive application process.

Knox County Schools will continue to pay the salaries of The Leadership Academy students as they complete the program. The students will graduate with a master’s degree or education specialist degree and state principal license.

The first class includes:

  • Beth Blevins – assistant principal, Northwest Middle School
  • Paula Brown – assistant principal, Austin-East High School
  • Jonathan East – assistant principal, Gresham Middle School
  • Kim Harrison – special education teacher, Sequoyah Elementary School
  • Alisha Hinton – assistant principal, A.L. Lotts Elementary School
  • Renee Kelly – administrative assistant, Spring Hill Elementary
  • Tiffany McLean – pre-kindergarten teacher, Fair Garden Pre-School
  • Terry Nieporte – education coach, South-Doyle Middle School
  • Ryan Siebe – assistant principal, Fulton High School
  • Shay Siler – assistant principal, Carter Elementary School
  • Jamie Snyder – interim principal, Inskip Elementary School
  • Rob Speas – assistant principal, Austin-East High School

Kim Harrison said attending The Leadership Academy was appealing to her because it combines traditional classroom training in educational administration with on-the-job experience.

“For years I’ve wanted to become an administrator,” said Harrison, who will take a hiatus from her special education teaching job to attend classes and work alongside her mentor, Principal Lisa Light at Lonsdale Elementary School.

“I feel like I have made a difference as a special education teacher,” Harrison said. “Now I want to take it one step further and be an agent of change in an administrative role.”

The academy’s summer classes will focus on school and community relations, best practices and organizational leadership.

When the academic year begins, The Leadership Academy students will spend four days a week working in school with experienced mentor principals. The fifth day will be spent in coursework and seminars with professors and expert practitioners focusing on leadership development, data-driven decision making, supervision and personnel, and instructional leadership.

The students also will study school finance, equity and diversity policies, and school law.

To conclude the program, the aspiring principals will produce an electronic portfolio documenting their proficiency in school leadership and make a public presentation about the 15-month experience.

Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, said The Leadership Academy, as well as the college’s “revised and retooled” two-year, graduate program for aspiring principals that caters to working teachers, offer an unique approach to principal preparation.

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.

Vincent Anfara, chair of the college’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, which will oversee the Center for Educational Leadership, said 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.

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

“Another characteristic of the center is that beyond its support for aspiring leaders for tomorrow’s schools, professional development and job-embedded support will be provided to follow school leaders through the life span of their careers,” Anfara said.

Jim McIntyre, superintendent of the Knox County Schools, said the collaboration with UT will help Knox County Schools “to be more deliberate about identifying and developing the next generation of effective school leaders.”

“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,” he said.

In addition to the Leadership Academy, other components of the UT’s Center for Educational Leadership include: 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.

For a link to information about the Center for Educational Leadership, see

For photos of The Leadership Academy’s first class of fellows, see

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,

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