Carter County school principals receive leadership training

By Julie Fann
star staff
Carter County School principals are receiving technology-based leadership training this week through a partnership between the state's Department of Education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.
From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, county principals are meeting in the board room at the county administration building for the Institute for School Leaders, intensive training in how to generate positive change in a school environment.
"Basically what we focus on is developing a culture of change within a school and teaching principals how to look at different information about their school -- for example, test scores, but that's just one source," said Maera Elkins, one of two instructors who are leading the workshop. "There's a lot of community data -- school climate data, and that kind of thing, and then we deal with how to get your faculty to buy into the process of change and lead them effectively toward some positive change in instruction."
The software-based workshop accessed on laptop computers is founded on the "legacy cycle" developed by John D. Bransford, an educator who has written a book titled, "How People Learn -- Brain, Mind, Experience and School" that centers around five fundamentals for learning.
In discussing ideas for change during the workshop, principals are presented with a challenge. Afterward, they list their initial thoughts, develop a resource list, form new thoughts, and discuss what they've learned.
"Principals and supervisors are going through the process as if it were instituted in the classroom. When they're finished with it, they'll have hands-on experience that will make them ready to use that experience in their schools," said Dallas Williams, Carter County Schools superintendent.
On Tuesday, principals focused on two questions: "Why change?" and "Change to what?" On Wednesday, the central question was, "Where is my school now?". Today, the workshop will address, "How do I lead the way?" and "What's next?"
"There are a lot of information resources for a school, so it's combining leadership, change and data. We have them in community groups, and we change those groups each day," Elkins said.
Principals look at different layers of data and discuss what standards and objectives their school is not meeting and how to reach struggling students.
"They'll (principals) realize that there are many ways to face challenges. Then they research and revise after discussion and then test it to see if it works, and, if it does, they go public with it," Williams said.
Nine trained instructors, most of them retired teachers, are leading programs for school systems across the state. The program is grant funded for one year, and the material is made available online to faculty.