Principal’s Academy

Podcast Series: The Principal Pipeline

October 2009

Questar III’s School Improvement Office offers a Principal’s Academy to support and coach building level leaders. The program is led by high qualified coaches who have vast experience as school/district leaders.

Supporting school leaders

Like all school principals, Michael Laster has a lot on his plate.

As Principal of Greenville High School, Laster’s day includes meetings with parents about their children’s education, consultations with other administrators and faculty to improve curriculum and analyze student achievement, recruiting new faculty and staff members, ensuring health and safety standards are maintained, and solving a host of unforeseen issues every day.

To support the increased demands that principals now encounter, Greenville School administrators participate each week in the Questar III’s Principal Academy Coaching Program. Retired School Superintendent John Yagielski, with 30 years of experience in education, offers advice on effective strategies and helps the principals talk through the issues they face.

“Mr. Yagielski has worked with me on a number of things this year, including the International Baccalaureate program, scheduling, communication, and recruitment of personnel,” Laster said. “We enjoy being able to brainstorm with him because he has such a varied experience and has a lot to offer.”

Mentoring, professional development

With principals facing more and more complex responsibilities, Greenville Central School District enrolled in the professional coaching program to support their principals’ professional development and potential for success, explained Superintendent Cheryl Dudley. She noted it requires a minimum of five years for a principal to acquire the diverse set of skills that the position requires.

“Knowing the success that mentoring or coaching has brought to other levels of education, such as for teachers, we thought this was important,” Dudley
said. “To ensure the very best customer service for our students and parents, it’s important we provide the necessary support to our principals.”

Several districts have enrolled in the service since its start several years ago. Districts that once had their choice of experienced principal candidates now find it more difficult to find those candidates and therefore often turn to principals from smaller schools or teachers transitioning to administration.

That lack of experience doesn’t mean candidates can’t be excellent principals, noted Yagielski, who retired as superintendent of Shenendehowa. “These people are bright and capable, but often just a little thin on experience,” Yagielski explained.

Much of the coaching help that Yagielski offers involves self-assessment, helping principals identify skills they need to work on. He also talks with principals about balancing their work and family life, as the demands of the position can often consume an individual’s time.

“We help them develop a vision for where their school ought to be, how to collaborate with others, work on communication skills, facilitation skills, problem-solving, and student achievement. It’s about helping them to personally grow as an administrator,” Yagielski said.

The coaching help has been quite helpful, Laster said, both as a principal and a father of two young children. “It’s been very rewarding, professionally and personally,” Laster noted. “Mr. Yagielski has helped me see everything through a better lens. He’s helped me slow down and realize my priorities in life.”

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