Under an initiative by first-year Superintendent Gearl Loden, the school district has begun providing specific training to its 11 assistant principals. The idea is to develop that into a formal academy for aspiring principals.
“It is important for us to support and mentor young and developing administrators,” said TPSD Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell. “If we want smooth transitions when an administrator retires or moves on, we need to have a good pool of administrators in our district. The best way to do it is to build support for the people who work for us.”
The assistant principals meet quarterly. Training has been led by former Oxford administrator Wanda Dean, who has focused on curriculum and instruction and on building leadership skills. Loden also has taken an active role to provide mentorship, Ezell said.
“We’ve talked about how to keep students engaged and what strategies do you use to support teachers,” Ezell said.
Former Mississippi Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham also will meet with the group, Ezell said. Burnham is currently the interim head of the Mississippi Principal Corps Program.
The district has created an online discussion board for the assistant principals to ask questions and provide ideas to each other. They’ve read common books and articles and discussed them on that page.
“They are building a network while they do this,” Ezell said. “They are definitely building a community.”
The training began in the fall. All of the assistant principals will attend the district’s administrative retreat in June, as they have in the past, along with school principals. A workshop focused on assistants will follow in July.
The cohort includes one assistant principal from each of the four third- to fifth-grade schools, one from Milam, two from Tupelo Middle School and four from Tupelo High School. They also will visit each other’s schools.
In developing an academy, the idea will be to make the training more formalized. That may also allow TPSD teachers with administrative certification, those working toward that certification and those who want to one day become administrators to participate. Ezell said the district would like to partner with the universities to build an administrative support network.