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Growing school leadership
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The Newton County School System needs more experienced leaders according to central office administrators.

At Tuesday night's board of education meeting members reviewed information presented to them about the current number of system administrators with more than 20 years of experience, as well as programs in place to recruit teachers into leadership positions and give current principals more opportunities for professional development.

Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, presented statistics about administrators' years of experience; she explained the dire need for experienced leadership because 45.9 percent of the district's veteran administrators have 10 years or less toward retirement.

"Several of those could walk out the door tomorrow," Hayden said.

Two county administrators announced their intent to retire this week.

 Long-time principal of Palmer-Stone Elementary School, Carl Wilkins, will retire at the end of the school year.

Associate Superintendent for Personnel Donald Dunnigan will resign to take the chief human resources position for Cobb County Schools as soon as the board approves a replacement.

 Dunnigan has 25 years of experience and Wilkins has 32.

 Hayden explained how Newton County middle schools have the least amount of administrators with more than two decades of experience with only one. Elementary schools fare better with 44.1 percent seasoned leaders, 55.6 percent in high schools and 66.6 percent at the central office.

 System-wide 54.1 percent of administrators have less than 20 years experience.

 Hayden said the deficiency will increase with the opening of a new elementary school this summer, a new middle school in 2009 and three more elementary schools and another middle and high school in the next five years.

 Kathy Reese, NCSS director of high school curriculum and vocational studies, discussed district programs in place designed to enhance administrative skills.

 She touted the Georgia Leadership Institute of School Improvement (GLISI) Rising Star program, which provides intensive, year-long training to professionals.

"We were awarded five slots for that program this year," Hayden said. "We hope this next year we'll have even more people apply."

Those participating are assistant principals Kim Coady of Porterdale Elementary, Takila Curry of Palmer-Stone Elementary, LaSharon McClain of Heard-Mixon Elementary, Bruce McColumn of Eastside High and Vicki Gheesling of East Newton Elementary.

These "stars" are sponsored and coached by principals and central office staff. Sponsors are Lizzella Dodson, Carl Wilkins and Lee Peck. Coaches are Kathy Reese, Holly Dubois and Samantha Fuhrey. Bob Daria and Naomi Cobb are both sponsoring and coaching a participant.

"A big part of the GLISI Rising Stars program is we have mutual accountability," Reese said. "All players have a stake in the outcome."

Reese explained the thorough application process which requires principals to recommend an assistant principal to apply. An information form, written case study and letter of reference are compulsory elements of the process.

A district factors analysis form detailing the districts demographics, challenges and goals determines the participants' or "performers'" priorities.

"We look at our demographics," Reese said, "not some district down the road, but demographic information within the Newton County School System."

Performance plans are then developed by assessing the district factors analysis and GLISI's eight roles of a school leader.

 "It's not just a fly-by-night thing where you choose what you want to do," Reese said. "It's based on our needs here in Newton County."

NCSS Superintendent Steve Whatley chose the "performance leader" as the district's priority role. Performance leaders are defined by GLISI as demonstrating "the ability to strategically plan, measure, monitor and manage school systems and processes necessary to improve student achievement."

"Student achievement is the bottom line for everything we do," Reese said.

Other roles display ability in curriculum, data analysis, process improvement, learning and performance development, relationships, operations and change.

Individual Performance Coaching Plans (IPCAP) are supported by performance-based modules provided by GLISI at

"It is absolutely incredible," Reese said of the step-by-step GLISI modules.

She said performers recently participated in instruction on how to conduct effective meetings.

At the end of the year, performers will compile a portfolio to send to GLISI.

"Outstanding portfolios are showed throughout the state and we certainly hope some of our Rising Stars will have outstanding portfolios," Reese said.

She said the employees who signed up for the Rising Stars program have made a major commitment to their personal improvement, improvement of their schools and the improvement of the entire school system.

"This is not the work of the faint-hearted - it's tough work," Reese said, "and it makes a difference in their schools."

Reese and Hayden also discussed the system's Teachers as Leaders program, which cultivates one teacher from each school to act as a sort of liaison between their colleagues and administrators.

"Much time and effort has been extended by Dr. [Ken] Proctor and the teachers in this program," Hayden said.

Future system plans include developing professional learning programs for all existing administrators, provide training on all of the eight GLISI roles of a school leader, expand the Teachers as Leaders program and continue monthly professional learning for assistant principals and the summer leadership retreat.

"We've got work to do folks," Hayden said to the board.