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Principals from the private sector?
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By next school year, school-level leadership could come from the private sector.

According to officials at the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, an agency charged with certifying teachers and administrators, a part of the state's Race to the Top application is to look at alternative ways to certify school principals.

It could mean leaders from the private sector could become principals without having to go through the traditional pathways.

"If you have content expertise, if you have a degree in chemistry, etc., etc., then we can have an alternative preparation program that's very streamlined and efficient to teach you the pedagogy," said Kelly Henson, executive secretary for the commission.

"These immensely talented people aren't going to go back to college for three years to get a litany of education pedagogy courses to be a principal."

Georgia currently provides pathways for those in the private sector to become teachers without taking traditional channels.

Henson said the idea is to open up the candidate pool when looking for qualified principals and it could be possible to provide the training necessary to make those candidates effective principals.

"This allows us to deepen the candidate pool," he said. "It allows us to tap into a set of trained individuals who we would not otherwise have access to."

The commission, however, has just started the effort and no specific training program has been presented.

It will likely continue discussions through at least the end of the year.

But local school leaders said it's essential to exercise caution when hiring school-level leadership.

"I'd just be very cautious at the principal level," said Will Schofield, Hall County Schools superintendent. "There's so many things that are germane to education and so many ins and outs of teaching and learning. I'm not saying it would be impossible, but you'd want to choose those individuals very carefully and make sure you get them the right type of training."

Elfreda Lakey, the director of human resources for Gainesville City Schools, echoed similar thoughts.

"It could bring information from the private sector into education," she said. "But you have to remember, it's going to be somewhat difficult because there are some things in education that the private sector may not know about.

"It won't be a very easy transition, in my opinion."

Currently, principals must obtain an educational leadership certification before taking the reins at a school. That certification includes holding a master's or doctoral degree in educational leadership, passing various exams and meeting certain experience requirements.

Those coming from the private sector, if the commission deems it feasible, may be able to bypass some of that.

"What the task force is beginning to look at is if we want to come up with an alternative pathway to the principalship," said Henson.

"(They will look at) what kind of alternative training program can be devised to take a highly experienced and successful person from the private sector and give them the kind of training and skill set needed to be an educational leader."

But local school officials say the internal candidate pool, for now, is where they'd like it to be.

"We're looking for the most talented and right now when we interview, I'll be very candid, we have not found anyone that far exceeds the people we already have," said Lakey.

However, that doesn't mean they wouldn't take a look outside their walls if they felt it was necessary.

"We'll always look at how we find the absolute best individual for the principalship position because it is just paramount to the success of schools," said Schofield. "Right now I feel very confident about the quality of people we have internally, but certainly we'd consider any avenue."