Leadership academy will prepare 5 Bartow APs to become principals

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A new batch of Bartow County assistant principals are preparing for future promotions that will enable them to lead a school.

Associate Principal Lori Scifers from Woodland High and Assistant Principals Kevin Muldoon from Taylorsville Elementary, Kristen Martin from Cass High, Allison LaRue from Clear Creek Elementary and Lindsay Perry from Cass Middle make up the second cohort to be selected for the Aspiring Principals Leadership Academy, a seven-month program led by Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Chiprany to prepare APs to one day become principals.  

“The Bartow County School System implemented this program to provide an opportunity for prospective principals, currently at the assistant principal level, to further professional development in the area of leadership,” Chiprany said. “The program also builds our pool of highly qualified candidates for future principalship positions.”

To be selected for the academy, participants must answer “stringent application questions,” have at least two years of administration experience, be recommended by their current principal, be able to attend all academy sessions and be committed to becoming a principal within the next three years if the opportunity presents itself, according to Chiprany.

“We have a great group [this year] that represents all three levels – elementary, middle and high school,” he said.

The prospective principals met for the first three-hour session Thursday morning at the central office to learn about instructional leadership and professional learning communities and will meet six more times during the 2019-20 school year to address other topics: Oct. 24, Climate/Culture; Nov. 7, Human Resources; Jan. 16, Finance and Budgeting; Feb. 13, Operations; March 12, School Law; and April 16, Presentation.

“They were fully engaged in our first session that focused on instructional leadership and professional learning communities,” Chiprany said. “I strive to help build their leadership capacity in several areas, including leadership vocabulary, interview skills, district-level communication, application of instructional leadership, climate, culture, human resources, finance, operations and school law.”

Chiprany said he will be assisted by Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page, Chief Leadership and Learning Officer Clint Terza, Chief Human Resources Officer Macy Defnall, Chief Financial Officer Megan Brown and Executive Director of Professional Learning and Federal Programs Sharon Collum, who will “present information about their specific areas of expertise throughout the academy sessions.”

Scifers, whose nine years as an administrator – six as an AP and three as an associate principal – have all been at WHS, said the first session was an “absolutely fabulous morning.”

“I’m so grateful that our superintendent and his cabinet members are willing to spend three precious hours of their very busy day investing in our growth as leaders and helping us to prepare not only for a principalship but also for the interview process to get us to that point,” she said. “The conversation that we had with our colleagues from other schools and with our central office leadership was incredibly encouraging and enlightening.”

Muldoon, a five-year assistant principal who’s in his first year at Taylorsville, said he, too, was “impressed” by Page, Chiprany and Terza being at the meeting.

“I believe this shows their commitment to Bartow County and the development of leaders from within the school system,” he said.

LaRue, in her third year as AP at Clear Creek, called the first session “wonderful” and said she is looking forward to the monthly meetings.

“I was inspired by the leadership team’s passion to develop leaders within Bartow County,” she said. “This is a unique opportunity, and I am excited to see the growth in myself and my colleagues as we navigate the process.”

Martin, who has spent three of her five years as an AP at Cass High, said she is “such a nerd” because she loves to learn, and she had “a blast” at the meeting.  

“This is just another opportunity for me to absorb knowledge and expand my skill set,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt that the gentlemen leading the charge are fun, either. When I was in the classroom, I tried to be the kind of teacher whose students left feeling a little disappointed that class was over and were already looking forward to coming back the next day. I feel like I am that student right now.”

Muldoon, 40, who would like to earn a principalship next year, said he wanted to participate in the academy because he “knew it would be a great opportunity to hone my leadership skills and prepare me to one day lead a school building as principal.”

“‘With great power comes great responsibility,’” he said. “This quote, originally from Voltaire, encompasses my feeling on becoming a principal. I want to be responsible for the learning of students, the teaching of teachers, the relationships developed with parents and success of all the stakeholders I work with. I believe a school’s success is a collaborative effort, and the principal is the key factor in the success or failure of that collaboration.”

LaRue, 32, said she is “constantly looking for ways to improve my practices” and was looking forward to becoming eligible to apply for the academy this school year.  

“My motivation for participating is simply to improve myself as a leader,” she said. “This opportunity is rare, specifically that there are only four other participants. I knew it was the right time to start this journey because there is so much I can learn from the amazing leadership team we have in the Bartow County School System.” 

The AP said it “sounds cliché,” but her desire to be a principal stems from her wanting to “make a difference.”  

“I loved being in the classroom with students day-to-day, but it quickly became apparent to me that I felt a pull towards leadership,” she said. “I want to encourage and inspire others in the school setting to help make school a fun and safe place for all students. There is nothing better to me than seeing students and teachers succeed.” 

Participating in the academy will give Scifers, 50, opportunities to “build upon my strengths, identify and improve upon my weaknesses and learn best practices from our central office leaders and from my cohort colleagues,” she said.  

“I’ve worked in Bartow County schools for 15 years, and I can’t imagine a better place to be,” she said. “Great things are happening here. I feel like one of my callings/talents/passions is the facilitation of groups and processes. Being a principal will allow me to facilitate the learning process, remove obstacles in the teaching and learning process and help teachers and students achieve at high levels.” 

Unlike her colleagues, Martin didn’t always want to be a principal. 

“The desire to serve in such a capacity has grown over time,” she said. “With each step of my career, I have learned something new and exciting that I want to build upon. The direction being taken in Bartow right now has solidified my desire to grow. There are amazing things happening in this district, and I want to be a part of that. I want to contribute to the differences I see being made.”

Martin, 37, said she has “always been one to capitalize on any opportunity to grow and become a better leader” so she thought it would be “crazy for me to pass on the chance to participate” in a program for aspiring principals.

“Our district leaders have a vested interest in cultivating leadership from within the Bartow County School System,” she said. “What better person or persons to learn from than one who could potentially hire me for my dream job?”

And while she would love to get her dream job as soon as the program is finished, Martin said she has spent 29 of her 37 years as a student or educator in the school system and will wait as long as it takes to earn a principalship.

“Who knows if there will even be an opening in this area anytime soon?” she said. “It might be one year; it might be three or five. I don’t know. What I do know is that Bartow is my home, and I am willing to wait. I’m not going anywhere. My goal is to prepare as much as possible, and when it happens, it happens.”

Chiprany said last year’s inaugural cohort was made up of 11 assistant principals: Tammy Brown, Amy Goff, Jamie Hauskins, Gregg Hedden, Kristy Laney, Teri Marley, D’Jon McNair, Ray Reece, Jason Rood, Ryan Satterfield and Zac Wilson.

“It went very well,” he said. “One of our participants, Teri Marley, is now a principal at Allatoona Elementary School.”