Learning to Lead

West High School principal Jonathan East

By Melissa Tindell

Nationally, principals are leaving their schools in droves, and UT Knoxville’s Center for Educational Leadership is trying to do something about it in East Tennessee.

According to the Institute for Education Statistics, one in five principals in the 2011-12 school year left their school by the 2012-13 school year. Additional research shows that 50 percent of principals are not retained beyond their third year of leading a school.

“Today’s school principal has an increasingly important and complex job, so we rigorously prepare accomplished educators to become effective school leaders with a clear focus on equity and excellence,” Jim McIntyre, UT Knoxville Center for Educational Leadership director, says. “We’ve been fortunate to have unwavering support from the university, and our remarkable graduates are now having a positive impact on student learning and success in schools across Tennessee.”

The Leadership Academy is a collaborative venture between UT Knoxville and area school systems that prepares talented individuals to become outstanding new school principals through a full-time, intensive 15-month fellowship program. Leadership Academy fellows spend four days a week working in a school with an experienced mentor principal. The fifth day is spent in coursework and seminars with professors and expert practitioner partners.

Since the program’s inception in 2010, the Leadership Academy has graduated 103 fellows with a master’s or education specialist degree, along with placement as an administrator in their county or city school system. To complete the program, students participate in a research project that includes an electronic portfolio documenting proficiency in school leadership.

“The UT Leadership Academy has played an integral part in preparing me in the beginning of my administrative career,” says Jesse Cigarroa, current Leadership Academy fellow and assistant principal at Mountain View Elementary School in Johnson City.

“The knowledge and guidance gained from the professors and fellows have assisted me in making the best decisions possible to support the students, faculty, staff and families at my school. I look forward to continuing in this wonderful program.”