Going to School to Run a School

To become a school principal in Texas a person must have a master degree, two years teaching experience, complete a state assessment and attend a principal preparation program. Rod Rice reports that one such program in Houston is available to only a select few educators.

It's the Houston A+ Challenge Principal Leadership Academy. Acceptance is based on competence and competition. Lawrence Kohn, a former principal is a consulting coach for Houston A+. He's also an associate professor at Sam Houston State University.  Kohn says about 250 people applied this year and then through essays and interviews the number was reduced for a final selection week-end.

"We put about 60 people really through the wringer, with all these activities, they're being evaluated by a team all the time and you end-up with 19 or 20 potential really dynamic leaders."

Following a six week summer session each will spend a school year following a mentor principal and regularly meeting with a consulting coach like Lawrence Kohn.

"Consulting coaches visit a minimum of two times a month with the mentor principal on the campus and the intern to push forward their learning and their experiences and to coach them through dilemmas and to make suggestions, it's just being a good mentor."

It's that year of shadowing a school principal that made the competitive process worth it for Craig Stowers a teacher at Humble High School.

"You are there at 6:30 when the principal meetings are and you are there until 10 o'clock after the football game is over. You are, where ever that principal is you are so, it's a full time intensive mentorship."

Natalie Hernandez is one of the select 19 this year even though she has been an Assistant Principal with HISD and already has the state assessment.

"I do not have to do this but I'm choosing to do this for reflective reasons, for professional growth reasons and really at the core for personal reasons."

The role of the principal has evolved over the years from the person who was basically the manager of the school to a far more complex and important position requiring more than just managerial skills.

"What is it that makes a good principal?"

"It has a lot to do with building good relationships, being a good communicator, having a lot of passion and being a good instructional leader, understanding how to use data and translate it so people can use it, there are just dozens of roles that principals serve."

And that says Lawrence Kohn is why the mentorships are so very important.

"At some point the aspiration for them is that they will become principals in high need schools in the area because we recognize that without good leadership, urban schools in particular are at great risk of failure."

The Houston A+ Challenge Regional Principal Leadership Academy continues involvement with its fellows for at least two years after they taken positions of leadership in area schools.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...