The University of Nevada, Reno's College of Education is partnering with Washoe County School District to redesign its Educational Leadership graduate student program. Nevada Leads, a program designed to prepare elementary, middle and high school principals, will launch in spring 2017.
"Nevada Leads is an innovative, university-district partnership designed to improve the preparation of effective educational leaders," Melissa Burnham, associate dean and professor in the University's College of Education, said. "The program is based on evidence showing the importance of a school's leader in impacting teaching quality, student outcomes and teacher retention."
Supporting Nevada Leads are 13 Washoe County School District principals who will serve as educational leader mentors to 20 teachers recruited for participation in the first cohort. The goals of the program include strengthening university-district collaboration and aligning coursework for the master's degree in educational leadership with the diverse needs of Nevada school districts in order to recruit and retain highly effective educational leaders. Long-term goals for the program include partnering with other northern Nevada school districts.
Funding for the first year of Nevada Leads will be provided by a $113,000 grant the University received through the Nevada Department of Education.
"It is essential that educational leaders be well prepared for the job of the 21st century principal," Burnham said. "Well-prepared leaders are effective at improving teacher retention, which is a key strategy to address Nevada's severe teacher shortage. A leader who has the knowledge and skills related to daily practice and is aligned to current Professional Standards for Educational Leaders is more likely to stay in the field and serve as an effective mentor to the next generation of leaders."
Many of the mentor principals will also assist in course creation and serve as co-instructors and are looking forward to sharing their expertise with students.
"I am most excited that this partnership allows University professors, Washoe County School District leaders and practicing principals to collaborate in developing and delivering the learning opportunities to the cohort members," Susan Denning, principal at Robert McQueen High School, said. "This will help to balance theoretical and practical perspectives that are of great benefit to those students looking to work in educational leadership."
Other principals participating in the program include Kelly Humphreys, Rita Cannan Elementary School; Kevin Carroll, Sparks High School; Melissa Olsen, Truckee Meadows Community College High School; Brandon Bringhurst, Mendive Middle School; Sara Cunningham, Donner Springs Elementary School; Jeana Curtis, North Valleys High School; Joe Ernst, Anderson Elementary School; Yuen Fong, Libby Booth Elementary School; Heidi Gavrilles, Mathews Elementary; Gina Leonhard, Shaw Middle School; Bruce Meissner, Archie Clayton Pre-AP Academy; Laura Petersen, Dilworth STEM Academy; and Megan Waugh, Diedrichsen Elementary.
The school district will benefit from this redesigned program in a number of ways.
"This program will deepen the pool of highly qualified teachers who are excited and ready to assume leadership roles in our schools in order to prepare our more than 64,000 students for college, career and global citizenship," Salwa Zaki, Washoe County School District professional learning director and Nevada Leads co-creator shared. "For those teachers aspiring to become principals, now is the time. Nevada Leads will be the model principal preparation program in our state and beyond."