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TC and Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Create Future School Administrators Academy

TC and Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) are jointly sponsoring the Future School Administrators Academy. The program will serve to increase the size and quality of the leadership pool in the Putnam/Northern Westchester school districts by offering teachers an opportunity to obtain New York state certification as a School District Administrator (SDA).

Thomas Sobol, Christian A. Johnson Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice, who co-directs the Academy with Renee Gargano, the Deputy Superintendent of the Putnam/Norrthern Westechester BOCES, explained the background that led to the development of the program. "There is a Tri-state and national problem in finding the numbers of qualified candidates we need to fill school principalships," said Sobol.

"A number of factors have come together to make it more difficult to recruit and retain school district administrators. These include higher salaries for teachers, increased accountability, longer hours, a longer year and high stakes testing, where one flagging performance by a school's students can cost a principal a job, and early retirements," he said.

Most job openings, particularly for principals, will stem from the need to replace people who retire. Among K-8 principals alone, the National Association of Elementary School Principals estimates that more than 40 percent will retire or leave for other reasons over the next decade.

The intent of the two-year Future Administrators Academy is to:

·Develop participants' ability to lead and manage schools as purposeful, effective, humane organizations;

·Provide participants with the theoretical and practical skills needed for effective management in an increasingly diverse and technological society;

·Broaden and deepen participants' understanding of values, trends, and issues that affect schools; and

·Develop a culture of reflective practice, wherein participants acquire and maintain the habit of continuous learning and mutual support.

A little over a year ago, Sobol and Gargano met to address the specific needs of Putnam/Northern Westchester and initiated the highly collaborative program. Sobol calls the Future School Administrators Academy "unusual."

"Above all," Sobol maintains, "the program is a new blend of theory and practice. "We're saying we will develop a program around problems of practice. For example, how do you take an underachieving student body and give the students and teachers the skills they need to achieve today's new high standards."

He also said that Teachers College and the school districts are serving teachers in their home districts while vigorously "identifying people who are capable teachers who also have a strong aptitude and interest for the principalship."

Another unique aspect of the program, according to Sobol, is the program's two-year part-time requirement. "Students keep their jobs and are then eligible for certification by New York State as a School District Administrator and will also receive a certificate of advanced study from Teachers College," Sobol added.

"Just as important," said Sobol, "is that we've made it financially attractive to the participants." The College has discounted the tuition and the school districts, along with the students, are sharing two-thirds of the cost.

The course of study is organized around five key themes: Leadership, Organization, Leading Learning, and Policy and Politics. Each of five semesters (throughout two academic years and an intervening July) is devoted to one of these themes. The faculty consists of Teachers College faculty and outstanding school practitioners. Learning through faculty/student interaction is supported by an electronic communication network.

During the two academic years of the program students maintain their full teaching load but also serve an administrative internship under the supervision of a designated mentor in the participant's school district. "To help with the internship we run a monthly Internship Seminar where all the interns and supervisors come to Yorktown Heights and talk about issues and opportunities arising out of the internship," Sobol said.

He called the 150 hour per semester internship an integral part of the program. "There are jobs that need to be done in the school districts, committees that need to be run, studies that need to be written, material that has to be prepared for the local board of education. The internship is at the core of the program, and the theoretical work is hinged to what's going on there."

The Future Administrators Academy has recruited students from almost every school district in Northern Westchester/Putnam counties and is receiving requests from students and superintendents from other schools districts in Southern Westchester, Rockland County, and Long Island to expand the program. Sobol said, "To the extent that we can replicate this kind of program elsewhere, we look forward to developing those relationships."

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