The Community Foundation of Sarasota County hosted a two-day retreat to launch the sixth cohort of Sarasota County School District’s Leadership Academy, and granted $5,000 to the program, which is for teachers and other district staff aspiring to become administrators. The Leadership Academy is a two-year intensive program for aspiring school and district-based administrators who have completed an advanced degree in Educational Leadership or related field. This year’s cohort includes 38 participants who currently serve in positions including assistant principal interns, county-wide curriculum specialists, classroom teachers, behavior specialists and special education liaisons.
The Community Foundation grant will support mentoring of Leadership Academy fellows by assistant principals and retired administrators, fund substitute teachers to allow Leadership Academy fellows the opportunity to shadow principals and assistant principals and attend the two-day retreat, and purchase books and additional resources.
The program emphasizes the application of learning in a real-world context. The focus centers on three types of leadership: instructional, operational, and global/situational. The engaging curriculum is problem-based and interactive and involves action research. There is a heavy coaching emphasis, required attendance at monthly seminars, and a school-based action research project. Throughout the Academy experience, aspiring leaders have four opportunities to shadow other school or district administrators while on the job.
In the state’s 2012 school district rankings Sarasota County was ranked fourth highest in student achievement out of 67 school districts. It is one of five districts in the state to receive an “A” Rating in 2013. A national research study has confirmed that the school districts which have shown the greatest progress in student achievement are those that had the foresight to identify the skills and knowledge they wanted in their leaders and developed their own internal career pathways for these jobs.
“We are fortunate that we have a wonderful resource in the Leadership Academy,” said Superintendent Lori White. “It has allowed us to develop and nurture school and district leadership from within. Administrators who are graduates of the Academy have proven to be excellent leaders of our schools and departments, understanding our culture and our dedication to serving our students and families.”
Successful completion of the Leadership Academy entitles participants to priority consideration for administrative internships, as well as the opportunity to interview for assistant principal vacancies. Formal application is required. A principal or other district administrator must submit a recommendation and be willing to sponsor the applicant.
In the last five years, between 75 and 100 percent of all Sarasota County School District leadership hires were graduates of the Leadership Academy. Wendy Katz and Cydelle Quinn, two retired school district administrators, are serving as executive coaches and facilitators for the program.