Wyoming principals head back to school

2013-10-14T21:00:00Z Wyoming principals head back to schoolBy AERIN CURTIS Wyoming Tribune Eagle Casper Star-Tribune Online
October 14, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

CHEYENNE – Some Wyoming principals are starting to spend more time in the classroom – as students.

The Wyoming Association of School Administrators has worked with several school districts around the state to set up a series of regional workshops for principals and district administrators.

Carol Illian, a supervisor with the Wyoming Department of Education, said her department has helped fund the work.

“We know that we need to support our principals and central office in their instructional leadership development,” she said.

Some of the training comes because much of the work for administrators has changed in recent years, Illian said.

“The early expectations of a principal were about the bus schedule, and evaluating teachers and working with parents,” she said. “The whole focus of this is to make the focus about the instruction happening in the classroom, not the other pieces.”

The two-day regional meetings will include training and a day spent in the classrooms of a host principal, said James Bailey, superintendent with Uinta School District 1. He also has been a coordinator with the project.

“We do a lot of support for teachers in the classroom. We don’t do as much for principals and superintendents and leaderships matters,” he said. “If you’re going to improve instruction, you need to have people who can help people improve instruction.”

Offices need to have an instructional leader if they want to move from a focus on compliance to one on instruction, Bailey said.

“We want the superintendents and the people who support to know how to develop their principals,” he said.

The group normally works with superintendents, but it can be a challenge to design training for principals with no principals involved, he added.

The two-day workshops are set to happen several times throughout the year in different regions, he said.

Trainings for school districts in the southeast region, which includes both Laramie County school districts, are set to start this month.

In Laramie County School District 1, the meetings connect to the district’s focus on professional development.

The district has started including principals in the development work that teachers do, director of instruction Marc LaHiff said.

“The rationale for that is it’s really a district focus,” he said. “We want to ensure they have a good understanding.”

The district has run a “principal’s academy” to work on training, he said. But it normally meets a few times a year.

“We’ve not done a whole lot specifically for administrators,” LaHiff said.

Seven principals and members of the administration will take part in the upcoming regional training, he said.

Much of the work looks similar to how a principal might help coach a teacher, he said. Practices include doing walkthroughs or giving feedback on how meetings are run, he said.

Laramie County School District 2 also has worked to offer training to principals, Superintendent Jack Cozort said.

“When we started down the path of school improvement, we knew we needed to work with the principals,” he said.

Principals in the district take part in curriculum committees and quantum training, he said. They also work on district thinking strategies.

“They’re the curriculum police,” he said. “They’re responsible for the curriculum going on in their building.”

The district has an advantage in its number of principals, Cozort said.

Principals can bounce ideas off each other and discuss how to handle certain issues,

he said.

“The other collaboration that’s really unique is the collaboration with the elementary (schools),” he said. “The elementary principals often have ideas to help the secondary principals – they (have) different aged kids, but sometimes the issues are the same, and sometimes the same intervention will work.”

The chance to work together has been nice, Pine Bluffs High Principal Todd Sweeter said.

In his previous work as a principal, he didn’t have another high school principal in the district.

“Anytime you have someone you can collaborate with, that’s better,” he said. “You bounce ideas off each other, (and) you push each other.”

Going through the district’s professional development work has been a way to question and think about the school’s purpose and direction, Sweeter said.

“Any time we can better our craft, it’s better for our students and our schools,” he said.

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