A $3.75 million grant from the UNC System Office will allow UNC Charlotte to expand its capacity to develop school leaders for 11 districts in the surrounding region.
The Transforming Principal Preparation Program (TP3) at UNC Charlotte is a partnership between the Cato College of Education and the Southwest Education Alliance (SWEA) offering free tuition, books and all fees for selected students to pursue a Master of School Administration (MSA) degree.
SWEA includes the Cabarrus, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell-Statesville, Kannapolis City, Lincoln County, Mooresville Graded Schools, Rowan-Salisbury, Stanly, and Union school districts.
“The Department of Educational Leadership makes a difference on a national scale with our research and teaching. But for us, it starts at home. Collaborations like TP3 with these 11 school districts help everyone involved: the College, the districts, and our future students,” said Mark D’Amico, department chair and co-writer of the grant. The program was the creation of Debra Morris, principal investigator along with Jim Watson of the MSA program, and a team of educational leadership faculty.
Applicants must be working in one of the partner districts and receive a nomination from their superintendent. Graduates are guaranteed a leadership position in their school district and will be supported by an executive coach provided by the program.
“The Principal Fellows Program is special to me for many reasons,” said Morris. “One of those is that I was a principal fellow at UNC Charlotte years ago, and it changed my life. The roles I found allowed me to have a greater impact on the lives of students, teachers, and families. When I became a school leader, I found my purpose in life.”
The five-year grant will support four cohorts of 16 Fellows each to complete the two-year program. TP3 builds on UNC Charlotte’s 26-year tradition of preparing students through the North Carolina Principal Fellows Program, while enhancing its ability to support leadership needs in the region. The program’s unique structure and focus on practical instruction also align with efforts to address shortcomings in some traditional principal preparation programs.
Continued improvement in this area can play an important role in boosting student success. A 2010 study found that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to student learning.
“The Southwest Education Alliance is excited about our partnership with UNC Charlotte in the Transforming Principal Preparation program,” said Reeves McGlohon, the organization’s executive director. “The close relationship between the SWEA's eleven school districts and UNC Charlotte will produce school administrators who are ready to assume the challenges of building leadership at all levels.”
Fellows will begin the program by attending evening classes on the UNC Charlotte campus while they continue their teaching duties. During year two, they will complete an internship in their home district with a principal mentor while receiving their full salary. Students will also attend professional development and conferences paid for by the program. Graduates will be eligible for North Carolina licensure as a school administrator, and receive on-the-job coaching for a full year once hired to their new positions.
The first cohort of Fellows has been selected by their districts and will begin the program in fall 2020.