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School board hears leadership development plan
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Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Director for Professional Development Steve Abbott hopes to see more teachers and other employees move into leadership roles during the coming school year. He presented a plan to enhance leadership development to the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees during its Feb. 3 meeting at Wateree Elementary School.

During that same meeting, several trustees named leadership development among a number of budgetary priorities for the 2015-16 school year. KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the idea is to develop staff for promotion.

“Between 70 and 75 percent of our promotions in the past eight years have been internal, but it is still contingent upon our developing our people. Steve’s put together a good plan and one we’ll continue to develop,” Morgan said.

Abbott said the hope is to help instructors move from being effective teachers to effective administrators, and help existing administrators improve.

“Excellent teachers don’t always make excellent administrators, so there’s some things I think we need to do to make that shift,” Abbott said. “Having grown up in Kershaw County, I know people here -- we’ve got excellent people in our schools and we want to give them every opportunity to get in our leadership pipeline so, eventually, they can lead our schools.”

Part of the program would take aspiring leaders and see what it’s like to a be a school principal.

“It could be a case of, ‘Oooh, I’ve tried this out, (but) I’m not really sure I want to take this step.’ Anybody who’s been a principal knows it’s very, very different than being in the classroom. You’re doing a thousand different things every day that are impacting student learning,” Abbott said.

School culture is something Abbott also touched on, referring to comments WES Principal Gail Stehle made at the beginning of the meeting.

“This building may not be the most beautiful, or the most comfortable, in the district, but what I can tell you is there are lovely things that go on inside,” Stehle said in welcoming trustees and the public Feb. 3. “And that’s truly a case where beauty is only skin deep -- or concrete deep, as this building may be.”

She referred to WES teachers as a “supreme cast,” and noted the school’s receipt of three Silver Palmetto and one Gold Palmetto awards.

“The children here are doing extremely well, and we have a cast of teachers I would put up against a group anywhere in the nation. I have worked in education for a lot of years and with a lot of people, and we have honed this group of teachers and children. So, it may not be gorgeous on the outside of the building, but please feel comfortable knowing it’s a wonderful place where … children are well behaved, where the expectations are here,” Stehle said.

Abbott said the culture at WES goes “beyond the painted cinder-block” into a culture with high expectations. To help show potential school leaders more about that, he said teachers interested in becoming principals or assistant principals would work through simulations, mock interviews and problem solving.

“We’re taking them out of the classroom, yes, but, eventually, it’s going to have a huge impact on where we are,” Abbott said.

Morgan said the need for more administrators exists.

“We have at least one school I can think of that’s gotten large enough where we need some additional administrative help,” Morgan said, without naming the school. “Perhaps something we could look at, if we can swing it from a budgetary standpoint, is an administrative assistant program of some sort for these larger schools where somebody could spend a year or two in that position.”

Abbott’s recommendations include having aspiring leaders go through an application process, define a development curriculum from which to learn, meet once a month and gain mentors from existing district leaders. In addition to creating and sustaining a positive culture, further recommendations to help teachers aspiring to become school or district administrators include, but are not limited to:

• creating and sustaining a vision for them to follow;

• ensuring they are meeting instructional leadership goals;

• engaging with the community; and

• helping them develop professional norms and ethics.

Abbott listed many of the same goals and recommendations for existing assistant principals wishing to take on more responsibility. He said assistant principals meet six times a year. Additional recommendations include focusing on special education and technology integration.

Trustees will next meet Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at the district office on West DeKalb Street in Camden.