TCU Program Puts Aspiring Principals on the Front Lines
On a typical Tuesday morning, Katy Kirby, a principal intern at Daggett Middle School, has a desk parked in the hallway so she can have “data meetings” with students.
After three hours, the spunky educator has chatted with more than 150 seventh-graders. The talks usually entail a review of a student’s test scores and maybe a brief discussion about other matters, such as lunchroom behavior the day before.
Kirby’s style is not that of a disciplinarian; she’s more of trustworthy guide, addressing students with words like “Angel” and “Sweetheart.” She says her immediate goal is to point out a student’s strengths and discuss upcoming test dates. If a student needs additional support to boost test scores, such as after-school tutoring, she helps make the arrangements.
“This reading benchmark, you are beautifully set to pass that,” Kirby told a student during a recent chat. “Now this test on the 31st is coming up quick. … What are you going to do to get ready for it?”
Kirby, a former teacher at McLean 6th Grade Center in Fort Worth, is among 10 educators enrolled in a new principal leadership program at TCU. Unlike most statewide programs, which require aspiring principals to juggle full-time teaching jobs while completing 160 hours of hands-on principals’ training, the TCU program cuts candidates loose to spend an entire year at a school as an assistant principal.
The first class, which includes educators from the Keller and Fort Worth school districts, graduates in May.
“It really gives aspiring principals a ‘boots on the ground experience’ to see if this is what they really want to do,” said Michael Sorum, chief of academics for Fort Worth schools. “And it lets us see how they perform, before they are officially assigned to do something.”
“It’s a great program,” said Penny Benz, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Keller school district. “We’re very excited.”
Marla W. McGhee, associate professor of the educational leadership program at the TCU College of Education, said the program exposes candidates to a hands-on component that is often missing from many school leadership training programs.
“By getting to do that full-time practicum, you get to see the arc of the school year from beginning to end,” McGhee said. “You get to develop a relationship with a campus mentor, the principal, which is really extraordinary.”