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Education leaders convene at school leaders prep forum

Laurie Everett mtjulietnews@tds.net • Updated Oct 29, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Wilson County’s top education leaders gathered to share their perspectives and advice on school leadership preparation Friday evening at Cumberland University’s Mt. Juliet campus.

Cumberland University’s Master of Education in Instruction Leadership Program conducted the forum that presented school leaders such as Wilson County Director of Schools Tim Setterlund, Trousdale County Director of Schools Clint Satterfield, Lebanon High School principal Myra Sloan and Coles Ferry Elementary School principal Brian Hutto.

This panel of educators spent about 10 minutes each to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by school leaders.

Cumberland’s Eric Cummings, dean of the School of Humanities, Education and the Arts, said the forum was designed to provide meaningful insight to the role of a school leader, professional development and networking.

The speakers focused on current and emerging trends in education and leadership.

“As educators around the state work hard to implement the new and more rigorous direction set by the Department of Education, there are many opportunities for positive change in Tennessee’s school,’ said Cummings. “We’ve brought together some important voices in the region to discuss challenges and opportunities.”

Cummings said he hoped to take what the educators said and use it for policy recommendations.  He said building leaders in education has “done a 180.”

“There are certain traits we look for in effective principals and leaders,” he said.

Sloan broke down those traits when she made the word “principal” an acronym.

After each letter presented on a poster board, Sloan taped a word and explained how that word related to being a principal.

She said the letter “p” stands for positive, and the letter “r” research. The letter “i” stands for instructional research, said Sloan.

“We have to model what we want,” she said.

“I try to take every opportunity to make somebody’s day,” Sloan said.

“The letter ‘n’ stands for noble,” said Sloan. “We need to always do what is right and always be there for the students.”

She said the two things that come to mind are for principals and leaders to “be proactive and know the importance empowerment.”

The No. 1 thing for leaders in education is “communication,” said Hutto.

 “My role is to motivate and get people fired up,” he said.

His second priority is to be flexible.

“You can’t be tied to a ‘to do’ list,” said Hutto.

Thirdly, Hutto said it’s important to have perspective and “see the big picture.”

Satterfield said instructional coaches are used in his district, and leaders are given roles to play during discussion.

“And we don’t leave it alone,” he said. “If we need to coach and mentor principals, we will do it.”

He asks several questions to his leaders.

“The key thing is, do you care?” he said. “Are you committed to excellence, and can I trust you? Together we will get it done.”

Setterlund wants his leaders to ask themselves, “how can it be better?”

“At the end of the school year do they feel comfortable as a principal and do they like where they are,” he said. “We try to develop internal leaders in our district.”

Kim Finch, director of Cumberland’s program for instructional leadership, said it’s important for instructors who wish to become a school leader one day listen to today’s leaders.

“So they know how best to prepare for that big new role,” she said.

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