Research and experience show that a world-class public education system requires an effective principal in every school. Students learn from effective teachers, and the surest way to provide students with those effective teachers is by having an excellent leader who attracts, supports, motivates and retains them.
It is not easy to achieve, however. School districts across the nation wrestle with the challenge of finding and retaining high-caliber principals. In developing a vision for school leadership in Gwinnett County Public Schools, we knew our first task was to find and thoroughly prepare the right people to become principals, then provide the conditions necessary for them to be supported and developed throughout their leadership careers.
In addressing the first task, we developed an in-house Aspiring Principal Program within our Quality-Plus Leader Academy to serve as the pipeline for future principals. The second task, supporting principals consistently and effectively on the job, is a primary focus for the district every day.
A relevant and timely report was released, in June, by the George W. Bush Institute and New Leaders titled Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions that Enable All Principals to Be Effective. The report outlines 15 conditions within school districts that national experts say can profoundly impact the effectiveness of principals in transforming schools and educating all children well. Gwinnett County Public Schools is referenced in the report and noted as an exemplary example of these conditions in supplementary materials.
One of the most important conditions, according to the report, is collective responsibility. This means that everyone in the district is responsible for student learning, and the district”s central office works in partnership with school principals to improve student achievement.
The organizational structure for our district clearly shows that local schools are the central focus of the work of all six operational divisions. District office staff are accountable for timely and effective response to the needs of school principals. Everyone understands that in GCPS, job one is supporting the work of the schools.
In Gwinnett we also promote another important condition cited in the report – continuous improvement in all we do. With a relentless focus on improving conditions for principals, we equip our school leaders for success, which is a prerequisite for teacher and, ultimately, student success.