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Boquet: Principals in training learn firsthand in St. John

Part teacher, disciplinarian, supervisor, organizational leader, facilities manager, curriculum and data guru and more, school principals have the tough job of being a little bit of everything to everyone.

It’s a challenging job to train for, but two teachers in our district have the unique opportunity to spend an entire year learning what goes into making a good principal.

Rajean Butler at Fifth Ward Elementary School and Marcus Gilbert at the St. John STEM Magnet High School Program were chosen in the spring for the Principal Fellows Partnership Program.

The fellowships are a joint venture between the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and Texas Tech University to prepare highly effective teachers for a career as a school leader.

Just 16 educators from across the country were chosen for this cohort.

Principal fellows participate in a 15-month internship alongside a school principal.

However, it’s far from just job shadowing. For example, Butler found out in the spring she had been selected and, by the summer, was diving deep into the data at Fifth Ward to see what she could do to improve student achievement, culture and climate and to solve other challenges at the school.

For each problem identified she worked with her principal mentor to identify the reasons it existed, to put a strategy in place to fix it, to set quarterly and annual goals and to lay out interventions and progress monitoring to make sure everyone involved is working toward the solution.

Once a month, professors from Texas Tech visit the schools to monitor what the principal fellows are doing.

In March, a panel from the university will come out to the schools to see if the plans they have put in place have been effective and, as Butler puts it, “my success at Fifth Ward will determine my grade.”

If the principal fellows pass muster, they will earn a principal certification during the academic year, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership in August at the completion of the program.

But, most importantly, they will be highly qualified to assume the role of a principal.

This collaboration between the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, Texas Tech University and the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District is designed to nurture the next generation of leaders while building a solid, experienced and qualified core of principals to lead our schools and meet the needs of students, parents and staff.

Jennifer Boquet is the communications specialist for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. Email her at jboquet@stjohn.k12.la.us.