The Shelby County School District, in a continuing effort to invest in future leaders, has established a new Teacher Leadership Academy. A total of 12 teachers will make up the pilot cohort of the new program, which is being developed in order to provide training for those interested in seeking leadership positions in the future.
Dr. Leah Anne Wood, Coordinator of Strategic Planning and Leadership Development, said the Teacher Leadership Academy is something district leaders have been considering for a while as a way to train the next generation of school and district-level administrators. The teachers will meet once a month over the course of the year and will be trained on a variety of topics related to school governance and leadership.
The teachers attended their first meeting on September 27 at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center, where they started the day going through 4-Mat training. 4-Mat breaks learning styles into four main categories based on personality and what information a learner is seeking to discover such as “why”, “what”, “how” and “what if”? But more importantly, 4-Mat helps prepare people to be highly effective learners by addressing 21st Century learning skills like communication, critical thinking, creative problem solving and continuous adaptation and learning.
Superintendent Randy Fuller provided an overview of the district, including a focus on leadership development as one of “Four Engines That Drive the System.” The other areas of Strategic Planning, Continuous School Improvement, and Instruction were also highlighted.
“If you want to know why our district is successful, it is because we believe in goal-setting, executing, and then celebrating our successes,” Fuller told the participants. “We have over 1,500 goals that have been accomplished over the past 10 years through our intentional process of strategic planning and continuous school improvement.”
Fuller told the teachers that as aspiring leaders they are to be commended for participating in this year-long training process to become the right kind of leader.
“Through our leadership development process, we train at all levels,” Fuller noted. “We train our teachers, our administrators, our district-level leaders and even our board members through our executive leadership program. We are not a dysfunctional school district because we work collaboratively and we look at things holistically.”
Fuller stressed the district’s vision – “To become a model of excellence” – and told the teacher leaders it is important that they understand the philosophy of the district in order to truly become effective leaders.
“You need to know how we operate,” he said. “We are not just a model district by happenstance. And if you are going to be a leader in our district you need to know and understand our vision.”
Fuller said one of his favorite books on leadership is 360 Degree Leadership by John Maxwell. What he learned from the book is that an individual can be a leader regardless of their job position. Everyone is a leader in a school, from the support staff to teachers to administrators because they all have direct contact with students and an obligation to them, Fuller stressed.
Fuller also gave the teachers an overview of school funding, including explanations on how the district is funded through local, state, and federal funds. Local funds are expected to make up for the shortfall in state and federal funds and provide the extras such as art, music, and technology which aren’t funded by the state. Having adequate local funding is the difference between school districts across the state, with some struggling to provide the basics and others who have enough funding to provide additional programs.
Fuller also guided participants through the district’s defined decision-making process, which is designed to help leaders think through the consequences of the decisions they make and how to use data to support their decisions.
David Calhoun and Lisa Boles from the district’s Student Services Department, came in to help the participants with an activity related to the decision-making process dealing with search and seizure procedures. Participants were provided with a sheet of possible scenarios and then participated in table discussions about the appropriate action that would need to be taken in each example.
Participants ended the day with an overview of leadership books they will study throughout the year, including 360 Degree Leadership and Developing the Leader Within You by Maxwell.