After Tanya Allen was tapped to take part in the Bibb County school system’s Administrator’s Institute, she went from Miller Middle School teacher to Burdell-Hunt Magnet School principal within five years.
The two-year program, which helps train teachers to become principals, taught her how to analyze data, manage a school budget and follow sound leadership practices.
At least seven other sitting principals in Bibb came through the same program until the institute was halted in 2007.
More recently, the school system has turned to Florida, south Georgia or Atlanta-area school systems to recruit many of its principals. That has sparked discussion about whether Bibb County trains and hires enough leaders from within its own system.
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The Telegraph obtained school documents showing that at least three Bibb County principals hired from other school systems in recent years had problems in their former jobs, were hired here anyway and have been investigated while working in Bibb.
Not having the training institute up and running is a disadvantage and “weakness” in the Bibb County school system, board member Lynn Farmer said.
“It is the reason we are hiring from the outside,” she said. “We don’t have the pool of assistant principals trained to step up.”
School leaders hired from within have a sense of community, and their employment record is an open book, said another proponent, board member Ella Carter.
“You know them, and in many instances you know under whom they have been trained,” Carter said. “The community has a lot of respect for the people who come up the ranks.”
Still, hiring from outside the district can bring fresh ideas and is good for the leadership mix, another board member said.
“It doesn’t matter to me to hire outside the district,” Susan Middleton said. “I look for results.”
The school system’s in-house training academy was suspended in 2007 because the Georgia Professional Standards Commission made changes in the way people are moved into leadership positions a few years ago, said Judy Godfrey, director of the system’s professional learning.
School officials realize, though, that they need to revive the program, because it was a way to identify potential leaders within the system, she said.
“We put it on hold because of certification changes,” Godfrey said. “We know that we need to now be getting this back on track.
In the past month, central office administrators have met about restarting the programs.
Plenty of good applicants
A national education group says that, in general, urban schools have a harder time drawing high-quality leadership because of perceived problems with student discipline or a lack of resources. Bibb County school officials say, though, that they get plenty of quality applicants.
“There is evidence that indicates urban school systems have challenges, just as rural systems, for drawing high talent,” said Ayeola Boothe-Kinlaw, a senior program officer in education for the Wallace Foundation in New York.
Quality leadership has an impact on a school. An estimated 60 percent of a school’s student achievement is attributable to how effective its school principals and teachers are, a New Leaders for New Schools report shows.
Some school systems that have faced turnover or immediate vacancies have been known to fill the positions with whomever could do the job, because the thinking at one time was to blame a failing school on the curriculum or the students, Boothe-Kinlaw said.
“Now, in the last few years, we’re addressing the talent of the principal and teacher side,” she said.
Today’s high-quality principal must set a vision, have high standards, create the right culture, support teachers in growth, move out low-performing teachers, and use data to make decisions rather than just gut feelings, she said.
They also need strong support and training from their school system.
She pointed to successful systems such as the Atlanta City and Gwinnett districts as ones that offer strong in-house training programs to prepare homegrown principals, especially to work in low-performing schools. The Atlanta system, she said, even offers pay incentives for principals who prove they are making a difference in schools that struggle.
Dan Ray, Bibb’s assistant superintendent for human resources, and Sylvia McGee, Bibb’s deputy superintendent, said that while the system is trying to relaunch its administrator program to get potential leaders trained, they will continue to hire candidates from the outside — but generally look for the candidate that best fits a principal vacancy.
“I think we have an adequate number of high-quality principals” applying for those jobs, Ray said.
The high school principal vacancy job for Central High drew about 45 applicants, and the Southwest High job back in 2006 had about 24, he said. By comparison, the Veterans High School vacancy in Houston County had about 18 qualified candidates, said school officials there.
There have been hiring trends over the years, McGee said. At one point, Bibb County often hired veteran female educators from within the system as high school principals. In recent years, the system has hired young, male disciplinarian types from outside systems to lead some schools.
“We try to maintain a balance,” McGee said.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.