$3.75M Grant Will Help Train New Cohorts of School Leaders Through Innovative Principal Preparation Program

A principal with students at a public school in North Carolina.

The NC State College of Education will be able to train new cohorts of school leaders through its innovative principal preparation program and develop new partnerships with North Carolina schools through a grant from the N.C. Principal Fellows Commission.

“NC State University’s Leadership Academies,” funded by a five-year, $3.75 million grant, will allow the College of Education to expand delivery of its customized, two-year Master of School Administration program through partnerships with multiple school districts.

The new partnerships will build upon the College of Education’s existing leadership academies, which are part of a broader principal preparation program that is one of only five in the nation to be recognized as exemplary by the University Council for Educational Administration. The program was also recently ranked 14th in the nation and 1st in North Carolina by U.S. News and World Report’s Best Graduate School Rankings in the Educational Administration and Supervision specialty category

“NC State’s principal preparation program is unlike any other principal preparation program in the country. Besides preparing our folks to be day-one ready divergent thinkers and problem solvers, we help them to be the very best people they can be,” said Bonnie Fusarelli, Ph.D., principal investigator on the grant and director of NC State’s Leadership Academies.

The Master of School Administration is an innovative program that provides early career support and continuous professional development for leaders who are committed to serving in high-need schools.

Those chosen to join the cohorts are selected through a rigorous process and prepared through a context-specific, experiential program that requires them to demonstrate their leadership skills by solving authentic school problems with the support of a leadership coach.

Graduates of the program also participate in retreats and training focused on the aspects of leadership and the ways those attributes can help future principals improve schools and become participants in educational policy.

“At the core of our leadership model is having the heart of a great leader, which requires our graduates to be servant leaders who are relationship builders and committed to the well-being of people around them,” Fusarelli said. “By having high expectations, modeling what they expect others to do and empowering people to be the education professionals they have been trained to be, our graduates have skill sets, mindsets and leadership ‘heart-sets’ that make them outstanding.”

Several graduates from the College of Education’s principal preparation program have been named Principal or Assistant Principal of the Year at district, county and statewide levels. They also have a history of bringing improvement to struggling schools, with 90% of graduates from the Northeast Leadership Academy principal preparation cohort meeting or exceeding growth standards in high-need and Title I schools.

Through the new $3.75 million grant, Fusarelli and co-principal investigators Lance Fusarelli, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate programs at the College of Education, and Lesley Wirt, Ed.D., associate director of principal preparation, will be able to prepare an additional two cohorts of students to become principals.

The first cohort, which is expected to begin this summer, will work in partnership with Cumberland County Schools. All graduates will make a four-year commitment to work as a principal in a high-need school following completion of the program.

“When we began this work, we began with the vision of creating a critical mass of well-prepared school leaders who are also community leaders committed to improving the lives of students and communities. With each cohort we finish, we add more highly effective leaders to North Carolina’s schools and that makes our work very rewarding,” Bonnie Fusarelli said.