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$4.5 Million Grant Will Help College of Education’s Innovative, Award-winning Principal Preparation Program Prepare More School Leaders

Bonnie Fusarelli

The NC State College of Education will be able to continue preparing future school leaders for high-needs schools through $4.5 million in funding for its innovative principal preparation program through the NC Principal Fellows Program. 

The North Carolina General Assembly established the competitive grant program to elevate educators in North Carolina public schools by transforming the preparation of principals across the state. The goal of the program is to provide funds for the preparation and support of highly effective school principals in North Carolina.

“We are thrilled and honored to receive the funding so we can continue to deliver one of the best principal preparation programs in the country here in North Carolina,” said Professor Bonnie Fusarelli, the principal investigator on the grant. “More importantly, because great schools have great principals, we are most excited that the children of North Carolina, especially the neediest children, will have excellent principals who create excellent schools.” 

The new grant funding will enable the College of Education to continue partnering with multiple school districts to deliver its customized, two-year Master of School Administration program to cohorts of students over the next six years. Lance Fusarelli, professor and director of graduate programs for the College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development, and Lesley Wirt, associate director of principal preparation, serve as co-principal investigators on the project. 

The work 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 ranked 17th 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.

The program has also been awarded the Opal Mann Green Engagement and Scholarship Award, which recognizes a team dedicated to community-based learning and mutually beneficial action around local issues. 

“NC State’s program is nationally recognized and award winning. We work closely with different district partners to create specialized programs that serve the needs of the schools, communities and the individualized leadership learning needs of each student in the program,” Bonnie Fusarelli said. “We provide unprecedented levels of coaching and personal leadership learning support to produce graduates who immediately get to work transforming schools.”

The College of Education’s innovative Master of School Administration program provides early career support and continuous professional development for leaders who are committed to serving in high-needs 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.

Program experiences are customized to focus on turnaround for low-performing, high-poverty schools and communities, and graduates of the College of Education’s principal preparation program make a four-year commitment to work in high-needs schools in North Carolina following graduation. 

Numerous 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, including most recently Yolanda Wiggins ’12MSA, Megan Bain 18MSA, Leo Nieves ’18MSALauren Lampron 14MSA, 19EDD and North Carolina Principal of the Year Matthew Bristow-Smith ’14MSA

Graduates of the College of Education’s Master of School Administration program 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-needs and Title I schools.

“Being a principal has been described as the toughest job in America. NC State graduates improve school climates, accelerate students’ academic performance and improve teacher working conditions,” Bonnie Fusarelli said. “Simply put, they are making a difference that will not only impact the students in their schools but also the communities those schools serve. I am continually amazed at the incredible impact our well-prepared, driven and deeply caring principals make in North Carolina’s highest need schools.”