By PAOLA GARCIA, Cronkite News
DEER VALLEY – Pleasing parents, students and community leaders who expect stellar academic achievement. Recruiting and hiring teachers in a state with one of the lowest retention rates in the nation. Planning and organizing the school year.
School administrators handle a mountain of stress and conflict as they fulfill their passion as educators.
Four times a year, Arizona principals and superintendents meet for training, mentoring, networking and sharing of best practices under the Superintendents’ and Principals’ Collaborative program. The 3-year-old program is a collaboration between Grand Canyon University, the association of Arizona School Administrators and the Arizona Department of Education.
It originally was developed for new superintendents, but has expanded to coach, mentor and develop principals. It involves administrators who are new to the profession as well as experienced professionals.
“We knew that the secret to students’ success, for students being able to reach the levels of their potential that we all aspire for them depends on great leaderships at schools,” said Jennifer Johnson, director of academic alliances for GCU.
Public schools needed the additional support after the state-provided programs were no longer available. The program gives principals and superintendents, in separate training, the opportunity to network with colleagues so they can learn from each other.
“We provide expert information and insights based on a variety of different topics,” Johnson said.
The coaches are current or retired superintendents and principals who mentor the participants, give advice based on their experience and share best practices and successful programs to help leaders deal with challenges they may face. The meetings focus on topics such as educational excellence and new standards for state academic tests.
About 78 superintendents have been through the program, with 25 superintendents added this year, Johnson said. More than 200 principals in the West Valley have participated.
“Being a principal, being a superintendent is a very stressful position,” Johnson said. “Leaders need support.”
Johnson said 98 percent of the principals in the program have stayed in the profession.
Nora Gutierrez, superintendent of Tolleson Union High School District, said she had been an educator for nearly 35 years before she became the district administrator in 2016-17.
“The greatest achievement was being able to…