Governor Haslam announced a comprehensive plan to transform principal leadership in schools across the state.

Along with Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, the governor announced the Transforming School Leadership initiative. 

According to a news release, the initiative will transform the leadership of Tennessee's schools by improving the preparation, retention and development of principals.

Both state and private dollars will be used to improve school leader preparation programs, provide networking opportunities and support for principals in rural communities and reward and retain individuals effectively leading the lowest performing schools in the state.

“I firmly believe that one of the most important things we can do to help our schools succeed is make sure they are led by strong principals,” Haslam said. “School leaders have a tough job, and as a state, we need to support their dedication with resources that will ensure every teacher and student in Tennessee has a transformational principal.”  

More than $3.5 million in Haslam's 2018-2019 fiscal year budget is dedicated to this initiative. The Ayers Foundation, Scarlett Family and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) have also invested a total of $600,000 to advance leadership preparation.

According to a news release, Haslam's initiative is made up of three parts: 

Effective preparation of new school leaders 

  • In conjunction with the State Board of Education, the Tennessee Department of Education is revising policy to ensure that the 19 traditional preparation programs within many of the state’s higher education institutions are held accountable for the performance of their graduates. To accelerate performance, this effort will provide funding for 50 fellowship positions to support high-quality preparation programs and 50 district partnership grants for leadership development.

Recruitment and retention of turnaround school leaders

  • In addition to training new leaders to fill the annual estimated 270 school leader vacancies, this effort will leverage the talents of top principals by incentivizing them to lead the state’s lowest-performing schools. 

Development opportunities for rural school leaders

  • Principals in rural schools are often unable to take advantage of leadership development due to the cost of registration and travel and have few networking opportunities to learn from other school leaders. This program creates a professional network for 50 rural principals and scholarships for rural principals to attend state-led conferences and training opportunities.  

"This proposal underscores the state’s commitment to excellent school leaders and reinforces our belief that school leaders are incredibly important,” McQueen said. “No school can be successful without a successful principal, and every single child and teacher deserves to be in a school led by a highly effective leader.”

Around 270 new principals are hired across the state yearly.