Spalding’s JCPS Aspiring Leaders program providing ‘invaluable’ training to future principals

Steve Jones

As the country celebrates the leadership and influence of school principals during National Principals Month in October, graduate students in Spalding University’s new principal preparation partnership program with Jefferson County Public Schools said they are receiving valuable training on how to manage real issues facing principals in Louisville schools.

The inaugural 19-member cohort of Spalding’s JCPS Aspiring Leaders Principal Certification Program recently spread out in the Dunn Elementary School cafeteria for a socially distant, masked-up class titled Leading Teaching and Learning, taught by Dunn Principal Dr. Tracy Barber. Guest speakers explaining JCPS diversity and equity policy Zoomed in on a projector screen as the students – who are all JCPS teachers and employees, themselves – took notes and asked questions.

It was a session that typified the Aspiring Leaders experience – with an actual JCPS principal and actual JCPS administrators and staff leading dialogue and teaching curriculum designed specifically for future JCPS principals.

Aspiring Leaders student Mario Ransan, a social studies teacher at the Phoenix School of Discovery, said he became interested in the Spalding program upon hearing “who you’re learning from and the sheer amount of experience that they have.”

To that point, Ransan said, the very first meeting of one of his classes included an hour-long guest lecture from JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio.

“That was Day 1, and that was huge,” Ransan said. “Every other class has been just like that. We meet everybody that we’ll need to know for the district. Plus other principals and vice principals. It’s just invaluable. This is legit. To be able to sit down with real principals and ask real questions and get real answers has been huge.”

Ransan said he has enjoyed learning from Barber, who routinely shares real issues she’s dealt with and explains how she handled them.

“The reality is that schools must change fundamentally,” said Barber, who earned her Doctorate of Education (EdD) in Leadership from Spalding. “Before we can redesign schools, we must redesign the programs that prepare school leaders. Tapping potential leaders in JCPS with demonstrated knowledge of curriculum and instruction and then planning quality school leadership growth opportunities is what Spalding University has developed in the Aspiring Leaders program.  This diverse group of future school leaders are engaged in the critical work of acquiring skills needed to build higher performing, equitable schools for our community.”

Graduates from the yearlong program will earn the degree of Master of Education in Instructional Leadership: Principal Preparation, and be positioned for a Level I Kentucky Principal Certification and, depending on the individual’s previous education, either a Rank I or Rank II Kentucky Teacher Certification.

The hybrid online/in-person program within Spalding’s College of Education is directed by Assistant Professor Dr. Glenn Baete, a retired JCPS assistant superintendent and former principal at Doss High School.

Ransan, who also earned his master’s in teaching from Spalding, said that Baete has been accessible via texts and calls whenever he’s needed him with questions about assignments. Another Aspiring Leaders student, Torri Martin, who teaches eighth-grade math at the J. Graham Brown School, said Baete is understanding and flexible about the demands the cohort members face as working professionals.

“They have made it very, very easy for a working adult to get a graduate-level degree,” she said.

COLLEGE OF EDUCATION OVERVIEW | All Spalding bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs 

Martin said the collaboration between Spalding and JCPS to design a program that is tailored to the needs of the local school system is “very, very special.”

Learning about “the reality of what it’s like day to day in the schools has been invaluable,” Martin said. “Hearing from Dr. Barber about what she would do in certain situations and her vast experience, I couldn’t get that anywhere else.”

The 30-credit hour Aspiring Leaders program is open to JCPS employees with a Kentucky teaching certificate and at least three years of teaching experience and a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a 2.75 GPA.

The Spalding master’s curriculum is unique in that it has been tailored directly for the JCPS system and will be presented through the lens of JCPS’ three institutional pillars – a Backpack of Success Skills, Racial Equity, and Climate and Culture.

Pollio and Spalding President Tori Murden McClure held a news conference in March to announce the Aspiring Leaders program, just before the pandemic.

The first cohort began meeting virtually in July and has held weekly in-person meetings this fall.

For more information, contact Dr. Baete at [email protected].

Watch a video from the March introductory news conference