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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

UNCP hosts 3rd annual School Leadership Conference

If the air of optimism at UNC Pembroke’s 3rd annual Educational Leadership Conference was any indication, then the glass is more than half full at North Carolina’s public schools.

Margaret Hyatt

Conference speaker – North Carolina Principal of the Year Margaret Hyatt addresses the conference.

The conference, held this summer at COMtech, was sponsored by UNCP’s Master of School Administration (MSA) program for its current students. Attended by more that 100, the conference offered continuing education, current information, recognition and a little inspiration for public school leaders.

Dr. Zoe Locklear, interim dean of the School of Education, said the purpose of the conference is to bring future school leaders together with state leaders.

“This annual leadership conference is designed with the MSA students in mind and is intended to provide them with a high quality professional development opportunity,” Dr. Locklear said. “Each year, we bring to campus some of the most knowledgeable school leaders in the state and provide our students – all aspiring school administrators - an opportunity to interact with these leaders. Once again, we are so excited and pleased with the success of this year’s conference.”

The conference opened with good news from Dr. Jim Causby, director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA). A veteran administrator, Dr. Causby said there is good reason to be optimistic for school leaders

“This is the most exciting time that I can remember in education, and I wish I was there with you,” the veteran school administrator said. “With over 50 percent of principals in North Carolina eligible to retire, there are tremendous opportunities available.”

Dr. Causby said the job of leading a school is more challenging than ever.

“When I was a principal, you had to be a good manager, but today you have to be an instructional leader and a community leader,” he said. “You have to bring in resources because you don’t have enough.”

Jenkins, Higy, Locklear, Brown, Violette, Huffman and Hilton

Honored guests – With plaques are regional Teacher of the Year Kim Brown (left) of Scotland County School and regional Principal of Year Allison Violette of Cumberland County Schools. Pictured from left: Dr. Charles Jenkins, Dr. Carol Higy, MSA director, Dr. Zoe Locklear, interim dean of the School of Education, Dr. Jane Huffman and Dr. Kathleen Hilton, dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

For North Carolina’s Principal of the Year, Margaret Hyatt of Asheville, there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome. She offered her vision of active management and determined problem solving.

“Don’t tell me I can’t do something,” Hyatt said. “We don’t lower expectations, we raise up children.”

Hyatt, with a significant population of Latino and low-income students, increased to 94 percent the number of students working at-or-above grade level at her elementary school. She accepts no excuses for lack of volunteers or resources.

“If they tell me I don’t have the budget, I keep looking,” she said.

One issue that plagued North Carolina educators over the last decade is the teacher shortage. In a presentation called, “The Glue that Makes Teachers Stick,” Dr. Debbie Hill of the Principal Executive Program (PEP) offered research and perspective.

“Years ago when we were faced with the teacher shortage, what did we do – recruit, recruit, recruit,” Dr. Hill said. “A lot of time and money was spent on recruitment, but if you only focus on recruitment, it’s like filling a bucket with a hole in it, over and over again.”

An extensive research project that looked at teacher satisfaction revealed some useful information, she said. It’s not the pay, and it’s not lack of time or professional development opportunities that bother teachers.

“The number one issue – from the mouths of teachers – is leadership,” Dr. Hill told a roomful of current and future school leaders. “If you don’t have good leadership, the rest doesn’t happen.”

Dr. Hill said the study indicates that no one leadership style is best, but teachers want principals who give them freedom to teach and support when they need it. Teachers value a principal who will work in the trenches with them and who is family friendly.

“Holding on to teachers is not rocket science,” Dr. Hill said. “The good news is that teachers’ morale is improving across North Carolina, and they tend to be more satisfied about working conditions.”

In his welcoming remarks, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors offered similar advice.

“I am challenging you to find a way to allow our teachers to teach,” Chancellor Meadors said. “That is not easy in this age of accountability, but if we hire the right people and take care of them, test scores will take care of themselves.”

RECOGNITION

Two graduates of UNCP’s School of Education were honored at the conference for outstanding achievement.

Kim Brown, a third grade teacher at the Accelerated Academy in Scotland County, was 2004-05 Regional Teacher of the Year. Allison Violette, principal of Lake Rim Elementary School in Cumberland County, was 2004-05 Wachovia Regional Principal of the Year.

The pace of change may be rapid at the public schools, but some things do not change, Violette said.

“Today, I see the same excitement I had nine years ago when I finished this program,” she said.

The School Leadership Conference was held at UNCP’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development at COMtech.

The School of Education was represented by interim Dean Dr. Zoe Locklear and School of Graduate Studies was represented by its Dean Dr. Kathleen Hilton. For more information on the Master of School Administration program, please call 910.521.6449 or email carol.higy@uncp.edu.

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