Shaping School Leaders

  • Monday, November 8, 2010

    For nearly a decade, school reform has been the buzz phrase ricocheting between the print media, the nightly news on television and all corners of the Internet.  It is a topic of discussion from grocery stores to soccer fields and beauty salons to barber shops across this country.

    One area attracting attention is school leadership. The age-old practice of rewarding longevity with a job in administration is an anachronism.

    If we expect student achievement to improve, we need dynamic, well-trained professionals who can bring about change and lead teachers.

    How do we help school leaders already in the pipeline and prepare future generations that will follow?

    The University of Maryland Eastern Shore retooled its doctoral program in Education Leadership to respond to the demand for competent, effective leaders. We are now training a new generation of leaders to address current and future needs as well as equipping them to cope with mandates public schools face.

    This program is designed specifically with national and state standards in mind because they are recognized as the guiding principles to bring about meaningful reform.

    The goal is giving dynamic leaders the tools they will need to transform the schools they manage.  Graduates will leave UMES with the knowledge, training and skills to produce positive change. They should be capable of leading their schools and communities to enhance student performance.

    UMES doctoral students meet on weekends - typically Friday night, Saturday and part of Sunday - concentrating on one course at a time. This approach creates a collegial atmosphere that fosters exploration of in-depth study of skills and greater understanding.  Instruction focuses on current and future challenges school administrators can expect to confront.

    UMES carefully selected faculty members for their expertise and experience to ensure students work with and train under proven practitioners recognized for their ability to transform schools.

    Yes, the program has its share of theory. But it also includes lessons emphasizing the practical aspects of quality leadership.

    Extensive mentoring is built into the curriculum. Students are expected to expand and refine their skills under the guidance of leaders in an apprenticeship-style model.

    This new program is intense.  Current enrollees tell us they already sense the transformation taking place in their abilities to manage the schools where they work. We owe it to our children.

    Derry L. Stufft is coordinator of the Education Leadership doctoral program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.