Spotlight on principal preparation at Illinois State
One of the successful programs offered by the EAF Department is the principal preparation program. In times that demand higher education institutions to be more aggressive and develop principals qualified to meet the complex environment, the principal preparation program at Illinois State University has risen to this challenge.
With an over 80 percent placement rate and strong partnerships with school districts, the principal preparation program has consistently delivered on training effective principals who are now serving in schools throughout Illinois.
“The success of this program relies on communication, partnerships, and succession planning,” said Brad Hutchison, P–12 program coordinator. Constant communication with superintendents, attending Regional Office of Education 17 monthly meetings, and most importantly, “feeling the pulse,” has enabled the faculty of the program to keep content up-to-date. Not only is the principal preparation program designed to develop effective principals, but the program also offers support services through training programs and helps districts with succession planning. “Schools are now creating a job description for principals and are coming to us for training and license. A very smart way to build your own culture and build teams and administrators,” said Hutchison. In addition, the program offers ethics and school safety training through courses and bringing in renowned speakers who offer insights to deal with issues such as active shooters in schools.
Lynette Mehall, assistant professor at Illinois State University, highlights the strength of the cohort-based model that contributes to the success of this program when she says. “The cohort setup and the pairing of complementary courses have indeed been beneficial for the students. Part of their success is they work together as a cohort. There is a strength in that.”
Principalship is indeed a complex job, and this program grooms these principal-candidates to become effective principals by providing not only the academic training but the practical experience through yearlong internships. Mary Kay Scharf, director of Principal Leadership, asserts that yearlong internships create quality competencies through activities that enhance leadership abilities. Partnerships, targeted course work, and yearlong internships develop strong principal candidates who have consistently been named principals or assistant principals in Illinois schools.
Messina Lambert ’18 completed a full-time, half-year internship at Irving School in Bloomington District 87. Earlier this year, Lambert was named principal of the school following the retirement of her mentor principal. Lambert’s teaching career focused on serving in schools with a high concentration of poverty. She will
continue this as she begins her leadership role in this Title I school.
Brian Swanson ’16 is entering his third year as assistant principal at Belvidere High School. After a career in teaching children with special needs, Swanson now coordinates this effort as an administrator.
Aimee Oxarart ’18 was recently named assistant principal at Bloomington Junior High School in District 87. Having served in a full-time, half-year internship at the school, her transition to the leadership team has been seamless.
Ben Hutley ’17 is beginning his second year as principal of Ridgeview Elementary School in Colfax. While Hutley spent a career teaching at the secondary level,
the experiences in his full-time internship in Bloomington District 87 gave him opportunities to lead at all levels.
Moe Backe ’17 Throughout her internship year, Moe Backeoperated as the leader for a small rural school in McLean County Unit 5. Just two years later, she was named director of elementary education for the same district.
Patricia Valente ’16 has dedicated her career to serving English language learners. During her internship, she found many ways to apply the content of the competencies
to the improvement of related programs.
Megahan Bagby ’18 was a principal intern while teaching full time and coaching softball at Tremont High School. Her principal, Sean Berry, did an excellent job including Bagby in administrative activities throughout the school year. Bagby led the School Improvement Team as it explored the implementation of Standards Based Grading. She is now the assistant
principal at Dunlap High School after completing her degree in May.
Jennifer McCoy ’16 is in her third year as associate principal at Parkside Junior High School in Normal.
Megan Howard ’17 is beginning her second year as principal at Porta Junior High School in Petersburg.
Christine Paxson ’16 serves as the curriculum coordinator for the Illinois State University Laboratory Schools. Upon graduation, Paxson immediately enrolled in the department’s P–12 doctoral program.
Natalie Shumaker ’18 was a principal intern who earned her first administrative position while she was completing the internship. She began her principal internship in August 2017, and by October 2017, she was acting as an assistant principal when there was an unexpected resignation. One reason she was selected for the job is that she was already prepared to evaluate teachers, having completed Growth Through Learning Modules through EAF 434: Supervision for Learning Environments. She has continued in the position upon earning her degree
Jamie Hartrich ’16 is in her third year as principal of St. Mary’s School in Bloomington. She was the first parochial school intern in the new principal preparation program.
Ashley Schittker ’18 is the newly appointed associate director of special education in Bloomington Public Schools District 87, she is applying her skills and knowledge to support children with special needs as well as their families, teachers, and principals.
Stacie France ’16 served as an associate principal in the McLean County Unit 5 School District for two years and is beginning her first year as principal of Kingsley Junior High School. The school has received a grant to address professional development focused on restorative practices.
Holly Cox ’18 is the assistant principal at Sugar Creek Elementary School in the McLean County Unit 5 School District.