The College of Education started the Principal Leadership Fellows program in an effort to provide top-tiered teachers the opportunity to earn a master's degree and principal certification at a significantly reduced cost.
“The cost of tuition keeps going up, and in our graduate programs our clientele is primarily teachers who want to become principals, and principals who want to become superintendents. When you look at what a classroom teacher can afford, there’s a limit to the amount of tuition that they can afford,” Steffen Palko, assistant professor of professional practice, said.
The College of Education has been working for 18 months to revise the program in order to best meet the needs of students, Palko said.
“We completely redid our program over the last few years and added an additional faculty member," Palko said. "We wanted to make sure that we met the specific needs and requirements that [students] were going to have on the job as a principal."
Educational Administration professor D. Mike Sacken said, "We started off by revising the program, and once we reached a level of comfort and a sense that we found the program we really believe in, the next idea logically was 'How do we bring in the best people to experience the program without a concern of cost.'"
The College of Education reached out to corporations and foundations including Lockheed Martin, Getta and Rainwater Charitable Foundation in order to gain funding for the program, Palko said.
The fellowship will lower the cost below any other school in the metroplex, Palko said.
“You have to distinguish yourself in a graduate program. Why would you go here and not UTA or UNT, which are half price," Palko said. "You have to be something special, something special to us meant that we have to meet your real needs as much as possible."
Those selected for the graduate program will not only have tuition reduced, but also receive a year off of their teaching responsibilities and have the opportunity to study with and be mentored by some of the districts best principals, Palko said.
“The program went from having two faculty members to seven. We added strength in data use, research. Two of the people we have were Texas Principal of the Year. We have the former superintendent and someone who was the president of the university,” Palko said.
In order to be eligible for the fellowship program, teachers will have to be nominated by their school district, Palko said.
“We want the school districts to recommended their most promising leaders," Palko said. "Teachers that they think will do the best job as future principals."
“The best principals were also outstanding teachers. They have wonderful relationships with kids and their colleges, and they tend to emerge in the school as natural leaders. Both students and their piers look to them for everything, for guidance and exemplary teaching. They go the extra mile in the classroom,” Melody Johnson, scholar in residence, said.
Palko said the school has already raised enough funding for 12-15 students but hopes to raise enough for 15-20 students to begin the program in the fall.
"We’ve already had amazingly good teachers participate in the program," Johnson said. "I think its going to open up a lot of good opportunities."