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Role of W.Va. school principals could change

By Mackenzie Mays, Staff writer

The West Virginia Board of Education is looking to redesign the role of school principals in the Mountain State.

A report compiled by ICF International, a consulting firm based in Virginia with offices in Charleston, recommends several significant changes to the standards currently applied to principals in West Virginia schools.

The report recommends new professional expanded standards that are recognized across the country, and the establishment of a Professional Standards Board to oversee various aspects of school leadership, such as training programs, evaluations and certification processes.

The report also suggests creating advanced specializations for principals that promote school improvement and providing school administrators with a slew of mentoring and support.

Various problems the state currently struggles with when it comes to school leadership include a lack of consistency between districts, an increased complexity in the role of principal and a lack of responsibility and decision-making on the classroom level, according to the report.

The report, which was done at the request of Imagine West Virginia, an independent research firm, cites various statewide education resources, including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s comprehensive education audit, which was conducted in 2012.

“The message is clear. West Virginia must improve its operational efficiency and effectiveness and its rank among other states on numerous performance indicators. Teaching and learning must yield stronger student achievement, and school leadership must be strengthened and prepared to lead the state through a series of changes necessary to attain new performance levels,” the report states. “The decisions and actions taken at this juncture will determine the state’s trajectory for the next several years.”

The recommendations would require changes to state policy and have the potential to “turn how we have always done things upside down, forcing leaders to rethink what works and what has not worked for decades,” state school board president Gayle Manchin said in a statement Thursday.

“This document sets the stage for monumental changes in the way we prepare principals to step into one of the most important roles within a school,” Manchin said. “The decisions and actions regarding school principal leadership taken at this time will determine the state’s future regarding the performance of our schools and students.”

The report, titled, “Transforming the School Principalship: A Framework of Promising Practices and Bold Actions,” is open for public comment until next month and can be accessed here: http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/imagine-wv.html.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com, 304-48-4814 or follow @MackenzieMays on Twitter.


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