Principal Pipeline Working to Grow Leaders From Within

Leadership Cohort provides support to aspiring school and district leaders

April 11, 2012

After teaching at Jones High School for nearly a decade, Opal Harrison says she is ready to take the next step. "I think I'm in a place in my career to change gears and become an assistant principal and then a principal one day," Harrison said. "HISD is a great district doing great things, and I want to be part of that movement."

Harrison is one of nearly 100 teachers and assistant principals who are members of the district's Leadership Cohort­- a pipeline designed to foster and grow future HISD principals and administrators from within. The cohort not only provides training and resources year-round for the aspiring school leaders, but it also gives them a built-in support system.

"Together we've learned a lot from each other and have even become friends along the way," said Harrison. "We can lean on each other because we are all going through the same experience and ultimately we all want the same thing, to become future leaders for HISD."

Harrison and her colleagues recently attended a meet-and-greet event at district headquarters, which allowed them to network with current principals, school improvement officers, and the three chief school officers. "Our goal today was to give them face time with those that will eventually hire them," said HISD Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Development Dave Wheat. "We want to showcase our homegrown candidates who we think are ready to take their leadership skills to the next level here at HISD."

In addition to networking, cohort members got a chance to practice their skills during a mock interview session. Harrison said it was helpful to get constructive feedback on what she needs to work on. "Hopefully I made a positive impression on some of the principals so they will remember my name and face when they do have a position open at their school," she said.

The HISD Leadership Cohort was developed to support the district's goal of placing an effective principal at every HISD school, a key initiative of the district's Strategic Direction.

"We need strong and caring leaders," Chief Elementary School Officer Sam Sarabia told the crowd of potential leaders. "We need those who not only have the passion and the persistence that it takes to be a school principal, but those who have the training, the knowledge and the skill set to be successful."