WCU assesses leadership skill of WNC’s future school principals

CULLOWHEE – “I want to be a principal, but do I have what it takes?”

Students in Western Carolina University’s master’s degree program in school administration and education specialist degree program in educational leadership explored answers to that question in a recent leadership assessment center developed by faculty members in the department of educational leadership and foundations.

As part of Western’s recently approved online master’s degree program in school administration, 20 students from across Western North Carolina spent June 24 and 25 in the College of Education and Allied Professions practicing group leadership skills, participating in structured interviews and receiving a summary of anonymous feedback from colleagues and supervisors.

Under the direction of Anna McFadden, head of the department of educational leadership and foundations, and Jacque Jacobs, coordinator of the graduate degree program in school administration, the assessment center is designed to help students identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement. In addition, students – primarily educators looking to advance their careers into administration – assess their technology skills to prepare themselves to lead teachers in the implementation of computer-enhanced instruction.

“This experience is designed to give students evidence and direction for the creation of a professional development plan to guide their experience in their graduate work, especially the internship,” said McFadden, who developed the assessment center with departmental colleague Gayle Moller.

Educators taking part in the program say they are learning valuable skills that will help them as they move into leadership roles in their school systems.

“The assessment center experience not only provided me with an opportunity to practice my interview skills, but it gave me the opportunity to see how others perceive me,” said Heidi Allison, fourth-grade teacher at North Buncombe Elementary School . “Through the identification of my strengths and weaknesses, I will be able to address areas of need and develop my leadership skills further.”

Keith Nuckolls, assistant principal and lead teacher at Hayesville Middle School, agreed. “I felt that the overall experience was immeasurable to my growth and development as a school leader,” Nuckolls said.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors earlier this year authorized Western to begin offering its master’s degree program in school administration online to enable working professionals to pursue their advanced degree without leaving their home communities. Students enrolled in the online program will take part in the two-day, face-to-face assessment center on the Cullowhee campus, along with periodic regional face-to-face seminars throughout their course work.

“With a strong commitment to maintaining the high-quality program in school administration for which WCU has been known, the faculty is working with regional superintendents to identify and prepare school administrators who are competent and confident in their ability to lead schools and who recognize the advantages of online learning for themselves and technology for the future of our region,” said Jacque Jacobs, who coordinates the new program.

For more information concerning the new online master’s degree program in school administration, contact Jacobs at (828) 227-2456, or the Division of Distance and Continuing Education toll-free at (800) 928-4968.