WCU receives funding for program to assist educators in becoming school principals


WCU’s principal preparation program assists educators in their quest to become school principals, such as Jake Buchanan (left) and assistant principal Evelyn Graning at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva.

Western Carolina University is the recipient of a grant from the North Carolina General Assembly that will help prepare educators to become school principals and, in turn, strengthen the quality of educational leadership in public schools.

The two-year grant is providing WCU with $400,561 for its North Carolina School Executive Leadership Program. The General Assembly established the competitive grant program in 2015 to provide funds for preparing and supporting highly effective school principals and assistant principals in the state. WCU was one of five institutions selected for funding.

“Many do not know that the current principal shortage in North Carolina is at a critical point, much like the teacher shortage,” said Dale Carpenter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions. “This grant, a collaboration with the Western Region Education Service Alliance, will go a long way toward addressing the shortage with high-quality professionals.”

In their role, principals report to the local superintendent, serve as a school’s chief administrator and develop and implement policies, programs, curriculum activities and budgets, as well as supervise staff.

Primarily, the grant will provide student scholarships, support expert instructors teaching face-to-face classes, fund conference travel for students and faculty, bring visiting scholars to campus, and improve the internship portion of the program. A portion of the money will go toward funding a grant coordinator position.

Principal Preparedness Program-Weiler_Jess

Jess Weiler, director of WCU’s Educational Leadership Program

“We currently have 35 students enrolled in our newest cohort and 10 have been awarded full scholarships through the grant,” said Jess Weiler, assistant professor and director of WCU’s Educational Leadership Program. “Many superintendents in our region are struggling to find high-quality applicants for the increasing number of school administrator positions. Several factors have contributed to the low number of qualified applicants, including the lack of incentives for becoming a school administrator. North Carolina is ranked at the bottom for principal pay, yet the demands of the job continue to increase.”

The N.C. Alliance for School Leadership Development is administering the grants and providing technical assistance to recipients. According to NCASLD, at least half of all principals in the state are at or nearing retirement age.

“Research clearly supports the significant role that principal leadership plays in school success,” said Tony Baldwin, superintendent of Buncombe County Schools. “The opportunity provided through the NCASLD grant will allow regional superintendents, like myself, to identify teacher leaders and provide them with quality principal preparation. Knowing that Western Carolina University, a strong partner resource to us all, will be the key instructional provider makes the opportunity even more exciting.”

WCU’s North Carolina School Executive Leadership Program provides a rigorous course of study that prepares highly effective school leaders, Weiler said. Upon program completion, graduates are ready to meet state and national standards for school leadership, including the ability to advance student learning and development; lead change through distributed and shared leadership; engage the community; and manage the day-to-day operations of the educational organization. “They collaboratively build and sustain a supportive culture including a positive and safe climate for learning, and leverage high levels of equity so that all students are successful,” she said.

For information on applying to WCU’s principal preparation program, visit the website https://www.wcu.edu/learn/departments-schools-colleges/ceap/humanserv/ed-leadership/msa.aspx or contact Denise Royer, student services specialist, at 828-227-3325 or droyer@wcu.edu.