By Zane Ewton
Grand Canyon University’s College of Education, in collaboration with the Center for Learning and Advancement, presented a full-length screening of “The Principal Story,” a documentary about two elementary-school principals in low-income Illinois school districts.
After the screening on Thursday, June 17, in Ethington Theatre, the college hosted a panel discussion with local leaders in the education industry, including Arizona Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Margaret Dugan, Dr. Sid Bailey of AZLeads3, Alhambra District Superintendent and GCU alumnus Dr. Jim Rice, retired superintendent Tacy Ashby, GCU COE Instructional Chair Dr. Casey Reason and four area principals. GCU Director of Professional Development Mori Kemper was the moderator and organizer of the panel discussion.
The film and the panel discussion centered on the role of principals in education, the challenges they face and the changes they can make to provide exceptional support to teachers and students.
“The most important work is the sacred exchange between teacher and student,” Reason said. “The classroom has to be the focus in what drives the leadership of the school.”
Reason also presented the opportunity for online networks to enhance the ability of principals to connect with schools and principals around the world, not just in the local districts. The changes coming in schools will require out-of-the-box thinking, he said.
“We need to find out what schools in Singapore are doing to teach mathematics,” he said. “We need to understand what other countries are doing well.”
Dugan, who is currently running for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, stressed the focus on hiring quality teachers and being a presence in the classroom.
“The students in low-performing schools don’t need our sympathy,” she said. “They need our skills.”
The panel’s consensus was that a principal needs to make a daily connection with teachers and students and support the student-teacher relationship.
“Know your school culture,” Rice said. “Communicate. I’ve never seen an effective school without an effective principal.”
According to Dr. Cindy Knott, dean of the College of Education, the film and panel discussion is just a sample of what the college has planned throughout 2010. In the works are a lecture series, presentations and events to benefit GCU students and the academic community.
Reach Zane Ewton at 602.639.7086 or [email protected].