Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana Principal Leadership Institute welcomes new cohort at summer seminar

July 17, 2014

As members of the first Indiana Principal Leadership Institute progress to their second year in the program, they are welcoming a new cohort of 58 public school principals eager to learn more about leadership and school improvement.

One of the 57 members of the institute's inaugural cohort, J.T. Hoke, who will start his third year as principal at Attica Junior-Senior High School in fall, said the program at Indiana State University is living up to his expectations as he begins his second year in the program.

"I did my administration program at Indiana State before I got into IPLI, so I knew a lot of the people who would be involved in it and I knew I it would be a great program," Hoke said. "From each of the seminars we've done, I have taken away something useful and I have put into action back at my school."

The first year of the program focuses on leadership of the principal, said Steve Gruenert, chairperson of the department of educational leadership and the driving force behind the formation of the institute.

The second year of the program is about establishing a plan that engages school staff.

"It's about figuring out who you are as principals, how to get better and help the organization. I think it's an idea that can help any organization," he said.

When participants of the institute's first cohort were asked to invite a teacher from their school to accompany them to the two-day summer seminar, where more than 280 principals, teachers and mentors gathered, Hoke knew immediately who to bring - seventh- and eighth-grade reading teacher Jillian Harrison.

"I looked for two qualities in someone to invite - their effectiveness as a teacher and their positive influence and impact on people," he said. "(Jillian) is a rising star at our school and if I want help selling the message of what is being taught through IPLI - being a leader in our school and in our classrooms - I knew I could go to Jillian for help in spreading that message school-wide."

Hoke said his school will be working on accreditation soon, so bringing Harrison to the conference is a first step in getting teachers involved in the process.

"We all want to improve the school and the culture, so I'm taking in the research and information we're learning at the conference and hope that we can put it into action at our school," Harrison said.

A former elementary school teacher herself, Kandi Hill-Clarke, dean of Indiana State's Bayh College of Education, said the principals should use what they learn during the two-years in the program to lift up their faculty and staff.

"We should all work to continue our won leadership skills and those of all the people around us," she said. "Leaders are in all types of roles around us."

Nancy Fichtman Dana, professor and director at the University of Florida's Center for School Improvement, said IPLI will help principals "tackle burning questions all principals have" as leaders.

"Over the course of the first year in IPLI, there will be work in small groups that will dabble into action research and learning with and from each other on how to keep each other as principals growing, as well as learning ways to keep the teachers and students in our schools growing," she said.

And data shows that an effective teacher can make all the difference in the classroom.

Tammy Heflebower, a senior scholar with Marzano Research Laboratory, said a 2010 Wallace Foundation study of more than 8,000 teachers, principals and deputy principals found that the most effective school leaders were those who had clearly defined principles for instructional practice and a clear vision.

"In 1970, a student with a strong back and a good work ethic could get a job. Today, without a strong education, only 7 percent of jobs are available to that same student," she said. "Graduation doesn't mean anything anymore if a student isn't competent. Every kid has to be efficient and every student should have access to effective teachers."

The chance to learn more about using data to evaluate her teaching and make improvements to better student education made IPLI all the more attractive to Cassandra Cruz, principal with the Lake Central School Corporation in the greater Chicago area.

"My superintendent knows that I'm big into digging into data and making changes based off of that data, and with my fifth year as principal, I felt I needed to get involved in IPLI and learn more," she said. "I'm glad I've taken this on and hope to become a more powerful leader for the teachers at my school, so I can be an example to the teachers and students that I lead."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or